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Bringing the background into the foreground…

When coaching a client in an online video call, what do you notice?

To be more specific, what do you notice in and around the physical / virtual space the client is in?

It will typically be one of these things:

  • A physical curtain or divider to block to view of the rest of the room behind them
  • A virtual background like a photo
  • A blurred out background
  • A highly curated physical background
  • An uncurated background
  • An apparent lack of anything, such as a plain white wall

Why am I bringing your attention to this? Because in the latest Creative playground for coaches we found it when being curious and asking questions about what we actually see (or not) behind our clients, that it leads to an incredibly insightful conversation.

It opens a door (pardon the pun!) to a world of metaphors and possibilities.

Example 1: I notice you have a photo of a sunset and a beach in your background….

  • Did you take that photo? 
  • Did you choose it for your background? 
  • How long have you had it as your background? 
  • How would you feel if you were there now? 
  • Where are you? On the beach, in the sea, 
  • What are you? The sun, the waves, the sand, the seagull?

Example 2: Wow! That’s a lot of books you have behind you…

  • How are they ordered currently?
  • If you were a book, where would you put yourself in that bookcase?
  • What colour book are you?
  • Are you a soft or hardback?
  • Where would you feel most comfortable / uncomfortable?
  • What is the title of the book?
  • What condition is the book currently in?

Example 3: I notice a low ceiling and a blank wall right behind you…

  • Do you have enough space?
  • What would be different if there was more light?
  • What do you see in front of you?
  • What would you like to see?
  • How does the constrained space serve you?

Example 4: That’s a lovely curtain behind you…

  • What would you enjoy seeing / be annoyed about, when you pull that curtain back? Or, what would happen if you removed the curtain?
  • Is the texture of the material important to you?
  • What made you choose that one?
  • Do you have other curtains? How do you select which one to use?
  • If you were to create your own curtain, what colour/texture/design would you choose?
  • Did you use existing furniture or did you create your own structure?

As you can see, very quickly insights about the person are generated, particularly on the ‘WHO’ level i.e. you start to understand the client better on a human level.

If the client enjoys playing with this, you can extend it by having different background represent different things, have them change the background during or between sessions based on how they are feeling.

But even if they’re not into it, with repeat sessions you’ll start to notice if something in the background has changed, and can be curious about that.

A final thought here is about YOUR background.

As a coach, could your background be distracting for a client? Should you by default blur your background? Should you ask the client what they would prefer?

Maybe you should turn your camera off. Maybe the client doesn’t even have a working camera.

Hang on a minute… how could we as coaches be playful and creative with this? This is exactly what we will be exploring in the October playground. We hope you will join us to explore this further…

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