The surface level
The surface level of the coaching conversation is whatever is happening in the room that an external observer would be able to record. It includes everything that both the coach and the coachee say, the way they say it, and the non-verbal signals that each exhibits: body and facial movements (even tiny ones), skin colour, eye movements, right down to pupil dilation and flaring of the nostrils.
The significance of the surface level is that it is the physical manifestation of everything that is being communicated – both by the coach to the coachee, and by the coachee to the coach. The most effective coaches are the ones who listen beyond the words that are being said, and notice and interpret all the other aspects of the communication. An effective coach also knows that the totality of the communication that the coach is delivering (not just the words) is crucial.
The TOTEs operating at this level are based on the normal cultural rules of conversation: for example, taking turns to speak and letting the other person finish what they are saying.