The Learning Coach: Talk About It!

by | Jul 14, 2023 | 0 comments

Have you noticed when your mind was swirling with jumbled thoughts, just talking seemed to have straightened them out?

Verbalizing has the effect of externalizing those thoughts, which enables both the speaker and his coach to examine them as if they were laid on a table. It also feels like a funnel where the mish-mash of thoughts pour into the large mouth and come out of the narrow bottom end as linear sentences, making understanding easier.

In short, talking things out can effect clarity.  And clarity is important for talent development.

Consider the case of Delia (not her real name), who wanted to build confidence in conversing with senior executives.  In a coaching conversation, very rarely will a client open with an organized and analytical frame of mind: “Coach, I want to address my lack of confidence. The root cause is that I was shy as a child and thus I didn’t hone my interpersonal skills. The solution is to reframe how I see myself, take small steps to reach out to people, and work my way up. Now help me.”

How I wish every client were this clear!

Instead, Delia vented her frustrations during the first five minutes. She acknowledged how communication skills is vital for career success, described her dread of being in the same room with executives, questioned her mental capacity to process a discussion, and narrated how she froze when asked for her opinion.

One may think that all Delia needed was a course in impromptu speaking, i.e., composing your responses on the fly and expressing them in a structured way that makes you look sharp and insightful.

However, the coach never dictates what the client needs. Doing so runs the risk of the coach addressing the wrong problem and the client wasting time and effort on the wrong solution. The fundamental principle of coaching is that the client is creative and resourceful, and can be directed to what is positive and possible. The outcome is that the solutions come from the client.

Delia’s coach let her do most of the talking, trusting that in due time she would reveal a glimpse of her inner world that explains her outward behavior. However, it was a directed and reflective talking, otherwise she would remain in a rambling state. This was facilitated through well-thought out questions.

The coach asked Delia, “So I hear you want to be more confident in conversing with executives. What does confidence look like to you?”  In her reply, she used the word “spontaneous” three times.  The coach detected that and asked, “When you say spontaneous, what do you mean by that?”

Delia replied, “For me, being spontaneous is to reply right away and be right all the time.”  Aha. Now we’re on to something. In Delia’s mind, there was a math-like formula that said spontaneity equals instantaneousness. What compounded the problem was her underlying fear of giving the wrong answer, which of course hampered spontaneity.

As the coach invited Delia to challenge those assumptions, she realized that it was not necessarily true that being spontaneous meant that she must give her answer right after she was tossed a question. She gave herself permission to pause, think through her response, and offer it. What’s more, she gave herself a safety net by prefacing it with caveat, “based on the best of my knowledge / understanding…”, which was actually true. Lastly, she thought of ending her response with an assurance to the executive that she will dig deeper into the topic and revert with a final recommendation.

All these came from the client’s mouth. In giving the talent a safe space and ample time to talk things out, what started out as existential angst ended with a more realistic outlook, more practical behavior, and yes, more confidence.

Confusion gave way to clarity, and a high-potential talent began to blossom.


About the Writer



Nelson T. Dy is a trainer, coach, speaker and author. In his day job, he manages two factories for a well-known beverage conglomerate, using both his chemical engineering and MBA degrees. He is also an active Toastmaster, guest preacher, and content creator. He aims to give value to PSTD through thought-leadership articles like the one you’ve just read.

For more of his insights, subscribe to his Youtube Channel @nelsontdy. Also follow him at, visit his website and contact him via


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