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How to Open (i.e., Being Human with Other Humans)

By Toku

(a guest post by Sensei Bay LeBlanc Quiney)

Hey you! Nice work, getting into connection with a potential client! That’s awesome! Someone asked you for a conversation of possibility, or you invited them, and they said yes.

Seriously, that’s no small thing when your entire business depends on your ability to create connection and turn it into conversations.

Have you ever noticed though, that once you start getting those conversations on the calendar, you also start to get a little weird about them? Maybe you start wondering what you’ll talk about, or what you should say to get them to be a yes to your fees. Maybe you think about what you could say that would create instant insight and demonstrate your incredible prowess as a coach/Powerful Transformer of Human Potential. Maybe you start wondering what might be their issues or concerns, or how they’ll say no to your offer.

The problem lies in this thinking part—and specifically, the thinking-too-much part—especially when it comes to how you can do this right.

“Now, Bay,” you say knowingly, or perhaps even a bit smugly, “there isn’t any right way to do this.”

Correct. But even though you know there’s no such thing as the right way, you still want to do it right, and by “doing it right” we know you mean that you want this conversation to be successful, and go the way you want it to go, and obviously result in a yes to your proposal.

There may not be a right way, but I’m pretty sure I’m right about that last part, yeah?

I mean, sure, you talk to humans all the time, but this human might be a potential client, and you want some of those, of course. Now you’re wondering how to not be too needy or too eager, but also play it cool—but not too cool, right?

It’s not unlike trying to have a normal human conversation with that person you had a crush on in high school, only to discover your tongue/brain suddenly went into a strange paralysis when the opportunity actually presents itself and you’re face to face with the object of your affections. Suddenly, you don’t know where to start, or what to say: I could’ve sworn I knew words?

It’s one of those great mysteries of life—we often create an inability to successfully execute an action we do all the time, as soon as we stop and try to think over it too much.

So in support of you not overthinking an opportunity to step up to the plate and play for your desired outcomes, I’ve put together a few thoughts on how you can practice having great conversations of possibility with humans (even of the potential-client variety) that are enjoyable and satisfying for you. Because if you’re going to build a business upon conversations, it matters that you have a good time with it.

1. Don’t be a weirdo—slow down and build some rapport.

I know. It’s so tempting to jump straight to the quick and see if you can spontaneously generate a breakthrough for the person across from you. After all, you can see their obstacles and blind spots and limiting beliefs, right? Bonus points if they cry?

(Seriously though—please don’t play that game. Coaching is not baseball; you don’t need to hit a home run, and while crying/emotional distress may occur, it is not a goalpost.)

The thing is, since there’s a real live human across from you, it might be nice to say “Hi, how are ya?” before diving headfirst into someone’s deepest desires and fears.

This person has overcome at least a certain amount of fear or discomfort to say yes to this conversation with you. What do you know about them? How are you going to find out? What do they know about you? How will they know they can trust you, or relate to you?

Have you ever been approached by a salesperson in any kind of business, and known that to them, you were just a potential commission? Or had someone offer you a solution before they bothered to uncover your problems or needs? It’s gross, right? Or at least off-putting?

Don’t off-put people when you want to connect with them. Instead ask them questions and let them ask you questions, too. What do they want to know about you? What would be important for them to understand about you, as a fellow human?

Rapport is about slowing down and spending time getting to know who is on the other end of the conversation. What matters to them, their background, where are they from, etc. So spend AT LEAST five to ten minutes meeting this person, and get interested in them.

This isn’t useless information, by the way. This is solid gold. It’s where you can start to listen for the context of their world, and understand where they’re coming from. You know, so you can coach them on it and maybe even get clear on what would inspire them to commit.

2. It’s not about you.

This conversation? It’s not about you. It’s not about what a great coach you are, or how good you are at selling programs, or solving people’s problems.

This conversation that you’re in is all about whoever is across from you, whether that’s in person, on the phone, or on a computer screen. Her hopes and impossible dreams. His future. Listen to the person across from you, and hear what is said, what is unsaid.

If you’ve been thinking about where to take the conversation, then it’s not a conversation in the realm of possibility; it’s a conversation in the world of predictability. What’s worse, it’s not even their world of predictability: it’s YOURS, including all of your preconceived limits and ideas.

If you’re trying to figure out where to go in the conversation, you’re not listening to them; you’re making it about you and what you want (to do, to get, etc.). The person across from you will know it, too, even if they don’t know that’s what you’re doing. You can feel that vibe a mile away, and it tends to close more doors than it opens.

If you’re really listening, you’ll likely become curious about what you hear and learn. But curiosity only shows up if we allow ourselves to play in the realm of not knowing.

3. Don’t think; dance.

You’re not playing sheet music here. You’re dancing with a partner who may not know the steps. Maybe they’ve never even danced. It’s up to you to take the lead initially, and then let go and move with the music. It’s an improvised game—but even in improv, someone has to know the game for the magic to happen.

This may sound counterproductive to my earlier points, but I promise you it isn’t. Remember, you’re the coach. This person you’re talking to? It’s possible she has never talked to a coach before. That means she may have no idea what to expect, or what to do.

She may need some support in understanding where you two will go in this conversation, or what a coaching request is, let alone what she’s responsible for in this session. She may not even understand what coaching really is, or how it differs from, say consulting or therapy.

Be willing to provide a general direction for the journey ahead, so that you can then lean back and let the client take the lead.

4. Be present.

Honestly, if you were to take on practicing only one of these points, this one is the gold standard. If you practice being present in your conversations with potential clients, all of the above will usually resolve itself.

So, take a deep breath. Your only job is to be here, with this person, right where you both are. You’re in this conversation together, so why not chill out, and just be with this human across from you?

In this moment, you’ll know where to go, because the moment you were in just before will inform you. This means you don’t need to worry about whether he’ll hire you at the end of this session, or two more, or if she can afford your rates.

To sum up, if you’re looking at how to open a conversation for possibility, you may want to consider just being your plain old open self. This means being willing to let go the reins, and trust the conversation to go where it will best serve going.

If you didn’t have to focus on how to serve this person best, but you could just relax and BE you, in this moment, inviting this person to do the same, what might happen?

I know one way to find out…


PS: For other Open goodness, check out our recent mixtape series on the best questions to open a coaching conversation, plus our comprehensive ODSC series. And of course, the tool that’ll help you analyze all four phases of the coaching conversation, the Coaching Canvas, is available free to you.

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