I used to think of Direct Communication as being harsh; it felt like an order being barked at me. At least that was within the framework of what I thought direct communication was. By the International Coach Federation definition, Direct Communication is “the ability to communicate effectively during coaching sessions, and to use language that has the greatest positive impact on the client”. What strikes me about this definition is the phrase ‘to use language that has the greatest positive impact.’ I was confusing harsh directives with direct communication!
In Our Profession
I went deeper into this core competency to explore what the indicators were saying about direct communication —
1. Is clear, articulate and direct in sharing and providing feedback
• In order to be clear, judgment cannot be part of the equation.
• In order to provide direct feedback, we have to be careful about managing those thoughts that come up such as “I don’t want to hurt my client, or “I am afraid of what they will think”.
• When providing feedback, make sure it is in service of your client.
2. Reframes and articulates to help the client understand from another perspective what he/she wants or is uncertain about
• When we reframe, we give the client something to bounce off of
3. Clearly states coaching objectives, meeting agenda, purpose of techniques or exercises
• Direct communication is CLEAR communication. Taking the time to clarify objectives, topic, and exercises throughout the coaching is supporting direct communication.
4. Uses language appropriate and respectful to the client (e.g., non-sexist, non-racist, non-
• Learning how to neutralize your language is key in high-level communication skills.
• ‘Dis-charge’ charged words that carry heavy judgment. For example: Dis-charge YOU SHOULD with “How could you…?” or “What would you…?”.
5. Uses metaphor and analogy to help to illustrate a point or paint a verbal picture
• Metaphor often paints a picture for your clients. For visual learners, this type of communication is very effective.
• Analogies take an intangible concept and tie it to something tangible, so the concept is more concrete and understandable.
In our Businesses
We often think of our coaching clients as our only customers. However, we have internal and external customers. Our clients are our external customers and our ‘alliances’ such as our accountant, lawyer, vendors, other professionals, etc. are our internal customers. If you adopt the following core competency as a way to communicate with your internal customers, it will help you to build a strong business foundation.
What would that look like? It may be that you establish some customer service standards for your internal customers that look like this:
• I will give my alliances clear, articulate and direct feedback on how our alliance is working.
• I will offer other perspectives freely if I feel that it would benefit the alliance.
• I will be clear on our alliances’ objectives and purpose.
• I will frame my communication in a positive manner using neutral language.
These customer service standards give ‘intention’ to the level of communication you want to establish with your business alliances. Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report highlights findings from Gallup’s ongoing study of the American workplace from 2010 through 2012. In that report, the findings stated that 70% of U.S. employees are not engaged, which costs the U.S. $450-550 billion per year in lost productivity. In a further study by SMB Communications, the findings support Gallup’s report by stating that $26,041 is the cumulative cost per worker per year, due to productivity losses resulting from COMMUNICATION barriers. It is clear that there is a need for Direct Communication to support the navigation of relationships on many levels.
In our Lives
Practicing Direct Communication across the board, whether it is in life, business or coaching will help to elevate your communication skills. A few more tidbits on Effective Communication:
• Take it to the source first; meaning, if something happens that creates tension, go directly to the source and approach the topic.
• Keep your communication where it belongs and heighten your awareness to who is in the space.
• If the communication would be harmful to someone else, don’t put it out there until you are in a confidential space. (This includes around small children as well — they have ears and are always processing!)
Communication is a very powerful tool — we can build up or tear down with our communication. My belief is that most people want to build up and these are some great guidelines to support you on that path.