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
Chart to sum up this concept:
Most of the people focus on the problem, try to solve the problem. The result is that it triggers negative emotions, defensiveness. It elicits to some closing down.
Following scientific studies, we need to balance the activation of negative emotional attractor and the positive emotional attractor: we need three to six positive for one negative because the activation of the negative is more persistent.
We need to use the Negative emotional attractor to survive, to use our analytic skills, when we are in the I should.
Ellen Van Oosten conducted a study on 2010 about the most effective coaching. Her study lays on 28 coaches considered by multiple sources as outstanding coaches.
The conclusion of her study is that outstanding coaches focuses on
1- Coachee’s ideal outcomes
It increases self awareness, self efficacy and motivation. The goal is to develop a personal vision of an Ideal Self. The Ideal self comes from an image of your desired future, your core identity and hope.
An image of our desired future comes from:
- Passion, calling and desired legacy;
- Fantasies, dreams and aspirations;
- Current life and career stage or transition
- Core values and operating philosophy.
2- Coachee’s real outcomes
It is about engaging a positive behavior change: it is intentional and may be a career or life change. Here, coachees rely on their strengths and identify their weaknesses.
3- Coaching relationships
The main qualities of an outstanding coach: Emotional, social and cognitive competencies:
a- Emotional Intelligence competencies
- Self awareness cluster concerns knowing one’s internal state, preferences, resources and intuitions. Emotional awareness is recognizing one’s emotions and their effects.
- Self management cluster refers to managing one’s internal states, impulses and resources. The Self management cluster contains four competencies:
- Emotional Self control: keeping disruptives emotions and impulses in check
- Adaptability: Flexibility in handling change
- Achievement orientation: Striving for improve
- Postive outlook: Seeing the positive aspects of things and the future
b- Social intelligence competencies:
1- Social awareness cluster refers to how people handle relationships and awareness of other’s feeling, needs and concerns. The social awareness cluster contains two competencies:
- Empathy: sensing others’ feelings and perspectives and taking an active interest in their concern
- Organizational Awareness: reading a person’s emotional currents and power relationships
2- Relationship Management cluster concerns the skill or adeptness at inducing desirable responses in others. For the coach it is about sensing others’ development needs and bolstering their abilities.
3- Cognitive intelligence competencies: Coaching with compassion (using the Positive emotion) is coaching to the
Examples of questions that engage the positive emotional attractor:
Developing a personal vision
- What will be your ideal life and work in 7 years?
- What will you doing?
- What will you be with?
- What are the 20 things you’d like to do or experience before you die?
Around who you are:
- What are your talents?
- What empowering thoughts do you need to put in place?
- When you were successful, what were your thoughts and behavior?
- What would you love to learn about?
- What are the social identity groups that help you move forward?
Examples of question that engage the negative emotional attractor:
Around your Ideal Self
- What is missing to reach your dream?
- What concern do you need to consider now?
Around your real self
- What emotional feelings make you feel like giving up?
- What are you afraid of?
Around your practice
- What do you need to master?
- What should you do right now?
- What are the social identity groups that hold you back?
I really had a breakthrough discovering how theories and neurosciences can help us to improve our coaching practice day after day. It really helped me to get more awareness and clarity about the way my clients respond to my questions and to be careful to balance my questions knowing that we need to trigger three positive emotions for one negative or compliant.
“The Psychophysiology of emotion” Cacioppo, Priester, & Berntson 1993
“Origins and functions of positive and negative affect: A control process view” Carver and Scheier 1990
«Organizational Behavior and human decision Process » Estrada 1997
“The broaden and build theory of positive emotion”
Barbara L. Frederickson-2005 “Rethinking the Role of Positive Affect in Self-Regulation” Aspinwall 1998
“The role of the positive emotional attractor in vision and shared vision: toward effective leadership, relationships, and engagement.”. R. Boyatzis, Rochford, Taylor. Frontiers in Psychology May 2015