Day 4 of How to Start a Coaching Conversation Like a Master Coach (The Mixtape):

By Toku

Five Questions I Stole from the World’s Best Coaches, Why They Work, and How to Use Them to Start Powerful Coaching Conversations Today!

While part of me would love to spend this entire post talking about the simplicity of The Work as well as its limitations, for now we’re just going to look at the OPEN/DROP questions and why they work to open a session powerfully no matter the subject and how you can use their simplicity to know how to create possibility even when you feel out of your depth as a coach.

But first, some background…

Byron Katie’s The Work is one of the most systematic, and in some ways rigid, coaching or deep-work structures that exists. It’s also a very polarizing approach to deep work. Some people love the simplicity; others criticize it as a bit of a hammer in search of a nail, and that its community is a little too cult like for its own good. But opinions aside, I think there’s some real gold to be extracted from The Work, whether you use it as it was created or whether you just learn from the model it offers.

Part of the reason The Work, um… works? so well is that it contains all of the elements we see in every great coaching session.

Three powerful OPEN/DROP questions:

  • What statement/belief/thought would you like to work on?
  • Is it true?  
  • And can you absolutely know that it’s true?

Two simple but effective SHIFT questions:

  • How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
  • Who would you be without that thought?

And a simple but effective CLOSE:

Which is achieved by ‘turning around’ each statement and experiencing the alternative view of  reality they offer.

And while each phase of The Work holds some magic, a bunch of that magic relies on the relativistic/Zen-like foundation of the Opening questions Katie crafted to start The Work.

Master Coaching Awesome OPENs Track / Question 4: Is it true? (Byron Katie)

Why it works: While many coaching models spend a great deal of time trying to figure out what to focus on in a coaching session, The Work employs an incredibly simple process that tosses that discernment to the wind.

This first question is both incredibly simple and powerful. It asks the client to “write down a stressful concept about someone (alive or dead) whom you haven’t forgiven 100 percent.”

(For example, “He doesn’t care about me.”)

This first question acts as a sort of indiscriminate, industrial, belief-sifting machine that won’t allow more than one belief through its chute at a time.

Once that statement is produced—”he doesn’t care about me”—this very same machine cleaves your resolute righteous from reality with a single chop with the question:

“Is it true?” (Yes or no. If no, move to Question 3.)

In some ways The Work could stop here. After all, with enough resourcefulness and perspective anyone can see that their strongly held beliefs are often poorly constructed, but BK knows that our beliefs and judgments are hardier that that.

Which is why question two follows question one for any statement that survives the first chop:

Question two is: “Can you absolutely know that it’s true?” (Yes or no.)

At this point almost no belief can survive unless the illusion is deep. This question in a way provides a full coaching cycle that shatters obstacles. It OPENs with a unit of belief, it chooses a DROP of absolute truth, it creates a SHIFT by cleaving belief from truth, and it CLOSEs by producing a shattered belief for integration.

The rest of the process in a way is all about having the client see the impact of having a certain belief and showing them what’s possible from different perspectives, but these OPEN questions are so powerful because they rest on a stance of absolute truth and the imperfection of human perception and thought.

This opening point itself is so powerful to have garnered The Work a nearly cult-like following of belief-cleaving practitioners.

Why I love it: I love the simplicity of The Work’s OPEN phase and how formulaic it is. I’ve watched new and experienced coaches alike grasp and crawl around for a subject coach around and The Work reveals just how simple and powerful an opening can be.

I also see the limitations of The Work in the same way I see the limitations of three principles work. In a way, both fall victim to the idea that Right View is enough for deep awakening. Perhaps with a side of Right Thinking. But when I look to the paths of awakening from the Buddha to the Christian Gnostics, I soon find that Right View and Thought are just two parts of the process and it’s because of this I don’t just do The Work with my clients.

And having said that, I can’t deny the raw power The Work offers and the glorious effectiveness of its opening. It’s something I often think about when I find myself struggling to find a solid OPEN or DROP with a client or prospect.

How you can use it: Again, you can use The Work out of the box. I don’t think it’s a panacea, but I learned a lot by taking clients through The Work. After a while it begins to feel a little paint-by-numbers and feels a little like being a Samurai behind a machine gun or a meat grinder.

But if you don’t want to follow the step by step you can rip out the architecture and use it free standing.

As you go into your OPEN and move into the DROP phase, notice what statements of belief the client is holding most dear. Sometimes these beliefs will be apparent: No one sees me. And sometimes they will be camouflaged. But before you move forward, write down a belief or two, especially the ones that either the client sees as most true or the ones you most want to buy into.

And there on your notepad ask: Is it true? Can you absolutely know that it’s true? (Yes or no.)

Once you’ve seen beyond the view of the world your client is trying to buy into you will be in a much better position to see what’s possible for the client and be much more likely to choose or guide a client into a powerful drop for your session.

And as with all of these things please go and practice them. You learn ideas by reading but you gain confidence through practice.


The next post will be the last one in this little series. And I’ll be looking at my favorite question of all: “What would you like?”

It’s a question I learned from my coach of two years, Jeff Riddle, which he learned from his teacher, Carl Bucheit. We’ll talk about why this is the only question that ever really matters and why most coaches who try to go deep forget to ask it.



PS: Remember, all of this analysis was made possible by this simple coaching tool we created called the Coaching Canvas. Get your free copy here:

PPS: And for more on great Opens and other coaching goodness, remember to sign up for our free Micro-Dojo webinar-class-teaching-thingy called

Death to Zombie Coaching Sessions!
(How to prevent brain-dead coaching sessions that go nowhere.)
Register now!!! 

PPPS: Enjoying this series? Please share the love with your fellow coaches and others who might benefit!

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