A previous post I wrote around “how emotion shows up for coaches” (click here to read that article) attracted considerable attention, and prompted further questions about how to handle emotions in clients. The first thing to be said is that having clients talk openly and with curiosity about their emotions is precisely where most coaches dream of their coaching sessions being conducted.
It is rarely that easy however. We are a kind of “bunged up society” when it comes to discussing emotions. Not everyone of course. Some people are highly attuned to their own and other’s emotions, and are able to use that awareness to understand, manage and influence relationships very effectively. This is not the norm, however, particularly in traditional cultures where expressing emotions has not been encouraged and even frowned upon (this has been true in youth culture, corporates, within families, and even in schools).
Asking someone ‘how they feel’ about something, is often met with a blank expression, as if the question has been asked in a foreign language.
If an answer is provided, it is often expressed in terms of thoughts, rather than feelings (i.e. the answer will often begin with “I think….”).
Even when someone has understood the question and is attempting to get closer to what they do feel, it is not unusual to hear them say something like, “Hmm, let me think about that, yes, what am I feeling?”
In other words, people usually have to intellectualise, through thinking and language, in order to get to what they are feeling. It is as if our emotional layers are hidden away, shielded by the ‘face’ (and the language) we present to the outside world.
Another popular article about how coaching is like ‘brain surgery’ (click here) compares coaching to ‘cutting’ through these outer layers of logic, intellect and analysis which we have become expert at using, for fear of exposing our emotions, drives and motivations. Real change starts to happen for clients when these deep seated systems are engaged in the coaching, and that is why it is where coaches want to conduct their coaching sessions.
So, how do you get past the rational, thinking brain and engage the emotional brain? One way is to raise the client’s awareness of their emotions. You can do this in many ways, but one simple, and highly effective, way is to work with what the client is comfortable with. Language! By introducing a rich and extensive vocabulary for describing the possible array of emotions, and inviting the client to maintain a log or journal of which ones they become aware of at different times of the day, it is possible to very quickly raise the level of awareness of emotions. When this technique is used, it is important that the client does not try to figure out “Why” they have those feelings, nor are they being asked to “Fix” anything. The power of the task is in simply noticing and noting. After maintaining a record like this for a period of around two weeks, clients generally are much more aware of their feelings, more comfortable in describing them, and prepared to explore what’s giving rise to them. It is at this point that rich and meaningful coaching can really commence. The benefits of increasing people’s emotional awareness and capacity to manage their emotional state, are extraordinary, not only for their own social well-being and health, but also for the bottom line of their companies, businesses and organisations. Companies with emotionally mature workforces suffer less sick time, have less staff turnover, have more engaged staff, handle conflict more constructively, and enjoy greater productivity.
Could your organisation benefit from raising the emotional capacity of its people? Would you, or members of your management team, benefit from exploring ways to make significant improvements in personal and/or collective effectiveness and productivity? Coaching around the rich field of emotional intelligence will help provide the edge that you are seeking in 2014. Coaching has been proven to directly impact the bottom line. Simply drop me your contact details on the Contact Us page and I will be delighted to have an initial discussion.
About me: I enable people in business to operate more successfully. You may be struggling to implement corporate strategy, you may want to get more productivity out of your teams but don’t know where to start, or your people may not be having as effective conversations with each other as they could be. I will work with you to enable you to formulate more effective ways of leading, to raise awareness of blockers to successful ways of working, and ultimately to help you and your managers to lead more successfully.