Can interrupting a client be a mindful coaching skill?

The common benefits of mindfulness, such as enhanced presence, active listening, and heightened awareness, undeniably enhance a coach’s effectiveness. Still, mindfulness can offer some less apparent yet exceptionally valuable tools within a coaching context.

One particular technique emphasized in the Mindful Coach Method, which often intrigues people, is the ‘Mindful Interruption’ skill.

I explored this practice in depth during my studies of somatic psychotherapy under the late Ron Kurtz and his colleagues, founders in the field of Hakomi therapy. The approach of providing ample space to the client, often allowing long periods of silence, is beneficial in itself, especially in a world where there is a greater emphasis on talking rather than perceiving the impact that words have on us and others.

(This reminds me of a phrase I heard during the Inner MBA training, “Words are cheap, but they shouldn’t be.”)

Mindful Coaching and Interruption

Unlike the practice of providing space, the essence of Mindful Interruption lies in discerning particular moments in the client’s narrative that merit highlighting. The coach mindfully interrupts the client, refocusing their attention on these moments. These instances are often fleeting, woven into the conversation’s fabric. For example, a client might describe an outing with friends, saying, “It was just so much fun.” The subtle energetic shift, the change in their expression and nonverbal behavior, is what a mindful coach can highlight when it benefits the client to explore these shifts.

Questions like “What’s it like for you to feel that way?” “How do you notice that in your body?” “Are there other times when you feel the same way?” are potential follow-ups in this situation.

This method enables the client to delve deeper into their inner states, amplifying their presence. By encouraging the client to articulate these experiences, we can help strengthen and empower the body-mind connection. You are aiding them in identifying and expressing variations in their emotional states, thus transforming the dialogue and communication.

This practice isn’t confined to positive experiences. A client’s sigh at a negative event can also be an opportunity for the coach to help the client engage more profoundly with their experience. “Hold on for a moment, if you don’t mind. What were you feeling when you sighed?”

Mindfully and somatically exploring these moments often leads to unexpected and profound insights.

The Door that Opens

Technically, these are “limbic” state shifts. The ability to remain mindful and present during these changes in yourself and your client can be an immensely powerful asset in leading a fulfilling life.

When you notice and can name and discuss these shifts in the moment, you open doors to declaring healthy boundaries, embracing nourishing moments, and generally making better real-time decisions because you are aware of what’s happening to you as it happens. This awareness can lead to healthier choices being made earlier. And the gem of this for coaches is that awareness of these limbic state shifts in you and your client often gives you access to coaching choices in the moment that you don’t have otherwise. And often these are better choices.

The ability to effectively deliver skillfully timed and delivered mindful interruptions helps clients explore their internal world in a more fully embodied way and give expression to the resulting insights. In the Mindful Coach Method, I refer to this as “inhabiting your embodied authority and engaging the world from that place.”

While these skills may not be easy to acquire, few are more crucial.

This is one reason why mindfulness training alone is insufficient for coaches. There is a specific context here, and it matters.

Mindful Interruption: a valuable skill for mindful coaches. If you’re interested in learning more about this, reach out to me or check out The Mindful Coach Method.