Sounding-board (noun): a structure behind or over a platform to give distinctness and sonority to sound.

We’ve become so familiar with the term ‘sounding-board’ being used to mean someone on whom we test ideas that it’s easy to forget why we use it this way; how this usage builds on its original meaning.

A sounding-board amplifies and clarifies sound. Someone speaking before a sounding-board can hear themselves more clearly.

A sounding-board doesn’t add to what is said. It doesn’t express an opinion on what is said. It doesn’t have a point of view on what is said.

It simply reflects and amplifies, enabling those listening to hear more clearly.

Years of studying Psychology, participating in personal development training, and working as a coach have shown me time and again that I can’t ‘fix’ other people. Even when a ‘solution’ to someone’s ‘problem’ seems obvious to me, I know from experience that sharing my views is pointless at best, counter-productive at worst. Likewise, until I’m ready to be coached, someone wading in with their point of view on my life and how I should be living it is just annoying.

None of us likes to be told how to live. Unsolicited coaching gets our backs up. We may even respond by digging our heels in and ploughing further along a self-destructive furrow. Even taking the advice can be a way of avoiding responsibility. If it doesn’t work out, we can blame the person that advised us.

In fact, noticing myself making an internal judgement on how someone else is living their life, is my trigger to take a look at myself. What am I transferring onto them? Why am I choosing to blame them rather than take responsibility for something myself? What can I take responsibility for? I am powerless to ‘change’ anyone else. But by working on myself, I can be powerful in any circumstances.

On the other hand, I know from both sides the massive difference coaching can make when it’s requested.

Photo: Joe Houghton

When I’m struggling with something, I can often tell that I’m not being straight with myself, that there’s something I’m not facing up to. And that’s when I get in touch with my coach. I know she’ll listen for what matters to me, she’ll really get where I’m coming from, and she’ll reflect back to me what she hears so I can spot the contradictions and irrationality in what I’m thinking, and find a way through what’s challenging me.

Likewise, when someone requests coaching from me , I act as a sounding board. I’m a critical friend. And with permission, I’ll provide a robust challenge. I don’t pretend to ‘have all the answers’. In fact I believe that each person can only generate the ‘answers’ for themself.

We are powerless over other people. They will do and think what they choose. The only one each of us can influence is ourself. That’s where our power lies.

Photo: Alan Cleaver_2000

That’s why my programmes aren’t suitable for someone who isn’t ready to consider the possibility of changing any of their ideas, attitudes or opinions. Or for someone who isn’t committed to working through the programme materials and doing the actions required. They’re not suitable for someone who wants someone else to solve their clutter problem for them.

However, they are suitable for somone who is prepared to do what takes to declutter, and create a home that supports them to do the things they love.

Sometimes it takes hitting an all-time low to get to this point. Getting to the point when you’re sick and tired of facing an overwhelming clutter mountain that saps your energy, sick and tired of feeling ashamed to invite people into your home, and sick and tired of being stuck with your situation. Sometimes it takes a change in circumstances, like moving home, or a new opportunity, like the possibility of living with a partner. Whatever it is, when you’re ready to transform your home, you’ll know. And that’s when it’s time to get support from a dispassionate, experienced coach who is as committed to your goals as you are.


If you’re ready to clear your clutter, stay clutter-free and make the life you want possible, there’s a place on my ten-week programme for you. Click here to find out more.

What’s your experience of coaching? Comment below.

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