When Words Don’t Matter (Part 4), or Jingle Bells

A few months ago I was in a group training class with what I can only call an ornery old-school Gestalt therapist as the facilitator. Nothing got by this guy. Nothing.

He started off with a group check-in. When I said, “I’m excited about the course this weekend,” he scoffed. “Your words say you’re excited,” he said, “but nothing else does. The words are Jingle Bells, but the tune is The Old Rugged Cross.”

It was true. My words said I was excited, but my body was slumped in my chair. My eyes were half-closed. I was speaking in a mumble and so quietly I was almost inaudible. There was a complete disconnect between my words and everything else I was conveying. I might have believed what I was telling myself – “I’m excited!” – but no one else did.

Such an obvious disconnect between what someone is saying and what someone is feeling is a rich place of exploration for coaches (and for therapists). When one of my coaching clients starts talking about a goal they “should” get around to, and starts making half-hearted plans, then it’s the perfect time for me to say, “I hear you saying you want to do this, but I don’t hear any desire, drive, or excitement in your voice. Is this a goal that truly resonates with you?”

I invite you to check in this week on the messages you’re conveying in your body language, your tone of voice, your facial expressions. Do those messages match up with your words? If not, what’s up?

Laura McGrath, CPCC, is a Toronto-based co-active life coach who helps smart people to live from their hearts. Let's talk! You can subscribe to Ready for Change news to receive thoughtful notes on personal growth, and you can contact Laura to find out if coaching is right for you.


  1. What came to mind as I read this post was how I often don’t appreciate being “called out” on these disconnects. However fortunately for me, I’ve had friends and/or coaches who could deliver the message gently so that it was safe to approach as a genuine opportunity to get curious about what might be in play. Thanks for pointing out something that can be so easily overlooked if we are simply listening for content and not the whole context.

  2. So true. It took me a good two months to blog about this because it was such a jolt to my system to get called out in this way!