1. Taking control
“Control is a mask for upset feelings” – people tend to want ‘control and order’ when they are not allowing themselves to feel their upset, their anger, their unhappiness, their frustration, etc.
The more one doesn’t want to feel the feelings, the more control comes in.
2. Not saying very much
When someone is reluctant to say very much in a coaching conversation, it might be a signal that they are afraid of looking within themselves and showing emotions, as they may be worried about their reputation or image, as they fear that their coach may uncover something and make them feel vulnerable. It is typically a fear of being judged and the risk that others might find out that they aren’t great or that they aren’t a leader or that they aren’t trustworthy… (all things that the mind worries about).
3. Blaming (self defence)
Someone who is constantly blaming external factors (other people or situations) doesn’t want to admit that they might have played a part in the problem. They are trying to protect themselves from ‘being blamed’. They are not taking responsibility as a defence, because they think that they may lose the security of the relationship (‘the other person won’t love us.’) If they started to take ownership then they would have to act, and the ‘comfort’ of the blame would be taken away from them (as blame is a comfortable blanket to wear).
When someone is over inflating their achievements or exaggerating who they think they are, it may be:
- to hide their insecurity (of their own self-worth)
- telling stories of how they “save the day” to show that they are good at what
they do (prove that they are capable and that they have an expertise)
- fear that they will be ‘found out’ that they are not good enough to do what they
do, so a desire to prove that they are capable
- shame of what they do (about their job or themselves)
- fear of rejection (that they are not ‘part of the group’)
- to be liked / a way to ‘stand out’ and get noticed in a crowd
5. Compliancy (always agreeing)
Someone who excessively agrees with everyone, and therefore ends up contradicting themselves, may do this because they ‘want to please’, which actually is related to a fear of rejection. By saying what they think others want to hear, they end up contradicting themselves and loosing sense of what they really want.
When someone says they will do something, but then don’t actually follow through with it, this leads to mistrust. ‘Actions speak louder than words.’
7. Excessive affirmations
When someone tells another person ‘how great they are’ all the time, it starts to seem like a lack of sincerity.
8. Other people’s expectations
When someone gives more importance to other people’s expectations than their own, they end up doing things they don’t really want to do, as they do not want to disappoint the other person. Once again they create a gap between what they are doing and what they actually would like to do, leading to a sense of frustration and loss of identity. An example may be a son / daughter who takes on a career to please their parents. By realising that other people’s expectations are actually holding them back from achieving what they really would like to.
III. How can a coach help their client ‘hold a mirror up’ for themselves?
A visualisation exercise can be powerful in this situation, as it can bring out information on how the client actually really feels and what they want.
- First, start by imagining a time when you felt truly at peace, when you felt really yourself
- Now, imagine a time when you felt you were doing something that doesn’t
really represent you (your behaviour didn’t reflect what you actually wanted to do / say)
- What feelings / emotions come to you when you think about both of those states? What were you doing? What were the conditions?
- What was missing in the second situation?
- How can you know / recognise each state? (feelings, triggers…)
- What needs to happen for you to feel at ease in each of these situations?
- What made you act that way / say what you said / do what you did?
- How could you have reacted in a more authentic way? What other things could you have said / done?
- Can you identify your thoughts / fears / beliefs that made you act in this way?
- What do you gain from acting in an unauthentic way? And inversely what would you gain by acting differently?
The first step is to raise self-awareness of the client’s feelings when they are not being themselves: to identify them and try to assess what triggers them. It can be helpful to identify if there is any kind of pattern to these kind of reactions.
Once the client can start to identify this, you can slowly work together with them to stop reacting in that way. You could use a Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) technique of finding an anchor to associate with taking on a more authentic behaviour.
- As a coach, how do you know when you are being authentic in your practice?
- What do you do if your client refuses to take off their mask?
- What other ways can self-deception show up in a coaching session?
- What other issues may a client raise that can indicate a lack of genuineness in their lives?
- What other ways could a coach help their client ‘hold up a mirror’ for themselves?
Co-Active Coaching, by Henry Kimsey-Huse, Karen Kimsey-House, Phillip Sandahl [Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2011]
The Fire Starter Sessions, by Danielle LaPorte [Hay House, 2012]
Dark side of the light chasers, by Debbie Ford [Hodder & Stoughton, 2001]