Discover more from Like person, like coach by Iacob Bacian
'23 Weeknotes #12: Relational Crevices
You are reading ‘Like person, like coach’, a newsletter at the intersection of personal narrative and relational, integrative, anti-oppresive coaching practice.
‘The blade in my mouth grows stronger. Every year.’
- Ysra Daley-Ward
Over the years I’ve struggled with coach training that sees the coaching conversation solely an intellectual exercise. I don’t think coaching conversations happen only between minds but between mind-bodies with varied histories that come into contact in unexpected ways. That’s why I navigated towards a relational approach to coaching.
I’ve been in coaching sessions that ignored the emotional field entirely and at the end I felt in a highly triggered state. There is real danger to working in a cognitive-only mode especially with people who have experienced trauma where emotional co-regulation is a core aspect of feeling supported to learn and grow. A relational approach to coaching doesn’t automatically guarantee safe learning and to some extent ‘destabilisation’ is necessary for growth.
I’m finding that as I develop this relational practice I need to create opportunities for myself to develop the skills I need to hold these relational crevices that inevitably arise when working in this way. Most of the time these crevices are real opportunies for change but too often if we aren’t aware of the subtle ways in which they creep up we risk hurting ourselves, the other person and/or the relationship.
Have you had a coaching realtionship where things gradually start to feel ‘off’ (silence, awkwardness, disconnect, passive agressiveness) or a relationship where there are gradually more and more rescheduled sessions and eventually cancelled ones? Both have happened in my practice and have given me plenty of opportunity to reflect on how I might work differently in the future. So, what might be happening? Here are some of the processes I’m identifying this far:
Negative power: Triggering a parent-child dynamic between coach and client. Coach is in a position of power and unconsciously creates feelings of inadequcy in client and isn’t containing these. At times coach and client switch these roles where client is seen as in power as they are paying the coach to deliver the service.
Unclear roles: Coach takes responsibility for the coaching work and client encourages this. Client triggers inadequacy in coach and the cycle continues. Accountability and responsibility taking are lowered in both client and coach.
Difficult emotions: Triggering feelings of shame, fear, grief in client/coach. (from Simon Cavicchia, Shame in the Coaching Relationship, The Relational Coaching Field Book)
Misaligned pace: Challenge and growth is happening too fast or too slow. The process becomes too confronting too soon. Old behaviours and identities are shattered before the coach has supported client to create alternative fall-back options.
Here are some of the ways I’m trying to mitigate these at the moment - how are you approaching this work? I’d love to hear your tips and approaches.
Being in therapy, learning about my own defenses and projection mechanisms
Reading on transference and counter-transference - see Petruska Clarkson ‘Five Modes of Relationship Model’- a psychotherapeutic approach
Being in supervision, unpicking tension moments in sessions helps me identify them more readily and nip them in the bud by noticing and sharing them
Learning from Simon Cavicchia’s approach to Relational Coaching at Hult Ashridge Centre for Coaching (YouTube talk) - a Gestalt approach
Taking note of feelings, thoughts, body states within and after each coaching session - noticing and sharing these in the session where relevant and possible
Contracting for a relational approach and how we will deal with conflict and disagreement so that we have something to fall on when things feel difficult. (Charlotte Sills, Contracting, The Relational Coaching Field Book)
If you enjoy reading Like Person, Like Coach, please recommend it to others who might find useful, too. If you have feedback and suggestions on how I can deepen my learning please write me. I love to hear from the people who read, it makes me braver and it continues to remind me that learning is dialogical as much as I love a monogloue!
I’m iacob, an ICF Associate Certified Coach supporting social impact leaders to shift careers/roles and navigate cultural and structural shifts with anti-oppression as the driving force. I’m an Associate Coach with NEON, Know You More and Simply Coaching. I’m currently available for new coaching clients, roles and projects. Read more here and get in touch, I’d love to hear from you.