Visiting the Ypres Salient, May 2014

Dulci et decorum est – Wilfred Owen

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

NOTES: Latin phrase is from the Roman poet Horace: ‘It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.’

Source: Poems (Viking Press, 1921)


We listen to ourselves to find out what we think

In progress-focused coaching (in the strict sense) coaches ask questions to their clients and then they acknowledge whatever clients answer to these questions and ask follow-up questions. What progress-focused coaches seldom do is share their own opinions and value judgments and they also do not tend to give tips. If they do share something which somehow looks a bit like an opinion it is done in a very subtle way as is the case with techniques like normalizing and reframing.

One might say that it is amazing that such a process could be helpful at all for clients. But readers of this blog will not be so surprised anymore. By working with the perspective of clients, progress-focused coaches are usually very fast at establishing good working relationships with their clients and at focusing on what is important for their clients. By then asking good questions they help their clients develop their own perspective in such a way that it becomes ever more constructive and useful. Progress-focused coaching conversations, as a rule, help clients to get a clearer idea about what they want and how they can take a step forward.

Clients who we have interviewed often say that it is very pleasant and useful to express their thoughts calmly during progress-focused conversations. They also say they find it quite useful that coaches accept and use their words and frequently summarize what clients have said. A recent study sheds some light on why these things are so useful. Researchers Lind et al. (2014) found out – I admit, it sounds quite paradoxical – that people listen to themselves in order to find out what they think (read here how they did their research). This research shows that it is not true, what we intuitively might think, that we first determine what we think about things and only then start talking.

It works differently. Often, we do not have a detailed idea about what we think about something before we start talking. While we are talking we listen attentively to our own words in order to find out what we think about the topic.

This study contributes to our understanding of how progress-focused coaching can be so helpful. Clients have ample opportunity to talk and listen to themselves while talking. Sometimes, those facial expressions of clients seem to say: ‘Gosh, that was quite interesting, what I just said there!’


The emergence of language