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Sign Up Post for Coaches

Please copy and paste the following into a comment box and fill in the appropriate answers.

Sign Up Post for Potatoes

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Some guidelines to get you started

For Coaches

+ Attempt to contact your potato at least once a week to begin with; after the trial period this can become less or more frequent as suits.

+ Acknowledge all communications from your potato, even if the response is to let them know you can't answer them yet.

+ If you are going to be away from your computer for a significant amount of time (above two weeks) please give your potato a heads up.

For Potatoes

+ Unless there is something significant that has changed, try not to send a new message to your coach until the previous one has been acknowledged or answered.

+ Acknowledge all communications from your coach, even if the response is to let them know you can't answer them yet.

+ If you are going to be away from your computer for a significant amount of time (above two weeks) please give your coach a heads up.

+ Do not ask for anything beyond the coaching from your coach unless they have mentioned that this is okay. Beta readers etc. can be found elsewhere.

New rules may be added as we go, depending on how the comm evolves. Please let me know if you think I've missed anything.

How to ask questions and how to listen

How to Ask Questions

Why no 'why'?

Although questioning is very important as part of the coaching process, there are certain types of questions that can be a lot more useful than others. Framing questions in ways that do not involve 'why' is a lot more effective in getting people to open up, since 'why' generally comes across as a challenge and puts people on the defensive.



Coach: So how did it go this week?

Potato: Meh, not so good. I kind of lost focus there and didn't get the writing done for Tuesday.

Coach: Why didn't you get it done?

Potato: I just had loads on this week, I really didn't have time to fit it in, and I was really tired from work as well. It's been kind of hellish lately. Sorry.

Why not.

Coach: So how did it go this week?

Potato: Meh, not so good. I kind of lost focus there and didn't get the writing done for Tuesday.

Coach: What did you do instead?

Potato: ¬_¬ Mostly I played on Sims 3? :D I've been kind of busy...

Coach: Did that make you feel better?

Potato: Not hugely. But there's no threat with the Sims. It's something I can do without thinking.

Coach: What do you mean by 'no threat'?

Potato: I dunno. I guess... there's nothing riding on it? I get worried sometimes about the reception if I'm writing. I feel like everyone will laugh at me. I'm kind of scared about what people say.

Coach: And say your fears were realised here. What's the worst possible thing that could happen? And then maybe think about what would be more likely to...

There's a significant difference in the two conversations. The second allows the potato a lot more opportunity to talk through their thoughts, and to begin to work things out for themselves.

Because of this, another effective technique is reflecting. I don't mean, here, the sort of self reflection that can be of use when looking at our own work, but instead reflecting in questioning terms. Look carefully at what is said, find the key phrase and reflect it back to the speaker.

In the second example above the final exchange could have involved the coach asking 'you feel like everyone will laugh at you?' It invites the potato to think more thoroughly about what it is that they have just said and can help to get to the root of an issue.

A third effective questioning technique is to use visualisation. Ask the potato to think about the outcomes, the results of achieving their goal. Often a goal is a fluffy thing, something that's not particularly well defined, and that can be comforting as a way of not having to push yourself to achieve it and therefore needing to consider 'what next'. Visualisation questions can be a helpful way of making the goal more solid.


- How would you know that you had achieved your goal?

- What would success look like? Where do you see yourself when the goal has been achieved?

- Once you've achieved your goal, what would you be able to do next?

How to Listen

Do Not Judge

The main way to be non-judgemental when coaching is to use acknowledgement instead of praise. This can be a really difficult thing to do, especially in a fandom culture where praise is capital; not saying 'you did so well!' can feel like a snub. However, saying it also recreates the relationship imbalance that exists within mentoring. Being in a position in which you can offer praise, especially in the form of 'I'm so proud of you,' indicates that the coach is in a position from which they are able to judge, and from which their judgements are key. This is pretty much the opposite of what is being aimed for.

Acknowledgement, instead, recognises what has been done without offering comment on its worth; this allows the potato to recognise that worth for themself. Praise can become something that is relied upon, affirmation from the outside, where acknowledgement promotes self-affirmation.

Again, two examples:


Potato: So I posted the Fic o' Doom to the really scary Merlin comm. :D

Coach: Oh dude, that's awesome! Good for you! You've done really well.

Potato: Hee, thanks! Getting feedback is cool.


Potato: So I posted the Fic o' Doom to the really scary Merlin comm. :D

Coach: That took a lot of courage.

Potato: It totally did! It was way less scary than I imagined. I was freaking out slightly beforehand.

Coach: But you did it anyway.

Potato: But I totally did it anyway! I haven't got that much feedback yet, but I'm pretty chuffed with myself for doing it.

Coach: Do you think next time will be easier?

Potato: Next time will be way easier. I actually feel a bit more confident about myself.

Do not become a co-conspirator

What is meant by this is illustrated by what a coaching mentor told me - 'if someone's crying have a tissue box nearby, but don't hand them a tissue.' As the key with above was acknowledgement, not praise, the key in this case is acceptance, not sympathy. Do not act as an enabler for the person to beat themself up; allow them to feel crappy about what has gone wrong, and then support them through finding a way for it to go right.

"I'm sorry that made you feel bad," would be an acceptance statement. "Oh crap, sweetheart, that must have felt really awful," is enabling at the same time that it sympathises.

Do not make it about you

This is probably one of the hardest things to learn. It is hugely difficult not to offer advice, and difficult in this way not to slip from a coaching role into a mentoring one.

Often the difficulty lies in this act of offering help. It is not the intention not to ever offer help, but it is the way that it is done that can be negative. It is far more supportive to offer ways for the potato to find the answer themself, such as providing links to teaching resources, than it is to put yourself into that position of power and knowledge that offering direct assistance can bring with it.

The key in this part of the coaching process is the active listening. Much of the time when we think we're listening, we're really in the process of formulating our reactions and our next words. Important in the process of coaching - and an advantage of doing it over the internet - is taking the time to really take note of what they are saying, processing it without being distracted by our own mental commentary.

The major pitfall is wanting to sympathise by sharing your own experience. As in the example above, it would be a case of saying 'I know that's really embarassing, here's where it happened to me.' This is the act of a co-conspirator and although it provides a comfortable atmosphere for the potato it doesn't move them any closer to resolving their problem and achieving their goal.

If there is anything you feel I have left out, or anything you wish to discuss, please leave a comment below.

Mod Post: Introduction


The aim of this community is to provide coaching and support for those that need it, or rather to provide access to people who will. This isn't half so heavy as it sounds; the basic idea is to help people along the road to meeting their goals, whatever those goals might be. These can be fandom goals, work goals or life goals, but it must be noted that this coaching is not professional and must not be relied on for anything other than a friendly nudge.

This comm is offered as an alternative to comms which offer encouragement and check-ins on a comm-wide basis in the hopes of offering more personalised support and individual goals.

How Will it Work?

Community members will be paired up/will pair themselves up in couples of coach and coachee (who will hereafter be called the potato, because it makes me happy). There is nothing to say one coach cannot take on more than one potato, nor that the potato cannot have more than one coach; each will have their own focus, however. The same goes for coaches that want coaching themselves. There will be a trial period, after which I will contact both parties, who can decide whether the coaching relationship is working; if not, I will offer suggestions to each of new potential partners.

Why Coaching?

'Mentoring' presupposes an unequal relationship between the two parties. It implies that the mentor must have superior skills in the area they're looking to help out in, which isn't what is required here. Instead it is only asked that you have some familiarity with the subject at hand - be it teaching, knitting, betaing, cooking, what have you - enough so that you are able to offer a different perspective and an understanding ear.

In this community there will be guidelines on a number of different issues, one of which is the manner of coaching itself. Although these are not hard and fast rules as to how the coaching should go, they can be used as a starting point until you find what works for you. The guidelines provided work on the basis of asking questions to help the potatoes find the answers themselves, rather than providing the ones that may have worked for you.

What Do I Need To Be a Coach?

1) Some familiarity with the activity you're willing to coach people in; if people just want a general arse-nudging, some familiarity with that, too. ;)

2) Willingness (and ability) to contact your potato on a regular basis. A weekly check-in is suggested, by email or messenger, but the timings can be adjusted to suit the pair.

3) Interest in the wellbeing and progression of others.