Because I consider myself a bit of a wordsmith, I usually strive to be very precise with my choice of words.

I also admire those who take the time to ensure they use the right words during conversations, and I actually pointed out my appreciation to a colleague recently, as we were discussing something delicate.

As regular readers are aware, I sometimes work in French and speak it daily, which allows me to play with the meanings of words in two languages. This sometimes brings up situations where the most accurate word I want to use happens to exist only in the other language.

It actually happened to me earlier today on a Zoom call, but luckily enough the person with whom I was speaking was another Montrealer, so even though our conversation was in English, he understood me when I slipped into French to find “le mot juste” in a sentence.

I’ve Never Loved the Term “Coaching”

As someone who trained as a coach and with a coaching certification, I’ve long lamented the fact that the term coaching doesn’t resonate well in many cases.

As it turns out, coaching is also something that my wife does a lot of as well in her work, although she deals with very different situations than I do.

But recently, she was working on something and was trying to find the right word to describe what her team does. Even though she had the perfect word in French, she couldn’t seem to find the corresponding English word that conveyed it properly.

“How do you say ‘accompagnement’ in English?”, she asked.

“You don’t”, I replied. “Accompaniment isn’t a word”.

“It’s too bad”, I continued, “because it’s so much clearer than the word “coaching” for what we both do”.

(As it turns out, it is a word, but the main definition is about music, so it isn’t helpful.  We could also get into wine pairings, but that doesn’t really apply here either).

Work with Me, Walk with Me

When I did my training to become a coach, one of the two fundamental takeaways was that we need to learn to “be with” the person we are coaching. (The other is listening without judgment).

Later while doing some conflict resolution training, I began to like the term “walk with”, because it speaks to both the “being with” and the journey that people take.

Being with someone and joining them on a journey is so important, but so is our motivation and attitude.

I sometimes refer to myself as a guide, because that also conveys the journey and the role I play. I need to be there with you and for you, and be looking out for your interests, not mine. So when I coach someone, I accompany them on their journey.

But for “Parenting” It’s the Other Way Around

Lest you think that finding the right word is only a problem in English, let’s now turn to a word that really doesn’t translate well in the other direction.

Thanks to one of my mentors, Denise, for pointing this one out to me.

She does most of her work in French, and she laments the fact that there really isn’t a good French word for “parenting”.

(Google gives us “parentalité” but that’s not a word that anyone ever uses).

I can understand her frustration because poor parenting is a huge cause for many of the issues faced later on in life, especially in the context of a family that is expected to continue to own and manage assets together, even after their parents are gone.

Parents as Coaches?

As we think about coaching and parenting, we can naturally consider how they can be interrelated.

The key to being more of a coach to our offspring lies in the fact that once they are grown adults, we need to foster an adult-to-adult relationship.

The part about listening without judgment also comes into play.

And the “being with” can’t be overdone.

When I’m coaching someone, the call ends and I typically don’t see them again until the next call

Limiting just how much time you spend accompanying them can be tough.

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