In person coaching – by phone or face-to-face?

Phone connections

I do a lot of my intensive coaching work on the telephone.  I like doing it this way. There is a focus and an intensity to our work which is often missing when we sit in a room together looking at each other. Distractions are minimized. While I am happy to meet clients face to face – after one or two meetings I will usually suggest that we consider continuing our work on the telephone.  It turns out I am not alone in this preference.

Terry Gross, host of NPRs Fresh Air, does most of her interviews over the phone.  She believes that there is “intimacy in distance.”  She says, “I find it to be oddly distracting when the person is sitting across from me. It’s much easier to ask somebody a challenging question, or a difficult question, if you’re not looking the person in the eye. And I can look at my notes without fear that the interviewee will assume that I’m not paying attention to what they’re saying.”

Laura Hillenbrand, author of bestseller Unbroken, said of her hundreds of hours talking with her subject, Louis Zamperini: “I thought it was actually an advantage to be unable to go to Louie.”  Because neither of them had to dress for the interviews and they were in their own homes, their long phone calls enjoyed a warmth and comfort that might otherwise be missing.

If you have kids, you may have had the experience that the best conversations you ever had with them took place in the car – with neither of you looking at the other, but nevertheless in a wonderful closeness focused on what you were talking about, and not distracted by eye rolls and grimaces.  That kind of intimacy can foster the deepest interactions, the greatest insights and for me, some of the most productive coaching.