The “Art of Intrusion”

by Chris Holmes

“Do not interrupt other people’s stories and monologues; you know better than that.”

Someone taught this to you when you were young. So, you painstakingly wait it out, let it go on and on, wonder if the person you are listening to will ever come up for air, start thinking about dinner plans.

I spend my days with exceptionally nice people evidencing good conduct and long-suffering pastoral training. One of my most challenging endeavors is teaching them how to horn into someone’s soliloquy, without being rude, and come out alive.

It is the highly nuanced skill we teach in coaching called the “art of intrusion.”

Done well it sounds like this, “Excuse me, would you be willing to put into one sentence the meaning this story holds for you?”, or “I am really interested in knowing the affect this story has had on your life.” Done poorly it sounds like this, “Stop TALKING!”

Here is the truth about the skill of intrusion:

  • To the coach it almost always feels like a horribly rude interruption.
  • To the coachee it almost always feels like a helpful prompt to keep the focus on their learning and to use the coaching time well.

If the coach is to successfully move the conversation to an action plan, the art of intrusion is not just helpful, it is often necessary. So, my challenge to all coaches who encounter gifted storytellers is step up your game, take a risk. Forget what your momma taught you early on, override your nice gene, and appropriately push into monologues for the sake of helping the coachee move toward the goal of deeper learning or forwarding action in their life.

Caution: Using the skill of intrusion with a significant other may result in serious harm! Use at your own risk.