One of the challenges coaches face is silencing the noise that can distract us during a coaching session. For those of us who work from home without a designated office space, it can be especially challenging. Most of us do well when it comes to eliminating external noise and distractions and giving our undivided attention to our clients. But there’s a different kind of noise that is far more difficult to control—psychological noise.
“Psychological noise results from preconceived notions we bring to conversations, such as racial stereotypes, reputations, biases, and assumptions,” Wikipedia states. Despite our professional training, psychological noise can distract the best of us.
Sometimes, the noise can become so loud that we fail to hear what the client is saying. Instead, we insert our agendas into the conversation rather than honoring the client’s agenda.
For example, imagine a client comes to you for leadership coaching in the area of time management. He is working long hours and away from his family much of the time. His children are asking why he is gone so much.
As a child, you grew up in a home where your dad was not home much because he was working. Because of your psychological noise, you take off on how his children must be feeling because he is away from home so much of the time rather than staying with the client’s agenda of time management.
You have now changed the client’s agenda from one of time management to how badly his children must be feeling. Your psychological noise has just hijacked the client’s agenda.
The reality is we cannot free ourselves from psychological noise. But as coaches we should become aware of our psychological noise and vulnerabilities, so it doesn’t get in the way of our coaching sessions. We must also avoid the trap of thinking that we have no psychological noise because we all do.
Just as some physical noises are louder than others, so some psychological noises are louder than others. For example, especially painful or traumatic experiences in a coach’s life can result in louder psychological noise and pose a greater threat to the coaching conversation.
If your psychological noise is so loud that it distracts you while coaching, it may be in the client’s best interest to refer him or her to another coach.
The challenge for us as coaches is to identify our psychological noise and keep it from usurping the client’s agenda.
As a coach, how do you quiet the noise, so it doesn’t distract you from giving the client your undivided attention? What are some of the psychological noises that hold potential to get in the way of the client’s agenda?
With a friend or colleague, revisit a coaching session in which your psychological noise took over the client’s agenda. Come up with ideas as to how you might respond differently next time.

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