Visuals can be a powerful way of exploring meaning: research by David Rock indicates that we process information more richly and fully when using metaphors. Visual metaphors allow us to pack a lot of meaning into an efficient vehicle for conveying information, freeing up our minds for more insight and processing. You can see this process at work when people want to use a whiteboard for drawing a diagram of a complex concept, or the famous idea sketched on a napkin.
Coaching is generally thought of as a process of useful conversation, but that conversation doesn’t need to be limited to the purely verbal. Introducing drawing to a coaching conversation can help shift the frame of perspective to form new connections and build new insights. Jenny Bird and Sarah Gornall’s book The Art of Coaching suggests a number of ways coaches and clients can benefit from putting thinking on the page.
A coachee might start by drawing a diagram of a situation, process or idea. Or a coach might offer the picture they’re seeing, which helps externalise thoughts and give an objective artefact to view, discuss, and reposition. Best of all, a drawing is flexible: it can be continually redrawn until it meets the coachee’s needs.
Coachees and coaches don’t need to have the draughtsmanship of Leonardo Da Vinci to use drawing in their coaching; the aim isn’t artistic merit–it is using visual language to further meaning. All you need to get started is picking up a pen.