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What Learning about My Coachees’ Narratives Taught Me about My Own – Part 1

September 13, 2018

Last year, I registered for WBECS’ Narrative Coach Program with Dr. David Drake. I had been hearing about David and Narrative Coaching and was curious about how we might apply his approach to help coachees make meaning of their EQ Profile results.

For the uninitiated: The EQ Profile provides a snapshot of one’s internal experience under stress in relationship. It reveals the patterns of thinking, feeling, and wanting that are triggered within us during interpersonal conflict. And because we often aren’t fully aware of our internal experience, it can sometimes be challenging to relate to our EQ Profile results.

After debriefing EQ Profile results with hundreds of coachees, I’ve learned that we are all, always narrating our internal experience (whether we are aware of it or not).   And one of the best ways of helping a coachee see the aspects of their internal experience that are hidden to them is to ask them to tell a story about a specific interpersonal conflict.

I’ve found that as I listen deeply to a coachee’s story, I can hear the dimensions of their EQ Profile in their language. (Which is what our Master Class: Insight Mapping course is all about.) Because this is now second nature to me, I was curious what more I could learn about a coachee and their story through Narrative Coaching. And learn more I did.

Narrative Coach Reflection Assignment

I’m now moving from the Enhanced Narrative Coach program to the Certification program, and one of the first assignments is as follows:

“Write a letter to a friend who coaches about what you learned in the Narrative Coach program, in which you share:

  • Five important insights you gained about yourself as a coach
  • Five important assumptions about coaching that shifted for you
  • Five important pieces of content that made a difference for you
  • Five important ways in which you are a better coach now
  • Five important growth edges for you in taking this work forward
  • How you would describe narrative coaching and the impact it has”

Yeah.

This gives you a pretty good sense of what the first seven months of the Narrative Coaching (NC) Program were like.  Exhaustive and exhausting. And incredibly rich, brilliant and challenging.

While I entered the NC Program to learn more about how we could help coachee’s make meaning of their EQ Profile results, what I came away with was a dramatically different view of coaching overall.   

In Narrative Coaching, I’ve found a much more organic, natural approach to working with coachees that feels less formulaic than what I’d been taught previously.

I’d like to share with you what I learned from the NC program, so you are now my “friend who coaches”.  😊 And because I want to stay friends, I’m not going to cover all of the bulleted items above.  And I’ll cover several of them over the course of this multi-part post.  I hope you find it useful.

Five Insights I Gained About Myself as a Coach

The NC program began at a particularly challenging time for me. A month or so into the program, my father passed away. And while my dad’s passing was incredibly hard, the aftermath was even harder. (Perhaps one day, when I have some perspective on it, I’ll write a blog post about it.)  

The birth of my understanding of Narrative Coaching came at the time of the death of not only my father, but also a part of my identity. (And I’m still wrestling with that.)

So all of that is context for what I learned about myself, as a coach, as a human, over the duration of the NC Program. Also, it had been a while since I’d stepped back and observed myself as a coach, so that is reflected here, as well.

The insights I gained about myself as a coach during the NC program include:

  • I am who I say to myself I am. And that’s true about myself as a coach and in every other aspect of my life. If I say to myself that I’m not enough as a coach, that I’m not creating enough value for clients, that I can never be worth what they pay me, then that will be true for me. And I will embody that identity. I will stay small. And safe. And fortunately, the opposite is also true. If I say to myself, “I am enough and everything I need lies in the space created by my client and me,” then that will be true. And it opens up more possibilities for both of us.
  • Forming a secure attachment with my clients is my first priority as a coach. When I’m able to form a secure attachment with a client, our relationship becomes the safe haven in which they show up as themselves and are seen and accepted. Our relationship creates the secure base from which they safely explore new territory. And our work can help them create new mental models that support their self-development. And while we at Learning in Action have been talking about attachment theory for more than a decade as it relates to the EQ Profile, only through the NC program have I been able to see how clearly the concept of secure attachment applies to my coaching.
  • Empathy, along with objectivity, will serve my client best. When my client is distressed, I can feel it so palpably that I can lose my boundary and my objectivity. Frankly, when I’m not conscious of it, I can lose my full ability to self-regulate. And then, I’m not much good to my client. And when I can empathize to the point of attuning to my client, while maintaining my boundary and objectivity and ability to self-regulate, my client can feel felt and seen and held in that space in a way that is generative for them. (Says easy, does hard. Still a work in progress for me.)
  • My curiosity will help my clients more than my knowing. I generally consider myself to be more curious than assumptive as a coach. However, I’ve been realizing how readily I assume I know what my client means by what they say. Since NC, I’ve been paying much closer attention to the language my clients are using and how they are using it. In particular, I’ve begun playing much more with the languages and metaphors my clients use, helping them to tease out their meaning and exploring their potential as a vehicle for experimentation and solution creation. (If you’re curious about an example of this, you can read about it here.) 
  • I can bring lightness to my coaching through play. I tend to be a fairly serious sort. And pretty much all of my clients want to have more fun.. (Me, too!) And I’ve been challenged to figure out how to do that and “get the work done!” Narrative Coaching encourages what David calls “serious play,”  He describes “serious play” as “both an attitude and an activity” which allows coachees to experiment, play, make mistakes, start over, engage all aspects of themselves, and try on something new – all in a safe, encouraging environment. It worked. I experimented with some “serious play” in the example of exploration of the metaphor mentioned above. Midway through, my client exclaimed, “Now, this is fun!”


Having a client feel like our work is fun is its own reward. Because when my clients are having fun, they are experiencing something different, something new, and they are more likely to see something different and new about their situation and themselves.

I hope that my reflections about me encourage you to reflect on you. Because what I get about you, my partners and colleagues in this noble work we do, is that you, like me, want to be better, do better, learn more, love more, be more for your coachees. And that can only be good for us, our coachees, and the ripple effects on the world.

Stay tuned for Part 2 next week on Reflections on Narrative Coaching. Until then, have fun!

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– Alison
Alison Whitmire
President | Learning in Action

 

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P.P.S. Are there more blank spaces on your coaching calendar than you’d like? Join Chip Carter, Senior Advisor at the Institute of Coaching, and Alison Whitmire, president of Learning in Action, for September’s interactive webinar of discussion and Q&A around your coaching capacity and how you can fill your calendar in a number of ways, including coaching for organizations who need you!  Register here – FREE.    

 

Not an EQ Profile practitioner? 
Click here for information on the EQ Profile. Too much to chew on? Click here for a Taste of the EQ Profile.

Posted in: Coaching|Emotional Intelligence

1 Comments

  1. Katherine Coffman - October 12, 2018

    Thank you Alison for sharing your postings! Please accept my condolences for the loss of your father.

    I am walking along side you on your NC journey, and truly enjoyed reading your three postings of your insights. Your generosity of sharing your lessons is inspiring and has ignited new insights for me, and has shifted my way of seeing how if have learned more than I had realized. Thank you and God bless you and your family. sincerely, kc

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