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Coaching with metaphors

In everyday conversations we use metaphors to help others to understand a situation or a point of view, and to deepen our own understanding. They make complex problems more digestible.

As a coach I am always listening out for metaphors that clients use.

 ‘I feel like I am swimming frantically in a whirlpool trying to signal for help, but no-one can hear my shouting’.

'It’s like an enormous grain hopper, with work flowing into the top from all different directions, and the only place it can go is into my team. The hopper just keeps filling up, however frantically we work to manage what drops out at the bottom’.

Like me, I am sure you have 2 clear images in your mind from the examples above! Images sometimes do what words can not, provide a more detailed understanding of the situation, and identify possible solutions.

I might even help the client use their metaphor to its fullest extent by asking questions to make the image clearer in their minds.

I sometimes introduce a metaphor, one which they can use to build an image: ‘If you are thinking about water, what type of water describes how you feel right now?’

It is amazing how many different answers there are to that question, and how a session can develop from that one question. What would your answer be?

So why am I telling you this? If you are interested in coaching, this gives you an idea of one of many different approaches I may take to help you expand your thinking. It may also make you more aware of metaphors that you regularly use and why they help in that situation. What question could you ask yourself to help with your thinking, using your metaphor? You might want to explore coaching but don’t feel you have are the greatest communicator and don’t know how to describe things, well then metaphors might be for you! You could even draw a picture to help describe where you are and how you feel.

To continue the theme, I will end on a metaphor. I chose the picture of a lighthouse for this blog, as it represents to me what coaching is, or can help with.

The lighthouse guides you back to safe ground, your true self, the real you. It also alerts you to the dangers of a rocky coastline that you might have got too close to, what are your options to avoid it? Even in rough seas and stormy weather, the light is a beacon of hope and safety, a constant, so that even when you feel lost you know which way to start heading home. Coaching is the lighthouse, reminding you of where your true self is, guiding you back home. It supports your exploration of the sea in different weather conditions as you look for new opportunities or build your confidence sailing a new boat. This is how I see coaching when using this picture, what do you see?

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