Monday, January 14, 2019

Ready to Learn by Sheila Arnold

Ready to Learn

I love coaching.  I love being coached.  I appreciate hard specific feedback just as much, and sometimes more than, compliments and platitudes about my stories.  Because of these “loves” and “appreciation” in my life, this is what I try to give to others when I am coaching. 
I have been asked to coach performers (not just storytellers) for quite some time, and I think it is important for me to approach each coaching session in a similar way.  The first thing I do is listen – all the way through.  I don’t interrupt the first time around unless I really don’t understand something and I have to get clarity in order to get the full story.  Then we take a moment to let the story breathe between me – the coach – and the storyteller.  This is a vulnerable time; storytellers can get afraid of what I am going to say.  They are already beating themselves up about the missed word, phrase or, in their mind, awful storytelling technique.  I need a moment to soak in what I have heard and to review the notes that I take.  Then step 3 – I give feedback and make sure my feedback is specific, with a reminder that this is my opinion, not required to be accepted.  I also try to speak without interrupting; I learned that by watching Connie Regan-Blake give feedback to Charlotte Blake-Alston; very powerful and a great lesson.  If there are others in the coaching with me, which I actually like, then I ask for other feedback, and if I see unkindness, I point it.  Vulnerability needs to be handled with care and compassion and needs to know it has a safe community to succeed, fail, make mistakes and keep trying.  Finally, we make a decision.  Do we have enough time to listen again?  Do we need to just breathe in the feedback?  Do we need to schedule another coaching time?  What is next for the story and the storyteller?
I come to each coaching session with the golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  I also come to each coaching session with the lessons, compassion, care and challenges given to me from amazing storytellers:  Diane Ferlatte, Donna Washington, Charlotte Blake-Alston, Donald Davis, Bil Lepp, Minton Sparks, Syd Lieberman, Susan Klein, Milbre Burch, Clare Murphy, and a close-knit group of friends called “The Storytelling Girlfriends”.  There is a community that has helped and continues to help me grow, and I want to make sure that each person I coach leaves knowing they have a community that lifts and holds them up.  Finally, I leave each session having learned things about storytelling, about people and about stories, and I grow! 
I love coaching.  I love being coached.

Sheila Arnold, 12/11/18