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What is a story, and how can stories be integrated into the coaching process to support powerful healing and transformation for our clients?
Dr. David Drake, joins Alison Whitmire, President of Learning In Action, to discuss the transformative power of stories through an innovative and exploratory coaching technique he created known as narrative coaching.
Dr. David Drake earned his Ph.D. in Human and Organizational Development from Fielding Graduate University in California, and he is a master coach and thought leader for the Institute of Coaching. He’s the author of “Narrative Coaching: Bringing New Stories to Life,” and his coaching technique, narrative coaching, is offered as a training program through The World Business & Executive Coach Summit (WBECS).
Take a moment to reflect on your childhood. How did you view the world, and how has that perspective changed throughout the years?
Perceiving the world through the eyes of a child is vastly different than how we view the world as adults. Instead of a path filled with roadblocks and dead ends, children see life as an array of endless possibilities. They dream big, never doubting their potential or how they’ll make an impact on the world.
As we age, that innocent way of perceiving the world becomes tainted as we consume new information and navigate through different experiences. Our stories change and evolve, and in the process, the stories we once told ourselves as children become a distant past.
This example illustrates the profound impact stories have on our lives. The stories we tell ourselves define who we are–they make up the core of our identity. Though often unconsciously, we use stories to make sense of the world, justify our decisions, and connect with others.
Have you ever told yourself you aren’t good enough, capable enough, or smart enough? When we create false narratives in our minds, those stories can hold us back from reaching our true potential and leave us feeling unmotivated and stuck in a never-ending cycle. Who would you be if you stopped beating yourself up and started believing in yourself again?
Narrative coaching aims to identify and tap into stories to overcome, heal, and transform our clients’ lives. The client must trust that everything they need to transform is already in front of them, and this concept is a core principle of narrative coaching.
Clients seek out coaching because they need help moving forward with their lives in some way or another. They may have a vague idea of why they need coaching or find ways to rationalize their decision. However, they usually don’t have a clear sense of why they’re attending. The goal of narrative coaching is to reveal those deeper meanings to them via the use of stories.
When clients tell a story, they are typically trying to make sense of something or connect to a deeper purpose. In narrative coaching, the coach’s role is to facilitate that story, guide the client towards its more profound meaning, and reframe that story into a more positive one.
Transformation begins when a client becomes aware of the story holding them back and creates space to formulate a new one. With a renewed sense of awareness, all of life’s puzzle pieces start to fall into place.Transformation begins when a client becomes aware of the story holding them back and creates space to formulate a new one. With a renewed sense of awareness, all of life’s puzzle pieces start to fall into place. Click To Tweet
While narrative coaching can be beneficial to anyone, the coaching process works exceptionally well for individuals who can easily access their own inner experience and are comfortable working with metaphors. Narrative coaching can be more difficult for individuals who prefer goal setting and rigid, more structured techniques.
Instead of sending clients off with “homework” at the end of a session, narrative coaching is done as part of the session, allowing for immediate feedback and support. Dr. Drake refers to this process as “serious play,” or playing around with problems and limiting views.
The first step in the narrative coaching process is to identify what issue is getting in the way. After identifying the problem, a more elaborate narrative starts to develop that gets to the root cause of that problem.
Some questions that a coach may use to facilitate the development of the original story and formulate a new one include:
As the client answers each question, they dig deeper and deeper into the meaning behind the story and gain a clearer picture of how their thoughts form the basis of their behavior–and ultimately, their identity. The coach’s goal is to guide the client through the process, developing a new story that makes them think about the problem differently, opening them up to new possibilities and experiences.
In summary, our identities are a collection of stories we tell ourselves. By reframing our stories through narrative coaching, we can reprogram how we think about ourselves and the world around us, transforming our behavior and leading to ultimate healing and transformation.
Have you implemented narrative coaching into your coaching practice? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below.