By Dave Busse
Decoding the Language of Male Coaching Clients
Back when I was a new coach, the whole feelings element of coaching felt awkward. Was I about to become a weeping willy or worse? You can laugh all you like, but it was a concern I had and I suspect some of our clients may have similar thoughts.
I wondered if I would have to become less of a man in order to coach. While I now know that it’s not true, I do think that we need to rework some of words we use or expect our clients to use when demonstrating feelings.
I loved a comment made by Brene Brown during an International Coach Federation (ICF) presentation in Vancouver about research on intimacy. She stated that there is a significant bias around feelings, as most research on emotions, vulnerability and intimacy has been done on women.
Her point of view was that we really don’t understand male intimacy yet and that it may show up authentically in very different ways than what our existing body of research would suggest as to how intimacy “should” show up.
Male Intimacy – No Words Necessary
I remember a great day I had with my son a few years back when he was in his mid 20’s. During a warm summer vacation morning at a lake, we both happened to get out of bed before anyone else at the cabin and wandered down to the beach. We saw each other, smiled and silently began to get our respective fly fishing vessels ready.
A request to borrow a specific fly was the only dialogue. We headed out on the lake and spent almost three hours paddling around and fishing within talking distance of each other. There were only three sentences exchanged in that entire time.
“Wow…big one eh!”
“Want to play it for a while?”
… Then he paddled over and I handed him my rod
To use a feminine phrase, “I love that memory!” In male terms, “it was a great day!” (As an interesting side note, when I read this statement out loud to myself my voice got deeper and had more volume when I said “It was a GREAT DAY!”)
My wife’s first question when we got back to the cabin…”What did you guys talk about!?!” Really….that is what she thought was important! Wow!
Translation Guide to Male Feelings Words
So without any research to support it, I am offering the following words or terms as a starting point that may authentically indicate feelings in men. Perhaps if we become more fluent in the language of male feelings we can begin to better understand and coach men.
Words or action that show it in men…
When my daughters read the last translations on love they both hit me (a very male version of intimacy. While it’s so nice of them to speak my language perhaps I misread their intent in this case?)
Admittedly men also need to learn the language of love for women. Having survived and occasionally thrived in 35+ years of marriage I’m not suggesting that men can abdicate the need to learn to speak the love language of women. This article is specific to the role of feeling words in male coaching clients.
To the point:
- Are we asking men to speak a foreign language when it comes to feelings?
- The bigger question may be have we allowed coaching to be contaminated by North American biases about intimacy and vulnerability?
- Spend the time to log your own unique words for intimacy.
- Note the biases you have associated with those words.
- Log your client’s words. Contrary to traditional academic beliefs for building your vocabulary with larger more complex words consider building clarity on your real world vocabulary.
About the Author
Dave Busse is a partner at Essential Impact, an award winning leadership coaching company. Along with his EI team, Dave has helped hundreds of companies in a wide variety of industries implement coaching for specific changes in organizational culture.
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