Being comfortable with your Coach is not that important!
All coaches and therapists are subject to the vagaries of their clients' lives and to the fact that they sometimes drop out because of discomfort, whatever term is used. In the context of coaching, this is much less important, in my opinion, than the general discourse based on the principles of therapy, as taught to all apprentice coaches in training schools, and which consists in indicating that it is essential, which logically leads to the emergence of discourse suggesting that one should not take on coaching when one does not "feel" able to do so with regard to one's own shadow areas, etc. This implies that the coach would know his shadow areas that he would have explored in therapy beforehand, which is generally not the case. This can also be explained simply by the diversity of profiles that register for coaching training without any prior knowledge of psychology or therapy methods. It is a question of making this public conceptualize the commercial relationship particularity that unites a practitioner with his client, which is quite different from the one that a salesman at the wallmart might have with his client.
It is thus a question here of discussing the principle that I myself have put forward from the beginning in the introductory texts present on my website, without very detailed explanation, aiming at explaining that it was important to have a good "feeling" with one's coach. I have decided for this article to focus on what is necessary without being unnecessarily exhaustive.
Definition of the concept of "having a good feeling" or "being at ease"
When we talk about being comfortable with our coach or therapist, it is primarily a term that means we feel good about being in the same room or in the relationship with each other. "Having a good feeling" is a particularly fuzzy notion, but also subjective. It also means that an alliance (the creation of a bond between two people) has been created with the other based on both concrete elements and your perceptions. I consider that this alliance is the first phase that can allow you to get out of the trust granted a priori so that this trust can then develop. Trust is the stake of this interaction, without which the accompaniment could be complicated. Indeed, you will find it difficult to reflect or open up if you do not trust the other person. And trust is not born as is, it is established at a certain level from the start and grows or diminishes according to the relationship with the other person, which is also why we say in popular language that trust is earned or lost.
It is therefore not possible to clearly define for everyone, for the purpose of normalization, a standard value and a single representation of what "having a good feeling" is.
But then what are the concrete and subjective elements that allow us to determine in an emotional and reasoned way that we feel comfortable or not with someone?
What is the basis for the perception of being comfortable with the other person?
This is directly linked to the image that the other person sends back and the perception that we have of them. I consider that at the beginning of the relationship this alliance cannot be established without at least these two parameters, trust which is essential and the evaluation of the personality. Of course the perception of the feeling of being at ease with the other person is established by the brain taking into account many other conscious and unconscious elements, cognitive biases, elements of the context and even the environment, but to simplify things within the framework of a coaching where the client participates in his first session with the coach he has chosen, I will concentrate on these two essential elements according to me.
Of course, we all form an impression of someone and this directly influences the establishment of the relationship. Coaching is a relationship where the client must have a minimum of confidence in the coach's ability to help him/her, without having confidence in the coach's professionalism or approach, it seems complicated to conduct the work.
Someone can have a good feeling because he considers the coach as competent for a whole set of reasons resulting from the evaluation of his profile, his texts, the relevance of his explanations, the adhesion to his possible theories or what he presents as being in the center of his concerns in the accompaniment that he proposes and of the preliminary discussion that he could have with him which will create the union because of the feeling of ideological adhesion generated, whereas another person who may not have done this type of evaluation will be more sensitive during the first work session to the tone of voice, the facial expressions, the nature of the speech, the conduct of the interview, the type or difficulty felt when faced with the questioning proposed, the exercises defined, the degree of support perceived, the degree or type of help received in relation to his initial expectations and many other parameters mixed with these elements which are linked to the perceived personality, as we will see.
This is a subjective notion, taking into account the experience of each person and our representations. We are naturally more attentive to certain traits or external elements that will allow us to form an idea of someone:
- His presentation
- His outfit
- His vocabulary
- His gestures
- His posture
- The turn of phrase of his sentences
- The tone he uses
- The level of nonchalance or casualness
- The sound level of his speech
- The way he tries to impose himself on the other
- The impression made by his non-verbal communication
Due to the nature of our experiences, some people will have difficulty creating an alliance with someone who speaks loudly, while others will be rather destabilized by a certain nonchalance. Personnally, I am sensitive to the rate of speech and an artificially calm tone, I take it as an attempt of seduction which puts me on the defensive immediately. I am particularly sensitive to naturalness, I have to perceive the other as "real".
All this is subjective.
Manipulation of client representations
Appearances can be deceiving to give you the illusion of alliance, caring and empathy.
I remember young coaches who during training exercises, to foster alliance, as I introduced above, would adopt a serene tone, an unnaturally slow pace of speech, and honeyed accents to appear soothing, listening, and empathetic. These exercises were not an integral part of the teaching, but many participants engaged in them to project an image of competence and sensitivity to the practice of coaching. I have always found this particularly ridiculous and also consider it an influence technique. An influence technique directed towards the trainer to show him that one is legitimate in the role of coach, and later towards one's client to send back a certain image.
In our world, someone who is zen, in a position of knowledge, who speaks calmly to us, will certainly seduce many people and artificially create the impression in the other person that they are at ease. There are many examples of this in the world of personal development. If you have read my articles on influence or some of the books on the subject, remember that the packaging of the speech (the tone, the wording, the repetition, etc.) often has a greater impact than the speech itself, which allows a silly, unfounded concept without any argumentation to be passed off as true and to win support.
It is possible to influence you in many ways so that you feel that you are in "communion" with the other person, that he understands you, that he calms you down, and sometimes that he brings you something more than what you came for, without this meaning that you are, according to your own criteria, really comfortable with this person.
Besides, you have never asked yourself on what you judge this, it is only a perception and a diffuse feeling on which you have never really questioned yourself and which you naturally trust. It is therefore particularly easy to play on your perceptions as opposed to something that would be based on tangible observables, facts. We are in the "he is "like this" or "like that"...", and remember how capable you are of being in a similar register, by displaying a facade self, a representation personality that you assume according to the people or groups you meet and how, in front of people you don't like, you know very well how to make an illusion.
Trying above all to get a good feeling with your coach can lead to a problem.
According to many studies in social psychology on influence techniques (I invite you to do some related research), individuals tends to trust more someone close to them. This feeling of closeness can be influenced by certain techniques as I discussed very briefly above.
A small example: just touching someone else's arm for a moment while talking to them increases their trust in you! In fact, studies show that they will be more likely to respond positively to your request, certainly because they feel closer to you and behave as if it could harm the relationship to say "no" to you. After all, it is clear that it is easier to say "no" to a complete stranger than to a neighbor, even if you don't meet him/her often, for whatever reasons that do not interest us, we are only discussing the phenomenon here. There are many others of this type that I invite you to explore in the literature on the subject of influence.
Over the duration of the coaching, it is the snowball effect, i.e. the more you feel at ease and the closer you feel to the coach, the more you will trust him. You will then be more likely to let your guard down and be influenced if the coach is not vigilant in his accompaniment or aware of the problems of influence or conscious and vigilant with regard to his position of omnipotence, in particular. It is a question here, as if we could separate the two aspects of the development of confidence mentioned, even if there are others, of the emotional component of confidence and not of the component based on the evaluation of the profile and ideas.
This brings us back to the importance of defining beforehand the level of trust one has with the coach based on his writings, his ideas and the explanations or justifications he proposes for the methods he uses in order to ensure that one is not entirely a slave to his emotions which can be manipulated.
Conclusion: autonomy and coach investment
In coaching, because of the length and nature of the exchanges, I think it is most important to have a sense of trust, a trust that is based on facts and not just impressions. It is not really a question of looking for a symbiosis or a transfer to make the process work.
For me, the main driving force behind the success of coaching is above all trust and the quality and personalization of the support, not the alliance.
It is essential to feel the real investment of the coach, the consideration of what you bring, naturally, and that the coach is not simply running his accompaniment as usual. If you don't feel any personalization, that what you say doesn't lead to a specific deepening and that finally, if it was someone else in your place, it would happen exactly the same way, then there is a problem.
In coaching, even more than in psychology, since it is an unregulated profession where your neighbor, a baker by profession, can become a life coach without any training, it is essential, I repeat, to have confidence in your coach beforehand by evaluating his profile, his training and his ideas.
There is also the argument of autonomy which should be the concern of all professional coaches. In the framework of a coaching, you are not in a long term accompaniment during which you rely on the coach, this one should not last more than a few months and if it lasts, it is either that you are accompanied for a very specific problem requiring a long accompaniment, or that the coach who accompanies you is less interested in your autonomy than in his daily income.
In the context of this autonomy, the question of alliance should take a back seat. Indeed, one is always more autonomous when one is not attached to someone.
Therefore, as coaching is in its essence, supposed to be a short and empowering action, I consider that it is not necessarily judicious to base its selection criteria on the bond and that it is better to focus on the objective and the analysis of the best means to reach it, in short, on what is concretely proposed as a method by the coach.
Remember that coaching should be primarily based on your own resources. It should not be the coach who thinks, does all the work and gives you solutions to apply, this also goes against the autonomy sought.
You must feel that you are the one answering neutral questions and that the solutions proposed, even if they do not always come directly from you, seem to correspond logically to the discussion, the elements discussed and the reflection.
I am convinced that being at ease with one's coach in the sense that it is generally understood in a helping relationship does not have the capital importance that it is assumed to have and can even go against the interest of the client, especially if this alliance is manipulated and if it alters the preservation of his autonomy.