What’s the point of talking about things?

In the last month, I’ve been asked this most basic of questions by two of my coaching clients. Strangely, no-one has asked it before. Even more strangely, given that I’m a coach and my practice is predicated on the idea that talking about things is beneficial, I didn’t have a pat response. So I’ve been getting my ducks in a row.

First up: by things, here, I mean feelings, ideas and opinions.

Why talk?

 1. It helps you to get your thoughts straight

When you’re thinking things through in your head, you tend to stick to familiar assumptions and skim over issues. You keep going over the same tracks, cutting corners and avoiding the messy areas.  Which is why it’s possible to have the same problem or dilemma going round and round and round, with no perceivable way out. 

 2. You prepare your thoughts ‘for consumption’

When you are communicating your thoughts, ideas and feelings, you automatically make an effort to organise and present them to make them as clear as possible for the other person. However jumbled your delivery is, you do step back, and in the process you give yourself another perspective.

3. Hearing yourself talk gives you another perspective

As you speak, you hear it all again from another point of view.  Self-consciousness means that you tend to imagine what it sounds like to the other person.

4. Another person’s perspective allows you to see the issue more clearly  

Someone else can point out gaps and inconsistencies in your thought processes. Ideally, he or she will ask the right questions and help you to take your thinking ‘off road’, away from the well-worn tracks and your entrenched positions. You will need to find someone you can trust to listen carefully, have your interests at heart, to be impartial and to be able to separate feelings from thoughts. This is where a coach can help.

Reservations and pitfalls

Talking about things is not always ‘the answer’ and isn’t always beneficial. It depends how you do it. For example:

  • it doesn’t work when you talk about the same thing in the same way, over and over again until it becomes an abstraction and a ‘script’. You have to be genuinely open to another point of view
  • it won’t work when the underlying purpose of the talking is self-justification rather than exploration
  • or when the underlying purpose is to ‘recruit’ people onto your team or to your way of thinking. Nothing wrong with this if you are aware  of what you’re doing. Just no good if your purpose is to examine, explore and make sense of something.

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