You’ve been there, in the emergency room, when the doctor says “Where does it hurt?”

Have you ever asked that–or been asked that–in a coaching session?

Where does it hurt

Maybe not directly, or in those words, but I bet your coaching conversations go down this road pretty regularly. Or if they don’t, maybe they should.

Pain always tells you something. It’s just a signal that something is going on that shouldn’t be, or that could be going better…but the pain is not the real issue. Something else always is.

Managing pain is important, but helping heal the source of the pain…emotional, physical, or spiritual is what doctors–and coaches–actually do.

So starting your coaching conversations with “Where does it hurt?” or another form of it might be a great way forward.

Imagine starting a coaching conversation–whether you’re the coach or the client–with “What’s the nagging feeling you’ve got that shows up at inconvenient times?”

That’s another way to ask “Where does it hurt?”

Starting with a question like this sets the stage to go beneath the surface and get at what’s really going on. A healthy discovery process might go like this:

  • What is the pain you’re feeling?
  • What do you think might be causing that pain?
  • How confident are you that you really understand what’s going on?
  • What options could you brainstorm to do something about the root cause of the pain?
  • What action do you want to commit to?

This is how masterful coaches work.

Too many coaches are satisfied with impact at the shallowest level. It’s like the old joke “Doctor, Doctor…it hurts when I do this…” The doctor responds, “Well don’t do that.” Check out Henny Youngman doing this joke here. (It’s at the 1:25 mark.)

Whether you’re the coach or the client, don’t settle for this kind of coaching impact. That’s managing pain, it’s not helping heal woundedness. Dig deep with your clients…or let your coach dig deep with you.

How can you ensure that you’re digging deep or letting your coach dig deep? I’d love to hear your comments below.