Why the Simple Coaching Circle is so restrictive and unnatural

I forgot to tell you something.
The reason why we would even use an approach like the Simple Coaching Circle in the first place!
It’s something I learnt from Nancy Kline of Time to Think.
The brain that comes to you with a problem is the one that usually contains the solution and a much better one at that.
So I’m not surprised when some people say:
“It doesn’t feel natural”
“It’s weird to keep asking tell me more”
“It’s too restrictive”
This scene in Ted Lasso between Keely and Higgins is a great example of what we naturally tend to do.
We try to diagnose the problem ourselves, we try to fix it for the other person.
We take on all the work of doing the thinking for the other person.
And while Higgins ended up giving Keely steller advice, I’m curious how the conversation would have gone if he’d got her to tell him more upfront.

“It doesn’t feel natural”

Think back over some of the conversations you’ve had where people have come to you with a problem. In how many of them did you work hard to come up with ways to fix it?
If you’re anything like me, probably quite a few.
The Simple Coaching Circle doesn’t feel natural because it isn’t, at least not at first.
It’s a bit like learning to ride a bike or drive a car. That doesn’t feel natural at first and then before you know it you’re not even thinking about it.
The Simple Coaching Circle asks you to ignore your natural Higgins for a little while, to encourage the problem bringer to do all the thinking.
Your only job is to listen with your full attention, without interruption.
Totally weird right?
Ozan Varol describes it so beautifully in his article  3 Magic Words That Will Make You a Master Conversationalist, which was an inspiration for the Simple Coaching Circle:
“I would pose questions to my interviewees, but once I got an answer, I would bring the conversation back to me so that I could “contribute” and feel significant.
Now, when I’m tempted to interject with my own seemingly brilliant contribution, I tell myself to shut up. Instead of talking, I say these three magic words:
Tell me more.
When I first started using this approach, I wasn’t sure if it would work. I feared that if I didn’t share my own brilliant ideas—if I simply asked questions and dug deeper into the other person’s answer—the other person would think I was a dud.
It’s the opposite. When I let the other person shine, instead of trying to grab the spotlight, they come away with the impression that I’m an amazing conversationalist.”

Tell me more

It feels cringy to go through the Simple Coaching Circle with someone who also knows the model.
This is something I should say upfront and I haven’t.
It feels cringy and it’s funny. And humour is great for thinking. It’s also even better coaching someone who knows the process cos you have less work to do, they know whats coming next and often do it themselves.
It also feels weird to think that you might ask someone to tell you more a few times in a row.
Won’t they notice?
Won’t they think you’re an idiot for repeating yourself?
Here’s the thing. When someone is thinking for themselves they don’t really notice as this demo with my great friend Dana James-Edwards shows:
I ask her to tell me more 7 times.
And instead of being annoyed she is grateful to have the chance to talk without being given advice on what to do.

“It’s too restrictive”

An artist will tell you they are more creative when faced with constraints. It sucks to be sure, but the end result is much better than if there were no constraints at all.
The same is true when you are trying to help the brain that came with the problem find the solution.
The restrictiveness of the Simple Coaching Circle is for 2 reasons:
  1. It stops us from trying to gather information we can use to fix the problem for the thinker and it frees them to explore the problem in their own way.
  2. Knowing you only have 2 options means that you can more easily put aside the thoughts in your head and free yourself to listen. You’re not worried about finding the right question or solution when all you need to do is summarise and ask tell me more.
I hope this has helped understand the principles behind the Simple Coaching Circle a little more. Keep firing your thoughts and questions to me, it helps me to understand what works and what needs work.
And remember, it’s not about using this in every conversation you ever have. It’s about giving you the tools to help others grow in confidence by encouraging them to do more of the thinking themselves.
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