September 28, 2008

Language matching

In solution-focused coaching, an important aspect in communicating with the client is to use the language of the client. Paul Watzlawick discovered that in helping clients working with the concepts of the client is much more powerful that using professional jargon (Watzlawick, Weakland & Fisch, 1974). When you as a coach replace a word of the client by a professional term this usually works contrarily because the client may feel corrected or misunderstood. Solution-focused coaches join their clients as much as possible by using their language, both in their summaries and in their questions. This skill of solution-focused coaches is called language matching. It requires the coach to listen attentively and has several advantages.

A first advantage is that the coachee notices that the coach is very attentive which helps to make him feel taken seriously. A second advantage is that the coachee notices that the coach understands and accepts what he has brought forward. This gives the coachee a feeling of security and trust. A third advantage is that language matching helps the conversation to proceed fluently. This is because the coachee does not have to correct the coach and no time is lost on discussing the precise definitions of terms. Steve de Shazer was very skillful in matching his language with that of his clients. Often, in his questions, he used several words taken from the last sentence of the client.

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