Monday, December 16, 2013

Consider the Possibilities

I had a conversation today about coach training and what's essential to being a good coach. After more than thirty years and an ever-growing file of theories, models, and techniques, I've come to believe that being fully present and helping clients become fully present are key. In the process, of course, we are informed in an intuitive way by all we've learned and practiced.

Here's the dialogue from a coaching session with a client who wanted to stay present in uncomfortable situations and not withdraw physically or mentally or emotionally. You'll see elements of Solution-Focus, Possibility Language, and Focusing:
Client: “All my life I’ve had the tendency to bolt when I started feeling uncomfortable.”
Coach: “So when you haven’t bolted, when you’re able to stay with being uncomfortable, how do you do that?”
Client: “I tell myself to hold it in place until my sense of resistance isn’t so strong. But talking to myself about it is a real struggle.” 
Coach: “We have three channels to communicate with our resistances: auditory, visual, and kinesthetic. You seem to use an auditory process.” 
Client: “Yes, I think in words and paragraphs; I don’t see pictures.”
Coach: “That is good to know, because it means when we shift to a kinesthetic channel we’ll reach your right brain processes in ways we can’t with words. So hold the awareness that you want to move away from something. Where in your body do you experience that sensation?” 
Client: “In my gut.”
Coach: “Expand that sensation and tell me what it’s like.”
Client: “It’s a kind of frenetic energy. ‘Butterflies’ is too gentle a word. It’s wobbly, frenetic.” 
Coach: “Now try that on. Does that feel exactly right, that sense that it’s wobbly, frenetic?” 
Client: “Not quite. An image comes to me from a college program in special education when I worked with autistic children. One of the things an autistic child will do when feeling overwhelmed is what's called flapping." 
        Coach: “Is that a fit?” 
Client: “That’s exactly it.”
Coach: “Ah. So there’s a child in you who hasn’t been able to communicate except through flapping."
We then agreed that whenever she felt the presence of that child, she would listen for what the child was trying to communicate.

Notice I didn’t accept the client’s belief that she never thought in "pictures." Instead, I embedded a possibility in my response and she came almost immediately to an experience that countered her view of herself –– suddenly she was seeing in images. 

Possibility language is also illustrated in the above interaction with the comment, “That is good to know, because it means when we shift to a kinesthetic channel we’ll reach your right brain processes in ways we can’t with words.” 

Another aspect of possibility language was the presupposition that the autistic child would be trying to communicate in a different way.

In short order this client moved from an internal verbal struggle –– trying to force herself to continue doing something uncomfortable (and reinforcing her worldview) –– into a playful, imaginary interaction with a child-like part of herself who’d been “autistic,” unable to communicate except through frenetic physical movement. 

The possibilities are endless.