Using direct communication

Although Direct Communication is no longer an ICF Core Competency, effective coaches are exceptional in applying the skill. The challenge with Direct Communication is that, sometimes we misconstrue Direct Communication with directing, advising, or fixing the other. Instead,

Direct Communication has to do with responding to the Coachee in a way that is articulate and succinct. It challenges the Coachee to look deeper at their actions, thoughts, feelings, and responses. Direct Communication invites the Coachee to listen to themself and reflect upon what they hear. In summary, Direct Communication invites. It does not prescribe.

Skills needed for being an exceptional communicator

  • Take time to formulate ideas before sharing them with Coachee. This allows both of you to clearly reflect on what has been said and provide the space to create an inquiry that goes to the heart of the matter.
  • Be intentional in every observation and comment made. The mail goal of coaching is to invite the Coachee to develop a new awareness. It’s all about setting the Coachee up for success through small steps forward. Effective coaches are intentional about how the respond. They focus on the “whoness” of the Coachee and their responses are tailored to create a path to get there.
  • Be comfortable in challenging Coachee’s worldview. Honesty and trust are two qualities required to create effective Direct Communication. When these two are established, then there is room to challenge perspectives and worldviews. An effective coach is not afraid of pointing out contradictions or unreal expectations.
  • Summarize and articulate ideas clearly. Coaching is all about allowing the Coachee enough space and time to explore whatever they want to explore. An effective coach will maximize their effectiveness by using less words and, at the same time, communicating that they have heard and understood what the Coachee is saying. A good Direct Communication practice is to use phrases or even words used by the Coachee as they summarize and articulate what they have heard.
  • Be comfortable with silence. Silence is one of the most powerful tools in coaching. Silence offers the opportunity to both, coach and Coachee to reflect and formulate a path forward.


  1.  Recall a conversation or a coaching session when you felt you were not as effective in direct communication.
  2.  Write down, word-for-word, as much as you recall of the conversation.
  3.  Set the document aside for a short time – at least an hour.
  4.  Read the conversation and reflect about what you could have done differently.
  5.  Put your reflection on paper.
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Dan Solomon - August 31st, 2022 at 11:54am

This post helpfully lifts up the critical skills necessary to be an exceptional communicator. The closing exercise was helpful as well. The practice of setting aside the excerpt of the coaching conversation for a short time was especially clarifying for me. Upon reflection, I was invited to not be too quick in utilizing direct communication. Stay curious and continue to inquire even though you may have an initial "intuition". Invite the client to dig deeper. Direct communication is most likely to be effective when the coach is able to use language and metaphors that the client has already unearthed themselves in executing the direct communication. This post and exercise strengthen my conviction that direct communication is part of being an exceptional coach and warrants continued focus practice.

Jason Bland - August 31st, 2022 at 12:52pm

Lesson 5 and the blog article highlight the value of direct communication, not as prescriptive but as an invitation to the client. This perspective was new for me and helped me view the task of providing direct communication in a clever way. It’s not about prescribing the answer, but building windows and doors to new perspectives for the client to see things differently… sometimes by giving them a gentle nudge in one direction or another, and then checking with the client to see if that is acceptable to them.

Ultimately, having this awareness as a coach empowers me to be more direct, but through the lens of opening a new door for the client, not as trying to provide an answer.

Brian Hooper - September 2nd, 2022 at 11:43am

Direct communication is a big tool in the coaching toolbox. It seems to be about open and honest communication and can be transformational. I think this tool can at times lead us to be uncomfortable, whether that being asking tough questions or silence, but this method allows coaches to dive deeper. I think naming the contradiction in what the client is doing and what they would like to be doing is key. With this process a coach might use some "advice giving" using a metaphor and maybe asking the questions, "Can I share an observation?" or "Have you thought about trying this?" Of course, only sharing this with the client's permission. I see direct communication as a method to bring about deeper awareness.

Tom Smith - September 3rd, 2022 at 9:02am

As I re-read Jim's post on direct communication, I noticed themes that I hadn't appreciated in my first take. Themes of taking time, reflecting, providing space and intentionality all for the good of the client. Coaches challenge their client's world view from a perspective of care, wanting the best for their client. For me, this is foundational to my use of this coaching tool: helping the client to reconsider current attitudes, assumptions and actions win order for them to explore opportunities they had yet to consider. Follow the client, be patient in listening and daring in asking well-crafted comments/questions/metaphors. Powerful.

Direct Communication gets at the heart of what is happening internally for the client. It dives past the surface of the issue the client first shares in order to open up life's possibilities in new and inspiring ways.

Shelly McNitt - September 7th, 2022 at 9:41am

I continue to be intrigued at this idea of direct communication as an invitation and challenging the client in a non shaming and non judgemental way. When I think of the word direct, I tend to lean towards it meaning assertive or harsh. This article challenges that idea. Silence as a tool and language choice in the questions are key in that shift. Direct is not intended to be rude or aggressive but a tool to evoke new awareness for the client. As a coach, I need to be mindful of pauses, tone of voice, and words used in asking powerful questions.

Tom Pietz - November 14th, 2022 at 8:05pm

As a public speaker/preacher, and an extrovert, and great at being a dialogue partner and my role of pastoral care and counseling, I need to shift the way I think and be by slowing down, listening by far the majority of the time, and being slow to speak and quick to listen as the Bible says it. Short probing questions to the coachee while allowing the questions to sit with the client and for him/her to ponder, think and then express what comes to mind is key. For some, especially introverts or processing people, it may take more time to unpack.

In understanding the client's worldview, asking direct questions to dig deeper and even question the client's thinking may reveal new insights and lead to a breakthrough.