Coaching World Issue 12: November 2014 - Page 17

What happens when you challenge Tuning In someone’s thinking? Listening with an integrated mind takes In order to define who we are and make sense of the world around us, our brains develop constructs and rules that we strongly protect without much thought. In Who’s in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain (Ecco, 2011), neuroscientist Michael S. Gazzaniga says we get stuck in our automatic thought-processing and fool ourselves into thinking we are right. When someone asks us why we did something, we immediately come up with an answer even if the response doesn’t make complete sense. We instantly concoct a brilliant reason for procrastinating on a task, for prioritizing reading email over a project deadline or for making life decisions based on how we will feel in the future when, in truth, we can never be sure how the circumstances will impact us emotionally. To disturb this automatic processing, you reflect holes in your client’s logic and ask questions that reveal the fears, needs and desires keeping the constructs in place. NeuroBusiness Group founder and CEO Srinivasan S. Pillay, M.D., writes that this coaching approach is the only way to stop the automatic processing. Reflection and questions crack the force field that protects your client’s sense of reality, enabling her to explore, examine and change strongly held beliefs and behavior. The reaction to bringing these things to light will register somewhere between slight discomfort and an emotional outpour. Momentary confusion and abrupt realizations trigger emotional reactions. The truth can hurt or at least surprise you before it sets you free. Therefore, negative emotions can be a good sign. When your client realizes she has blocked a truth that was in her face the entire time, she may feel mortified, angry or sad. She is finally confronting her rationalizations and seeing her blind spots. For a moment, her brain does not know what to think. As Nessa Victoria Bryce writes in the July/August 2014 issue of Scientific American Mind, this pause in certainty as the brain rushes to reinterpret information is necessary for a clearer and broader understanding of the situation to emerge. In researching how coaching works in the brain for The Discomfort Zone, I found this moment of uncertainty is necessary for behavioral learning to occur. Only with this new awareness will your client willfully commit to behaving in a conscious and consistent practice. Here are four tips to help you access your intuition and positively challenge your clients: 1. Sense what your client is experiencing as you listen. Don’t just analyze her words. Feel what emotions come up for you and reflect to her what you notice without assessing if you are right or wrong. 2. Ask yourself what you are feeling. Your emotions are likely reacting to what your client is feeling. Either you are experiencing empathy where your brain is mirroring hers or you are feeling anxious because you sense her anger, fear, disappointment or confusion. Ask her if she is feeling the same emotions as you. If her experience is different, she will let you know, thereby creating an opportunity for deeper exploration. 3. Allow your heart and gut to have a voice. Sit up tall and ground yourself in the present moment. Consciously guide yourself to feel curious (open mind), compassionate (open heart) and courageous (open at your core). Try to keep your head, heart and gut open and balanced while you listen. When you feel uncomfortable, speak and listen more deeply from your gut. When you feel impatient or begin to judge your client, focus on reopening your heart. 4. Use silence to allow your client to form new thoughts and perspectives. Silence is often an indication that your reflections and questions have penetrated your client’s protective barrier. A new sense of self and reality is trying to emerge. It may take some time before your client can articulate what she now understands to be true. Be quiet while her brain is working. different way. CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE > Coaching World 17