Research Paper By Marcia Haber
(Transformational Coach, UNITED STATES)
The Core Issue
The core issue surfaced by Lee was to stop reacting with anger towards her father and others who appear to challenge or criticize her.
The worse thing about this issue for Lee is that she deeply loves her family, especially her mother, whom she feels is not acknowledged by her father. Her anger and behaviors were interfering with her sense of closeness, connection and harmony with those she cares about.
The Coaching Process:
The written coaching agreement established a commitment to have 10 coaching sessions together. Each session unfolded with Lee identifying what she most wanted to focus on discussing and the outcome she wanted. Lee began our coaching relationship with trust and went deeply into her inquiry as to the source of her perceptions, anger and behaviors as she explored the possible underlying beliefs she may have about herself.
Lee discovered a connection between some unspoken social rules in her family, culture, workplace and society that were influencing her perceptions and her angry, hurt reactions when her father or others would question her ideas or otherwise challenge her.
As Lee continued to discover how her thoughts about a person or situation would automatically activate an emotion and the emotion would automatically motivate a behavior, there was a shift in her energy during our coaching sessions.
In the beginning of our coaching sessions, Lee expressed a sense of powerlessness in her voice then shifted to a tone of empowering herself as she became more self aware of the thinking-emotions-behavior dynamics For example, when her father said, “why are you wearing a red dress?”, Lee would think, “ he is criticizing me for my choice and it is not acceptable to be wearing a red dress.”
As Lee describes the dynamics with her father, he is negative and critical about everyone and everything. Lee’s predictable reaction to her father’s behavior is to become enraged, angrily lash out, abruptly leave her parents’ home then feel guilty and hurt later about the drama. Listening for understanding gave Lee the safe space to talk and explore her thoughts and feelings.
Lee shared that she felt she could not communicate her feelings with her father or with others in fear that they would judge her. Lee discovered underlying beliefs she had of herself. One belief was that she is not good enough or that she is doing something wrong when she felt challenged by others in some way.
To enhance Lee’s journey of self-awareness and empowerment, I asked Lee if she was interested in completing the on-line Conflict Dynamics Profile instrument (CDPI) to explore her Hot Buttons (Behaviors of others that trigger high levels of stress, frustration or annoyance in us) and ways to cool those down so she could make effective choices.
Lee expressed her desire to take the CDPI to recognize how her perceptions of others and herself could give her a window into choosing beneficial responses, such as expressing self and perspective taking instead of automatic harmful behaviors such as displaying anger, yielding or avoiding.
The Results of the Coaching Process
The original written coaching agreement was extended to six (6) months. During our coaching sessions Lee discovered that she could master her own experiences, create a commitment that empowers her and choose constructive actions that effectively move her forward with making the changes she wants for her life. Lee cooled down her hot button triggers that led previously led to expressions of destructive anger. In the process, Lee discovered alternative behaviors, such as expressing emotions and perspective taking, which gave her the beneficial outcomes she wanted.
Lee shifted her perceptions of herself as a caring, compassionate and spiritual person who naturally is accepting. Lee released many unrealistic expectations she had of herself and others to be responsible for the power she has to make choices in her life. The external circumstances did not have the power over her any longer. She successfully broke her vicious cycle of suffering. Lee, instead realized her own personal power to engage her flexible thinking, understand her emotions and choose the behaviors/actions that would move her forward to achieve her goals.
Lee identified that a measure of her success in our coaching sessions was to validate her own experiences and take away something of value that empowered her. After each session, Lee expressed having a sense of acceptance for herself and identified an action to move forward to experience healthy, loving and trusting relationships. Lee said she could understand her father’s behavior and could let him be himself without her taking it personally. Lee expressed that she was successful in achieving her goals for our coaching sessions together. Lee used our coaching sessions as an opportunity for self-awareness and discovery for empowering choices to confidently be her independent and authentic self no matter what the circumstances.
The learning that I take away from this remarkable coaching experience is the recognition of how powerful it is for me, as a coach, to provide, 1) listening for understanding, 2) a sincere curiosity and 3) a safe and flexible space for the client to explore and discover with a focus he/she determines. What I would do differently next time is to have the confidence to ask bold questions more often when it would be the most direct way of challenging the client to discover something meaningful.