Conversational coaching - 10 tips anyone can use.

Are you fed up with listening to someone moaning about their problems and seemingly having no intention of actually resolving them?

Do you have a colleague who relies so heavily on your input that it is detracting from your own important workload?

Would you like to be able to effortlessly turn downward spiralling conversations into productive and helpful ones instead?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then this blog will help you.  You can use conversational coaching to achieve any of these things. It’s easy to pick up and no training is required.

What is conversational coaching?

Conversational coaching is the art of informally using coaching techniques during the course of an everyday conversation.  Coaching can have a variety of purposes but the main premise is that the coach assumes that the person being coached is the best person to create their own solutions and in addition, has all of the resources and information they need within themselves.

Conversational coaching can be used as a way of helping someone to establish their desired outcome, make the best possible decision about a given situation, analyse a complex scenario, look at an issue from a new perspective, find a solution to a problem or simply just trigger a new or more positive pattern of thinking.

How can I use conversational coaching?

You can use conversational coaching in many different situations. You can use it in your capacity as a manager, a friend, a colleague, a parent, an external consultant or as impartial mediator to name a few.

Follow the tips below and you’ll find that when you start to use them you will notice that you find your own comfortable style and after a while it will become a natural habit.

The tips are so easy to follow because all you have to do is be yourself. Simply use your natural conversational style, language and tone.

The questions and phrases below are written in a style that you can casually drop into everyday conversations, but if they don’t feel or sound right as they are, adapt them so that they are congruent with your own manner.

If for any reason you’re unsure at first, tread lightly. Be curious and supportive rather than challenging.  Err on the side of caution and be ultra- respectful of the other person’s cues. If they become defensive or clam up, it could mean that they are not ready to resolve the issues or don’t want to share their thinking out loud. If this is the case, simply revert to your normal style.

Most likely though, they will gladly continue down that path with you and become invigorated and reflective. In this case, go with the flow and enjoy!

10 easy Conversational Coaching tips that anyone can use in any situation

1. To establish a positive outcome.

  •   ‘What would you like to have happen?’ When someone comes to you with a problem or a gripe, ask an open question like this to encourage them to think about what outcome they would like, rather than dwelling on the details of the problem.
  • If someone is talking about something they don’t want or something they are trying to avoid, help them to turn it into a positive outcome. Ask ‘What do you want instead?”

2. To think beyond perceived restraints and towards a blue sky solution

  • If someone is in the habit of looking for obstacles or struggles to see beyond potential problems, it can be helpful to ask ‘If you could wave a magic wand, what would the perfect solution be?’. This gives permission for the person to temporarily ignore obstacles. 
  • An alternative would be ’If there were no limitations, what would the ideal outcome be?’

3. To empower them by helping them to see what elements are within their control.

  • When someone is frustrated or disheartened ask ‘What are your options?’
  • If they seem overwhelmed or confused you might suggest ‘Sometimes it helps to write your options down’. Often when the possible options are written down it turns out that there are only a few and even if there are many, the act of putting them on paper has the effect of taking them outside of the person so they seem much simpler and more manageable.
  • Often, there really only is one option and the person already knows what it is. To test this out ask ‘And at this moment in time, which of those options stands out as the best one?’

4. Consider other elements of the scenario.

  •  I wonder what led her to take that course of action?
  • I wonder how she must be feeling about it?
  • I wonder what would happen if…….?

5. Identify the key steps and commit to the initial positive action.

  • When the desired outcome is known, ask ‘What needs to happen for that to happen?’
  • And working backwards through the steps and stages askAnd what needs to happen for that to happen?’ about each previous step.
  • Once you’ve elicited the steps and stages, it may be appropriate to ask ‘What resources do you need in order for that to happen?’
  • The initial step may be relatively small, but its significance is that it is actually at the beginning of a chain of events that will easily gather momentum once triggered by this first step.  A simple question to ask to help someone identify and commit to the initial action is ‘What is the very first thing you need to do?’

6. See the benefits in achieving the desired outcome and weigh up the possible sacrifices

  • ‘If you could achieve (the outcome), what would that be like?’ helps the person to imagine the outcome being achieved.  Once the mind has imagined this, it increases the desire to achieve the outcome.
  • ‘What would that get for you?’ This helps the person to analyse the personal pay-offs, which is a powerful element in achieving any outcome.
  •  ‘What is important to you about achieving (the outcome)?’ This helps to align the outcome with personal values.
  • By identifying the potential costs or sacrifices involved, the person can then make a calculated judgement on whether they are worth it. Ask ‘Are there any sacrifices involved in achieving.....?’
  • What will it cost you if you don't address (the problem)? This helps the person to recognise the costs of doing nothing.
  • ‘What will happen if you don't achieve (the outcome)?’  Again, this helps the person to think about what will happen if they don’t take the necessary action.

7. They are the person who knows best!

  • If someone asks what you think about something, it is easy to take that as invitation to give advice.  No matter how good you think your advice may be, it is much more helpful to reflect the question back by asking ‘What do you think?’
  • Again, this can also be useful when someone is focussing on how they think other people think they should behave. Simply ask ‘And what do you think?’

8. Do an ecology check. How does the issue impact on other parts of the wider system?

  • What will be the knock on effect if you achieve that?
  • What else will happen when you (the outcome)?
  • Where does that fit in the bigger picture?

9. Explore the logic and reasoning (specifically for the purpose of helping the person to gain insights and look at the issue from different perspectives, rather than for your own understanding)

  • What's your thinking behind that?
  • What’s your thought pattern there?
  • I'm just wondering how you arrived at that idea? Can you explain it to me in a bit more detail?
  • What is the purpose of that strategy?
  • What are you aiming to achieve by taking that action?

10. Check that the outcome is 100% within their control and acknowledge any possible barriers

  • Is that 100% within your own control?
  • Are you relying on anyone else?
  • Who else is involved?
  • Is there anything that might stop you achieving that?
  • What might get in the way of that happening?
  • What stops you doing that straight away?/ from now on?

I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments on this subject. Please use the comment box to share your views, ask a question or even to let me know if there's any particular topic you'd like to see a blog about. And of course if I can help you directly in any way, please get in touch with me at

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