Research Paper By Marie Laure Dancer
(Career Coach, MALAYSIA)
I’ve experienced during my coaching that supporting my clients by envisioning what they dream of was very powerful. Actually it was very useful to change buckles in balloons (balloons of joy, willingness and enthusiasm to move forward).
During my practice I felt intuitively that there was a thread going through positive emotion and energized clients. It enhanced their ability to tackle challenges. It really empowered my coaching practice by triggering positive emotion, making a sparkling connection with my clients.
What does it take to feel a positive emotion? How our coaching style can enhance positive emotion? These are the two questions I will explore in this paper.
I explored two theories. The first one is about what are the effects of positive emotions and the second is the theory of sustainable change developed by Richard E.Boyatzis. At the end I will explore the possibilities to apply these theories in the coaching process, to make it more effective.
I- The broaden and build theory of positive emotion – Barbara L. Frederickson
This theory describes the form and function of a subset of positive emotions, including joy, interest, contentment and love. A key proposition is that these positive emotions broaden an individual’s momentary thought-action repertoire: joy sparks the urge to play, interest sparks the urge to explore, contentment sparks the urge to savour and integrate, and love sparks a recurring cycle of each of these urges within safe, close relationships. The broadened mindsets arising from these positive emotions are contrasted to the narrowed mindsets sparked by many negative emotions.
The function of all positive emotions has been identified as facilitating approach behaviour (caciopo 1993, Davidson 1993) or continued action (Carver and Scheier 1990). From this perspective, experiences of positive emotions prompt individual to engage with their environments and partake in activities.
In contrast to negative emotions, which carry direct and immediate adaptive benefits in situations that threat survival, the broadened thought-action repertoires triggered by positive emotions are beneficial in others ways. Specifically, broadened mindsets carry indirect and long term adaptive benefits because broadening builds enduring personal resources.
Importantly, the personal resources accrued during states of positive emotions are durable. Through experiences of positive emotions, then people transform themselves, becoming more creative, knowledgeable, resilient, socially integrated.
Positive emotions broaden thought-action repertoires: Isen and colleagues have conducted two decades of experimentation’s. They have documented that people experiencing positive affect show patterns of thoughts that are notably unusual, flexible, creative, integrative, open to information (Estrada 1997) and efficient.
Positive emotions build personal resources: The broaden-and build theory makes the bolder prediction that experiences of positive emotion broaden the scopes of attention and cognition, enabling flexible and creative thinking, they should also augment people’s enduring coping resources ( Isen 1990, Aspinwall 1998)
Conclusion: The broaden-and build theory underscores the ways in which positive emotions are essential elements of optimal functioning. When positive emotions are in short supply, people get stuck. They loose their degrees of behavioural freedom and become painfully predictable. But when positive emotions are in ample supply, people take off. They become generative, creative, resilient, ripe with possibility.
II – The role of the positive emotional attractor (PEA) versus Negative Emotional Attractor (NEA) by Richard E.Boyatzis, Kylie Rochford and Scott N. Taylor
It is quite a complex theory that includes a knowledge of neurosciences. I don’t want to go really deep in this area in my paper research, But if you want to know more, you can read the paper published in Frontiers in Psychology: The role of the positive emotional attractor in vision and shared vision towards effective leadership, resonant relationships and engagement. I just want to expose the gist of this theory. We can define the PEA as the ability to trigger positive emotions in one part of our brain. It is about the possibilities in opposition to the NEA which is about the obligations and activates stress.
The Positive emotional Attractor is:
- Feeling positive and hopeful : thinking about the future, dreams, and possibilities
- Being optimistic, focusing on one’s strenghts ;
- Being excited about trying something new, experimenting ;
- Being in resonant relationships.
The Negative emotional Attractor is:
- feeling negative and fear; thinking about the past or present, expectations of others and problems
- Being pessimistic, focusing on one’s weaknesses;
- Feeling obligated to things you should or are expected by others to do, like a performance improvement plan
- Being in dissonant relationships.
We can balance both. Actually, we need a certain amount of activation of stress to help us to survive (The NEA). We also need to activate the PEA to help us thrive, grow to blossom into new possibilities.
- The Ideal Self is who we want to be
- The Real Self is who we are with our strengths and weaknesses