Live the questions…
I love the spaciousness of open moorland. For me, there’s something really freeing about the expanse; I feel it physically (relaxed shoulders, deeper breathing, broader stance), mentally (I am present, open to possibilities and perspective, creative and unhindered by self-consciousness) and emotionally, in the way that the landscape quickly releases in me a connection to the earth and an invitation to check in with myself fully and to connect to a deeper awareness of how I really am. I’ve been lucky enough to be on the Isle of Arran for the last few days. Machrie Moor is one of my favourite places – the moor is open, wild even, framed by mountains and the sea. There’s an enduring human presence here in the standing stones, the dilapidated farm buildings, the fences, gates and signposts all adding to the physical sense of space a long timeline from the past through the now and into the future.
I took a lot of photographs! I wondered what it would be like to have a coaching conversation in this environment, to walk the path alongside someone else as a resource for their thinking. I thought about the coaching questions generated in this kind of setting, those very open questions which anywhere else might feel difficult or nebulous.
- What do you know from this space?
- What gifts are presenting themselves here?
- As you look around you and tune in, your creativity is like what?
- What would you like to have happen?
What is it about a spacious question, asked in an environment like this, which has such power?
…Leave plenty of room for reflection, for free thinking unhindered by judgement and expectation.
It’s OK for the mind to wander, alight where it feels drawn and then move on to a different space.
…. Can generate a deep silence which outdoors feels natural, generative, soothing (and which indoors can at times feel intimidating, pressured, oppressive).
… liberate our creativity.
In the modern world, we spend a lot of time in ‘hard -fascination’ (Kaplan R., Kaplan S. (1989). The Experience of Nature: A Psychological Perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), when our attention is held by a highly stimulating activity – it’s tiring after a while and provides little opportunity for reflection or introspection, leaving us feeling stuck, constrained or stressed. Soft fascination on the other hand occurs when our attention is held by something less focussed such as a walk in nature or a spacious question. It enables us to loosen our focus and tap into our creative resources.
…place trust in our clients to find their own way to what’s right for them.
As coaches, when we offer spacious questions, we interfere less, impose less and by loosening our control of the process, give control to the client. Their trust in themselves increases, their sense of agency increases, they start to know and trust what they know.
…invite us to slow down.
A change of pace like this can provide space to explore, to meander along unexplored paths (in contrast to going the quickest and fastest route to a solution) and to spend time with unnoticed possibilities which previously may have felt risky as they were too far away from the beaten track.
…. Allow for a powerful pause.
Just stopping and noticing brings awareness to our cognitive, emotional, spiritual state and with this awareness comes knowledge and decisions made holistically.
…connect patterns of thought and behaviours.
By noticing the patterns we are able to observe ourselves in our wider system, connected to a whole much greater than ourselves. We might connect different elements from and our histories, our knowledge, our decisions, our relationships, our personality and in doing so minimise any sense of isolation and enhance our sense of belonging.
…allow coachees to explore a different frame of reference and alternative perspectives.
Clean Space methodology, for example, with spacious questions such as ‘what do you know from this space’ invites clients to regard a goal or idea from six different physical places, each one accompanied by the same, spacious question and each offering a physical perspective which in turn brings new perspective to thoughts and knowledge.
Spacious questions are a wonderful way to open up thinking and perspective. When accompanied by the generative attention of the coach who literally and figuratively holds space ‘alongside’ their client, answers emerge, knowledge is uncovered, discoveries are made.
What spacious questions are you drawn to? Where will you take them and what will you find there? Let me know!
This is the first in a series of articles about coaching questions. Look out for part 2 in the next issue of Consciously Connected.