A Coaching Power Tool Created by Simone Anzboeck
(Impact Coach for conscious business and leaders, MYANMAR)
This paper outlines a tool to reframe the perspective of a client. First, the document outlines one possible perspective a client might find themselves in. It then reframes this to look at what alternative perspective the client might take. It also explains the potential coaching application of this when working with a client.
Tessa loves summer weekends in her neighborhood in Amsterdam. She heads to the farmers market, chats to the market ladies, and buys flowers at the small corner shop on the way home. Such weekends are rare. She knows that she does not have enough time to enjoy this neighborhood. Her job keeps her busy. Sometimes more than the standard working week. Yes, not perfect, but she likes her career. She feels that her job matters.
Three months later, she steps out of an elevator in Singapore and opens the door to apartment number 708. She looks around – her new home. The opportunity presented itself, and she quit her job to come here.
New apartment, new country, new job, new life. Work keeps her busy – she is getting stuck in determining her new role and responsibilities. She unpacks her luggage, buys stuff for the apartment, and finds her feet in her new neighborhood.
Weeks pass by. She has started to get familiar with her surroundings, feels a bit more settled in her new place, and more at ease in her new role at work. However, she cannot shake that uneasy feeling. Was it the right decision to come here? Was it the right decision to give up my whole life in Amsterdam to move here? What if I will not make any friends? Meet someone special? What if I have made the wrong choice for my career? She worries that packing up her life and moving to another country in her 30s was not the right decision. Most of her friends have a stable life somewhere, whether with or without a partner, with or without children.
The starting point: A need for ‘control’
Tessa feels insecure about having taken that decision to move to Singapore. Compared to her life in Amsterdam, there are many things uncertain. She is anxious, worried, and doubts herself and her decisions because she cannot yet see what life has in store for her. This situation unsettles her. Compared to her life in Amsterdam, life in Singapore feels out of her control.
In social psychology, the word ‘control’ refers to how a person regulates themselves or wishes to handle their environment. Wikipedia lists several types of control – perceived control, cognitive control, emotional control, motor control, control desire, inhibitory control, social control, and others. Some scientists argue that humans generally have a desire to exercise control over their environment.
Self-efficacy is a word people often associate with people being in control. Bandura defines as “people’s beliefs about their capabilities to produce designated levels of performance that exercise influence over events that affect their lives.”
Looking at it from the social psychology lens, we can understand why Tessa feels lost. She has not yet ‘produced’ the results in her life she desires or perceives she wants to have. She worries because of this gap between the current state and the future state.
Self-efficacy is generally viewed as a good thing. People with self-efficacy have high assurance in their capabilities to master difficult tasks, set challenging goals, and are more likely to sustain efforts in the face of setbacks. However, some people – like Tessa – might feel as though they can and need to control everything. They feel in control when things are predictable; they cannot tolerate uncertainty, risk, and unpredictability.
And here is the problem – there are things out of your control. It is impossible to prevent all future negative experiences and to try to do so is an all-consuming full-time job. We can think we can control it, but whether things are happening is ultimately out of our control. One can rarely control environmental factors and other people.
The flipped perspective: Self-Trust
If we cannot control situations and people around us, what else can we do?
Self-trust is different from the interpersonal trust, i.e. trusting others. A person can have high trust in others, but still, have low self-trust.
Trust is fundamentally an attitude based on beliefs and feelings and implying expectations and dispositions. When trusting someone else, we have expectations about how we think the person will behave towards us or think about us. We have expectations but tend not to have fixed expectations: There is no determined list of things we expect them to do. In effect, we rely on the other person, although we cannot for sure say that they will act as one wishes. As such, trusting others implies taking risks and being vulnerable.
Self-trust, Glovier argues, is similar. A person that has self-trust,
- Has positive beliefs about one's motivation and competence;
- Sees themselves as a person of integrity;
- Is willing to rely or depend on oneself, accepting that there are risks and vulnerabilities associated with one's actions;
- Has a general disposition to see oneself in a positive light.
Self-trust means that we choose to trust that things will work out for our good even if they do not turn out exactly the way we want. Self-trust means that we interpret our judgments, capacities, motivations, or actions in a positive light – despite what other people are saying or what the events are happening around us. Self-trust allows us to trust ourselves to be able to handle whatever happens. Self-trust enables us to let the process unfold as it is supposed to. Self-trust means that trust that we have the capacities and skills to handle what life throws at us.
Like interpersonal trust, self-trust may depend on the contexts our clients are in. Some clients might trust themselves to speak in front of an audience, but do not trust themselves to purchase a car. Some clients might not trust themselves to organize a big birthday party but might trust themselves to care for a family member when sick.
As a coach, first and foremost, one needs to be aware of these distinctions and refrain from black-and-white thinking.
When encountering a situation where we can sense or hear the client doubting, the following questions might be helpful:
- What would it feel like to completely trust yourself right now?
- What judgment are you making that might be creating doubt about yourself?
- What if you can completely trust yourself: what would this change about the situation you are in?
- If we can suspend our disbelief for a second, what is it, right now, that is perfect?
- What is the fear/anxiety/.. holding you back from doing?
Exercises we might propose to the client:
- Achievement diary: This exercise can help build the clients' confidence in themselves by looking at past achievements. By reflecting on accomplishments, the client allows themselves to acknowledge that they can trust their judgments, motives, and experiences.
- Thought awareness exercises: Testing the validity of thoughts is a useful exercise when one feels stuck, especially with recurring throughs. Byron Katie's four questionsare a valuable tool to introduce to the client. These four questions are:
- Is it true?
- Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
- How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
- Who would you be without that thought?
- Vision exercise: This exercise can help the client to imagine the situation (or near future) in the way they like it to look like. It allows the client to live the positive experience and take that one step further to imagine the situation to be entirely right for them in the present moment.
Story Board: How would Tessa feel different if she practices self-trust?
Weeks pass by. She has started to get familiar with her surroundings, feels a bit more settled in her new place, and more at ease in her new role at work.
She recognizes from working with a coach in Amsterdam that she tends to be a ‘worrier’. She knows that she needs to try to step out of the negative thought spirals when they occur.
She starts meditating in the morning before leaving for work. In the meditations, she takes time to visualize everything going the way she imagined it. In the evenings before going to bed, she talks through the day and remembers things to be grateful for. It might be a colleague inviting her for dinner at their place, where she meets some new people. Or the time she spends at the yoga place around the corner.
She knows that establishing herself in Singapore will take time. But she enjoys the bustling of the city, going for brunch near Arab street on a Sunday, and her Tuesday night stroll through the street food market near her house. She remembers why she decided to move in the first place: She felt life in Amsterdam has become too routine and she wanted to live and work in another country.
As a coach, we are most helpful to our clients when we can challenge their beliefs, assumptions, and thought patterns. We can be a partner with our client by recognizing the situations where the client overcompensates a lack of self-trust with a need for increased control. We can support the client by identifying and recommending actions – through exercises and participation in events – to increase their self-trust.
Byron, Katie. 2020. The work. [ONLINE [Accessed: 29 November 2020]
Govier, Trudy. “Self-Trust, Autonomy, and Self-Esteem.” Hypatia, vol. 8, no. 1, 1993, pp. 99–120. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/3810303. Accessed 27 Nov. 2020.
Rodin, J. Schooler, C. Schaie, W.J (2013): Self Directedness: Cause and Effects Throughout the Life Course. [ONLINE] Accessed via Google books.
Weibell, C. J. (2011). Principles of learning: 7 principles to guide personalized, student-centered learning in the technology-enhanced, blended learning environment. [ONLINE][Accessed: 24 November 2020]
Wikipedia. 2020. Control (Psychology). [ONLINE] [Accessed: 23 November 2020]