Monday, December 16, 2013

Consider the Possibilities

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 to being a good coach. In the process, of course, you'll be informed intuitively by all you've learned and practiced.
Below is 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:

Client: All my life I've had the tendency to bolt when I started feeling uncomfortable.

Coach: 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 resistance: 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 you shift to a kinesthetic channel you'll reach your right brain processes in a way you 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 kind of a 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 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 images.

Possibility language is also illustrated in the above interaction with the comment, "That is good to know, because it means when you shift to a kinesthetic channel you'll reach your right brain processses in ways you 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.

When you coach this way, the possibilities are endless.