The retirement coaching conversation


How does a retirement coach structure the conversation with a client? Good question. Something to notice straight away is its non-linearity. For example, the retirement coach may pick up on a theme – let’s say the level of busyness or idleness in the client’s daily life since retirement – to develop it further. But here’s the point. The client can and probably will discuss this by reference to examples and feelings across time: by making remarks about today and, say, 20 years ago. All in the same conversation. There will also be some dynamics at play in this conversation.

The dynamics of the joint work

Building on the ideas in the previous paragraph, the coach will seek opportunities to work on the client’s narrative. Clarification may be important, reformulation can also be very useful, all in pursuit of a deeper joint understanding of the client. There is no formula. What there can be is good listening, reflecting and observation of the tone, use of words and body language that the client manifests. There is another place to judge powers of observation.

Observations we might see in a novel

They say that bad novelists write cliché whereas a good novelist can spot the small detail inside a large frame. I read a recent example of the latter. In a scene that involved a conversation between detectives on a balcony, one of the detectives casually observed a slice of life. It was the week before Christmas. He saw a man having lunch, dressed as Father Christmas, holding his false beard close to his chest so that he didn’t spill his lunch on it. A tiny but revealing detail. This is the style of the good novelist.

Style and the client

Each client will have their own style; we are all novelists when we come to describe ourselves to others. We select what we disclose and don’t disclose; often without conscious intent. Some people will talk arrogantly, others with humility. The French say that style is the man; which we may rephrase by contradicting an old maxim: you can judge a book by its cover.

Retirement: You won’t know what it is like until you get there.