Anita asked during a coach training workshop:

This week if it’s appropriate to address emotion in coaching.

After all, isn’t that stepping too far into a person’s personal space or risking a drift into therapy? Curious, I asked which dimension of the issue she was feeling most concerned about.

Anita replied that she felt anxious about straying into what could feel like a counseling relationship.

If she did, she said, she would feel both out of her How To Manage Your Emotionsbreached a professional boundary.

She had felt compromised

I paused, then asked if it had felt inappropriate when I posed that question to her, or if she had felt compromised in The power of feeling rejected or getting no. She looked up, smiled, and said, ‘No.’

Another coaching workshop and Brian, a colleague, was introducing reflecting back as a core skill.

One participant looked increasingly frustrated and eventually blurted out, ‘You call this a skill but it’s like playing a game with someone, using techniques on them rather than holding a real and respectful conversation.’

Brian listened then responded calmly, ‘So, reflecting back feels to you like toying with someone, and that clashes with your value for authenticity.

’ ‘Yes – that’s it exactly!’

he replied with a burst of positive energy that took everyone in the room by surprise.

After a brief moment, he and everyone else broke out in fits of laughter. ‘OK, now I get it.’

The principle here is that of modeling an idea, an approach, a method, or a technique, rather than simply describing or explaining it.

There’s something about experiencing that can feel profoundly and qualitatively different to understanding a concept purely intellectually. This insight lays at the heart of Gestalt coaching and experiential learning.

It’s primarily about doing.

Not thinking, and seeing what emerges into awareness when we do it.

I worked with a leadership team that agreed on a set of and behaviors to govern its practice. It looked neat on flipchart paper but its potential for transformation didn’t emerge until they grasped the nettle and practiced it.

​What have been your best examples of learning by experience? How do you model this principle in your work with others?

Nick Wright is a psychological coach, trainer and organisation development (OD) consultant. (www.nick-wright.com)

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