Zen and the Art of Coaching

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This week, I have been talking about listening because to be able to listen to others is crucial in sustainable prosperity since you want to cooperate with others to build a Sanpo-Yoshi society.


Skills to ask questions is a part of coaching skills. Does it mean learning coaching skills helps you to succeed in the new era?


Yes, I think it does, but before going into that let me explain what coaching is. There are different kinds of coaching, and the ways coaching is conducted varies depending on schools. Coaching I am talking about here is a method to let the clients be in charge. Instead of giving them advice, you ask them questions to let them come up with their own answers. Because you trust and respect your clients’ intelligence and capability, you believe that they can find solutions themselves if enough time is given to think through.


In that sense, it is different from teaching where teachers give answers, or consulting where consultants also provide answers based on their expertise.


Coaches do not give answers; they help the clients get in touch with their resources to find answers.


Let me tell you a story that illustrates this point. It happened many years ago back in the 1980s when I was studying counseling and psychotherapy in England. I was studying at a school called Centre for Counselling and Psychotherapy Education in London. My teacher was called David, and he is one of the most influential persons in my life.


He taught us about many different schools of psychotherapy; Freudian Psychoanalysis, Jungian Analytical psychology, Kleinian technique, Rogerian psychotherapy, Gestalt therapy, and Psychosynthesis.


“None of them is better than others; they are just different and depending on the client, the different method works,” David said.


“Which method do you like the best?” I asked.


“I don’t want to answer that question because if I do, you’ll be influenced by it, I want you to decide yourself what you like best.”


He never gave his opinions. It was the same in his therapy session. As a part of the course, we were supposed to take his therapy session at least once.


After entering the therapy room, I sat quietly waiting for him to initiate the conversation. However, he didn’t say anything for nearly 1 minute.


“Well, I have this problem.” I finally opened my mouth and explained the problem I had at that time to him.


“Have you done anything about it before?” David asked.


“Yes, I have,” I answered and told him different approaches I used to solve my problem.


“How was doing that?” he asked me about each method.


I responded by explaining what happened to me after using each method.


“Well, having tried all those different approaches, what do you think you can do now to solve the problem?”


I gave my idea of what I can do.


“Well, that’s it, then.”


The session was over. During the session he didn’t give me a single answer. All he did was ask me some questions.


You can say that he didn’t do anything. Nonetheless, I couldn’t have come up with my answer if he hadn’t asked me his questions. His questions helped me go over different approaches I tried and analyze what worked and what didn’t work and why.


And the best part was I felt satisfied for the first time after talking to someone about my problem. He was the first person who just listened to me without giving his opinions. I was more willing to try my idea after the session because it came from me, it wasn’t recommended by someone else.


What David did was very much like today’s coaching, although at that time coaching wasn’t even around, so it was just his own approach.


Since then this David’s way has been part of my life and I have been using it in my teaching, counseling, and seminars. Then around the late 1990s, I came across a method called coaching and was shocked because it was exactly the same as what David did.


Coaching is similar to natural farming and it is a key element in ZENWSP. I will talk more about it tomorrow.


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