Please excuse my tongue in cheek question, but recently I was listening in on a conference call and I found myself getting increasingly irritated with the convenor. He went on, and on, and on…..I had to talk myself out of intervening since I was just there to listen.

I also had to admit to myself that I’m not always immune to this practice.

EXPLAINITIS: A condition characterized by the detailed verbal descriptions of each thought, idea, or pronouncement, usually by one person addressing an individual or a group, in the audience by choice, by mandate or both. Consequences include: rolling of the eyes, frequent sighing, or outright sleeping with or without snoring. In the case of teleconferences, ‘accidentally’ hanging up, or placing the call on mute while getting a snack, cooking dinner, or watching TV have also been observed.

All kidding aside, I bring this up because this conference call was a valuable (yet irritating) reminder of the key differences between coaching and explaining. As a person invested in creating respectful human interactions grounded in trust, this is an important distinction to keep in mind.

Getting from explanation to solution

Fundamentally, the role of a coach or facilitator is to create the space for your client(s) to find their own solution.

A good coach or facilitator supports this process through thoughtful questioning, active listening, and bringing unconscious patterns to an individual’s or group’s attention.  


Explaining … Coaching …
Assumes I know what’s good for you. Asks you what you need.
Focuses on what is missing, not working, needs fixing. Builds on your past successes and helps identify results you want to create for the future.
Assumes I know the way to get there and you don’t. Helps you explore different ways to get there. I may even learn a thing or two from you!
Tends to use my preferred channel to convey information. Adapts to the unique mode of communication of the other person to support their learning.
Controls the pace and flow of information. Asks questions about what would be most useful, and adjusts to suit.
Assumes you need rescuing. Assumes you have the resources you need.
Holds you hostage to what is known. Empowers you to dream and innovate.
Is about power of one ‘authority’ over another ‘non-authority’. Is about trusting Self.

Don’t get me wrong, explaining is not necessarily a bad thing. I may genuinely not know how to cook a bouillabaisse or do cost modelling. I may need to learn from you. I may need clarification, and even some explanations. But please don’t bury me in them.

There’s a delicate balance after all. In my experience, most people want to take responsibility for their own learning. Besides, are you not more apt to remember something new if you learned it your way?

Let me know in the comment section of your experiences with turning ‘Frequent Explainitis’ into a quest for solutions. Looking forward to hearing from you!

4 thoughts on “Do You Suffer From Frequent Explainitis?”

  1. Frederique Jefferson

    Hi Dominique. Funny and accurate. I must watch how much I say because the bottom line for many is the need to be heard. Hearing and listening is a necessary balance. Thank you for this timely reminder.

  2. Edith Lacroix

    AYOYE!!! Je me reconnais beaucoup là-dedans (et j’ai un peu honte de me dénoncer….)J’ai le “I know best” très facile. Je me valorise beaucoup en apportant des solutions. C’est un très bon rappel pour moi d’écouter plus et de parler moins tout en restant engagé dans la relation. Merci Dominique!

    1. Dominique Dennery

      Je crois que c’est une pratique courante chez ceux d’entre nous qui sommes des aidants naturels! Si je ne m’étais pas vue aussi dans ce miroir, je n’aurais pas écrit le blogue. J’aime ta phrase: Écouter tout en restant engagé. Bien dit. Au plaisir de te lire à nouveau!

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