I run emotional development training courses for schools and colleges with the aim of helping teachers, tutors and support staff to deal more effectively with emotional situations and challenging behaviour. During the program I run a short coaching session where I demonstrate how to help people broaden their choices when faced with an emotionally challenging situation. When most people are faced with a potential threat they naturally respond in one of two ways, fight or flee, i.e. they become aggressive (fight) or they become fearful (flee). In today's workplaces neither of these responses is effective in the long term, or appropriate in a context of professionalism.
An example of this approach was a client from further education who found that when faced with challenging behaviour her natural response was to 'flee'. She readily admitted that she lacked the confidence to assert herself around others.
As a result of the coaching this client discovered at both a psychological and emotional level that she had more options available to her than she previously thought or felt she had. Rather than having to choose between fighting and fleeing situations, which were both physically and mentally uncomfortable and harmful to her in terms of stress levels, she soon learnt that she could develop a range of options in between fight and flee, which we labelled the 'flow' state. The result was that she not only felt empowered in this state, but she also felt calmer and more balanced in herself and was able to think more clearly and creatively when she reviewed past examples of challenging situations. More importantly she was able to feel more positive and encouraged about facing challenging situations in the future.
Because my client from a very early age has tended to respond passively to 'threatening' situations, she has formed habits of thinking, feeling and describing her perception of life events in ways that maintain her passive nature. As well as shifting her thinking, the coaching also needs to create an emotional shift too. The skill of the coach to move people through emotional experiences in order that they reconnect with the thoughts and feelings associated with each state is key. The nature of the event meant that I only worked with her on a one-to-one basis during a one-day course; it is now up to her to practice what I taught her and continue developing what she learnt from the experience. This requires self-discipline and self-belief, as is true of all forms of development - academic, physical, etc.
Firstly I helped my client create the desire to want to change by making her aware of the consequences of not changing and outlining the benefits of changing. The coaching process creates a shift at both a psychological level and an emotional level that creates a very powerful and long-lasting learning experience. She has a supportive group of people around her who can encourage and motivate her when her ability to encourage and motivate herself is lacking. She also has a link with me via the Internet, which she has used to update me on her progress and enables me to encourage her from a distance.
She informs me that she has approached situations at work (eg public speaking) in a more assertive and confident way and in so doing is developing her ability and improving with each situation. Outside of work she has also made progress. I received an e-mail from her describing how, while taking part in a charity run with her daughter recently, she found the inspiration and the assertiveness to break away from her group who were gently jogging to the finish line to sprint the last 50 metres despite everyone else's reluctance to 'show themselves up'.
Emotional coaching as with all forms of coaching requires you (as the coach) to go first. It's no good standing on the opposite side of a ravine shouting 'jump' to your client. Effective coaching requires you to bridge the perceived gap between where the person is and where he or she wants to be. There is a multitude of tools and techniques available for coaches to use in order to help someone through transition. The most powerful, however, is the coach's seemingly natural ability to transfer empowering states of mind and feelings that inspire and encourage others to make that leap by example.