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To get the very best from your Voco conversations we want you to un-learn (yes, of course that’s a word…) how you actually have conversations. Why? Because if you’re anything like us a typical conversation might go as follows:

Us: “Hey, how are you?” [not completely interested in a long answer, mainly waiting for chance to speak]

Our friend / colleague: “Yeah, I’m fine thanks” [actually, I’ve had quite a shit day but I know you’re probably just waiting for a chance to speak]

Us: “How’s that thing going? The one you were grappling with last time we spoke?” [I’ve thought of a great solution for you!]

Our friend / colleague: ‘Yeah, still struggling a bit with it, not sure what to do really.” 

Us: “Have you tried XYZ? That really worked for me when I was going through the same kind of thing. Did I ever tell you about that?”

Our friend / colleague: “Oh that’s a good idea. No, you didn’t”

Us: [tells longish story about our own issue that is only slightly relevant to their situation]

Our friend / colleague: “Maybe I’ll try that.” [probably feeling a bit deflated]

Okay, so that was a particularly thoughtless example, but we’re sure you’ll be able to spot the similarities in some of your own past conversations.

If you do, please don’t worry - you’re not a bad person. Far from it in fact. We communicate in this way when we care. We want the best for our friends and colleagues, we want to assure them that they are not alone and we want to solve their problems for them. Because that's kindness, isn’t it? 

Well, not necessarily. Though your support will be appreciated, your reassurance affirming and your advice sometimes helpful, you will have failed to give this person what they really want (even if they don’t know it); to be listened to without judgement or agenda. To be allowed time to think. 

Offering someone the space to explore their own thoughts and ponder potential solutions will give them the sense that they are being heard and understood. And, when we feel understood by others, we find it easier to understand ourselves - rather than seeing ourselves through the lens of other people’s opinions and judgement. When we understand ourselves better, we can meet the challenges and uncertainties of our career with more confidence. We feel - overused, slightly cringey word alert - empowered. 

We crave this kind of conversation, but we rarely get it. Because conversations usually run with the agendas of both people at play, at the same time. They flow naturally from one topic to another and take tangential twists and turns. Which is fine if you’re after a general catch up, but if you really need to work through an issue, make a tough decision or explore your career options then a ‘typical’ conversation is somewhat lacking.

So what’s the alternative? Well, a conversation in which we feel a sense of psychological safety. One that allows us to challenge our own assumptions, consider all the options available to us and make brave choices about how to move forward.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is a coaching conversation. And a coaching conversation requires us to turn our usual style on its head and adopt some very different techniques. 

NEXT >> How to retrain your brain