Bridging the Communication Gap in a Coach-Client Relationship
Communication has become a household word that it now seems like a very easy thing to do. However, this is one of the most difficult aspects of coaching. The importance of effective communication between a coach and a client cannot be over-emphasized. Ineffective communication limits your ability to deliver life-transforming outcomes to your clients.
If you observe kids as they grow, you will notice the impact of communication in their ability to co-operate and relate with people. Any kid who has learned some language, which is an important communication tool, finds it easier to solve their problems. This is because they can effectively communicate their challenges and stand a chance to be understood. Other kids, who haven’t learned, in trying to solve their problem, resort to violence and anger, out of frustration. This is because they are not able to communicate effectively, so as to be able to get solution to their problems.
This also affects grown-ups. When they don’t communicate effectively, they will not be able to get their problems solved. You see them become frustrated. The same scenario plays out in a coach-client relationship. When there is a communication gap, and you’re not able to understand the client, you’re bound to be frustrated. The frustration is as a result of efforts that are not yielding results. Therefore, it is important for you as a coach to bridge the communication gap that you may be encountering with your clients.
As you know very well, communication is said to have occurred when a message is sent, received, and understood. It then implies that there are FOUR components to an effective communication – the message, the sending, the receiving, and the understanding of the message. If there is an issue with any of these four components, it creates a communication gap. This will hamper the actualization of the purpose of any coaching program.
Let’s look at the four components and how they can create a communication gap.
- The Message: This is the bedrock of any communication process. The way the message is packaged is important, if effective communication is to be achieved. It is expected to be concise and comprehensible. All necessary details have to be included as much as possible.
However, you need to avoid the excessive use of qualifying words or phrases in your messages. They distort the directness and effect of a message. I will make two sentences that are carrying the same message, but packaged in different ways:
“I was kind of thinking we could maybe talk about the problem and sort of identify a solution that I guess we could hopefully work on.”
This sentence is incomprehensible and there is no exactness in it. By the time this message goes out, it is going to lose its intended effect. I could put it this way:
“Let’s talk about the problem and come up with a workable solution.”
This is precise and comprehensible. However, if you must use qualifying words, let them be minimal. But I suggest you try as much as possible to make the message concise.
- The Sending: The way and manner a message is sent has a tremendous impact on the communication process. The message can be sent verbally, on paper, or through an intermediary.
There is also the non-verbal way of sending a message. As a matter of fact, people respond to non-verbal communication than verbal communication. This is because our non-verbal communications are more accurate about how we feel about the message we are sending.
- The Receiving: The message sent obviously has a destination. There is someone on the other end that is meant to read or listen to the sent message.
When messages are not received, then communication cannot be said to have happened. For a message to be received, the receiver must interpret what was said or done. The receiver also develops a feeling around it.
The receiver has to be able to get the message. If you are on a webinar for instance, you have to make sure your audience is hearing you clearly. Your message is received if your audience can hear you.
- The Understanding: This is a crucial aspect of the communication process. It is important that the message is not only received, but understood. This is only when effective communication can be said to have occurred.
One way to be sure that a message is understood is to ask questions. This is because the receiver interprets the message as they deem fit, regardless of how concise the message is. So, asking questions gives room for clarity and perfect understanding of what the message is all about.
When you communicate with your clients, get them to ask you questions based on what you have told them. Also ask them questions when they narrate their problems to you. This is to ensure that you understand what is being communicated.
Even with all this knowledge, coaches still experience communication gaps when relating with their clients. I want to address this challenge from the basic interpersonal needs of the people you are relating with.
According to Will Schutz’s FIRO theory, there are three basic interpersonal needs; the need for inclusion, the need to control, and the need for affection or openness. These three factors play a huge role in how your clients relate and communicate with you. If you can master how to use them, your communication with clients will become more effective.
- The Need for Inclusion: Everyone wants to be a part of something – even the most introversive person. This is why people join organizations and associations, they want to be involved. In communicating with your clients, you need to find a way to make them a part of the process. They should not feel left out in the whole process. When clients feel left out in the communication process, it creates a huge gap, as they will tune off from the whole coaching program.
One effective way to do this is including them in an exclusive Facebook group, where they can share their challenges with people of like minds. They also get to interact with others, who have probably been in their situation. The sense of familiarity helps them to relate and communicate well.
This also goes a long way to give your clients a sense of belonging, knowing they can share their thoughts with other people. They feel needed as their ideas are given considerations in the forum. If you make them a part of the coaching process, they will be keen to communicate effectively with you.
- The Need to Control: We want to be able to make our own decisions. People develop some level of resentment when they feel that someone else is running their lives. Your clients will communicate better with you when you allow them some level of control in the coaching program.
Always present them with a lot of options that you know they can choose from to get results. Alternatively, you can even ask them what they think can be done to salvage their situation. You will be shocked that it’s possible they know what to do to get their problem solved. It becomes easier for you to get through to them and help them along the way.
- The Need for Affection or Openness: There’s need to have people around, who appreciate you and show this through love and intimacy. Nobody opens up to people they don’t have emotional connections with. A girl can tell her boyfriend the craziest things about her because of the affection that exists between them.
If your client is going to open up to you, they have to be sure that you care about them. Your interaction should be more friendly than business. Show genuine concern to help them. Empathize with them so they know you understand what they are going through.
Bridge the Gap Today…
When there is a communication gap, the whole process of helping a client get results is jeopardized. This is why you have to watch out the communication disruptors in your relationship with the clients. Make your message very concise. Be sure the message is sent, received, and understood.
The place of the interpersonal needs of your clients cannot be overemphasized. Understand the problem from your client’s perspective. This way, the gaps in communicating with your clients are filled.
Now that you have this understanding, bridging the communication gap should be a lot easier. Your relationship with your client should be better – with results following.
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