J. Coulson, MAHPP
Telephone, Email or Face-to-face?
I am not currently working face-to-face. However, in-person encounters are the traditional mode of working and have a great deal to recommend them. Working face-to-face reminds us that our words are only one aspect of our communication system: we also 'speak' with our clothes and our body language.
The physicality of a face-to-face encounter also generates dynamics that mirror those of our encounters outside the coaching relationship. This can open up valuable avenues for exploration. Also, we have a natural and appropriate human need to see with whom we are talking.
The disadvantages of face-to-face working are predominantly practical. A fifty-minute session is going to call for at least a two-hour interruption in your day. The need to be relatively near his or her office significantly reduces your choice of life coach.
Also, if you live in a small place there's a real risk that you will
continually be meeting your life coach in the street, or that you will
both be part of the same social group. This does not bother everyone but
may be significant for you.
I was dubious about the value of working over the telephone until I felt compelled to try it for myself. My wife and I had moved to a rural part of England and were unable to find the right support for ourselves.
In desperation - or so it felt - we started working over the 'phone
with coaches we knew in the USA. We quickly discovered the main advantages
of working over the telephone: quality, convenience, cost and confidentiality.
In terms of the work itself, the obvious disadvantage of teleworking is that we do not know what we each look like, and we miss the opportunity to exercise the physical cues that tell us so much about each other.
One result of this is that it can take a bit longer to build a comfortable and confidential rapport. Experience shows, however, that it is only a matter of time before that level of comfort is achieved.
The best protection for you as a prospective client is to know as much as possible about your choice of practitioner. They should give you their address and telephone number and also a professional association or some other reputable third party that you can contact to confirm their standing. Do not anticipate talking with clients, however. All personal development work should be subject to full confidentiality on the practitioner's part.
Email can be a powerful adjunct to the telephone. It is ideal for those
who want to be able to dash off a response to an earlier telephone or
face-to-face session. It might be used to ask for a clarification or for
a word of support or suggestion before starting a challenging task. As
I indicated earlier, it is also very useful for broaching difficult topics.
Coaching often includes a large email component. However, I rarely work via email alone except with the most diffident clients.
Email alone is a slow and not very interactive means of communication.
It is therefore not very cost-effective. It is very useful, however, for
making the initial contact and for asking questions, especially when gathering
No matter which mode of working you prefer, follow the same procedures to ensure you find the best coach to match your unique needs. No two of us are alike. The power and energy generated in one partnership can be very different from another.
As my wife and I discovered, working over the telephone with the 'right'
coach is a superior solution to working with a compromise choice who happens
to be conveniently located.
I hope this review of different ways of working has been helpful for
you. To discuss which format of relationship might be most valuable for
you, telephone me or email
me to set up a time for your free exploratory 'phone call.
Copyright © 2001-2010 Christopher J. Coulson
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