The last things you want to be reflected in your body language with a client are rejection, excessive distance or a quality of pushing something onto the client. Perhaps the greatest antidote to such tendencies is showing an inquisitive nature. When you’re curious about what the client is saying, on all levels, it draws the client out, especially when it is a calm, grounded curiosity. What follows are ingredients for creating such an experience.
Ingredients and Typical Evolution
1) Questions that have no odd quality to them. They are, at least on the surface, common sense. Remember, this is early in your connection with the client.
2) Showing your interest and balanced curiosity with body language such as leaning forward a bit when the client says something that has an emotional connection or deeper meaning. This shows that you are responsive, and it can feed the client’s self-disclosing behavior because attention is a strong reinforcer of behavior.
3) Questions about the underlying significance. They can start with a half-baked assumption that morphs into a question.
“I can imagine that when she said that, you could really…” (making a small sweeping gesture toward your stomach – gestures should show restraint so there is no sense of acting or being an erratic person)…well, I mean, what other options could have even gone through your mind at that point?”
Ending the question with an open face showing a hint of appreciation of the client’s pain and feeling boxed in. The client’s answer gives the practitioner a sense of the client’s level of flexibility and insight. If the client has no sense of having options (as in “she made me feel that way or do that,”) then the therapist has pulled this out in a context in which there is no sense of impending judgment or “psychoanalyzing” the person.
Notice that the half-baked assumption is actually a way of establishing an expectation that the client must have feelings about it and connects the client with feelings to some degree, priming the client for a deeper answer than you would get with the “talking heads” effect that removes the humanity from coaching.
This is very important for eliciting in your own self a healing state. Any time that you begin to feel yourself pushing into the client, distancing too much, or becoming judgmental, this experience is one of the fastest and most useful ways to keep yourself from contaminating the process. It is easier to think creatively and flexibly when you are in an inquisitive state.