coaching

The Art of Persuasion

For success in any meeting or information exchange, the following four steps are essential:

gain their confidence and they’re putty in your hands…
  1. Build trust and rapport with your audience and thus set the scene to your advantage.
    • The quickest and easiest way to build rapport is to assume that you already have it.
    • Simply imagine that the persons with whom you’re speaking are very dear and close old friends. As the result, your body language and attitude will change subtly and without overtly trying, you’ll make your audience feel comfortable and at ease.
    • Smile and make eye contact in a non-threatening and confident manner.
    • The more confidence you inspire in your audience, the more willing they are to respond positively to your suggestions.
  2. Fix the desired outcome for the meeting firmly in your own mind.
    • Be very clear regard exactly what behaviour you desire from the others as the result of the meeting – i.e. sign here, go there, or simply, accept this or agree with me.
    • Ensure that everything you say do during the meeting is aimed at bringing them to that final result (see below for ideas) and then ensure you overtly ask them to do whatever it is that you want them to do.
  3. During the course of the meeting deliver at least one hook or incentive designed to appeal to each attendee.
    • Although you may not know much about your attendees, you have statistics and astrology on your side. Each person must fall into one of the 12 zodiac signs – cover them all – at least briefly – in your delivery:
      1. Aries – appeal to her need to take action now.
      2. Taurus – appeal to her need for simple, practical solutions.
      3. Gemini – appeal to her natural curiosity. 
      4. Cancer – appeal to her need to feel safe and secure.
      5. Leo – appeal to her need to take centre stage.
      6. Virgo – appeal to her need to get it done and done right.
      7. Libra – appeal to her need to maintain harmony.
      8. Scorpio – appeal to her need to get to the bottom of things.
      9. Sagittarius – appeal to her need for exploration and personal adventure.
      10. Capricorn – appeal to her need to earn responsibility and respect.
      11. Aquarius – appeal to her need to challenge the status quo.
      12. Pisces – appeal to her need to help someone.
  4. Carefully choose the words you will deliver – keeping in mind the benefits of the following techniques
    • Develop YES sets – get them on a roll with answering a series of simple questions with a ‘yes’ and chances are they’ll keep rolling on in the affirmative.
    • Anticipation Loops – keep them paying close attention through the entire meeting by delivering only partial explanations with a promise to explain more fully, later.
    • Agreement Frames – everyone feels better when others agree with them – so meet any objections with the following – ‘I agree with you and (not but) I add this…’.
    • Awareness Patterns – innocuous little words like NOTICE, REALISE, EXPERIENCE, SEE, and AWARE are all great for slipping in ideas under the radar. For example, ‘’I’m certain that you realise that our numbers aren’t great this quarter and that means some redundancies.” If they question anything here, it’s more likely to be either (1) whether they did realise the numbers weren’t great or (2) whether in actual fact – the numbers weren’t great. This leaves them much more likely to accept (as a given) whatever comes after that, i.e. your main aim – redundancies.

coaching

The Art of Calm

Imagine that you’re about to commence a difficult conversation with a colleague or friend. Are your shoulders starting to tense? Is your stomach knotting up? Do you feel like you’re bracing for a fight?

Instead of being at the mercy of your emotions in a stressful situation, why not choose to feel calm?

Not only is this possible, but probably easier than you think. It’s all down to moving off auto-pilot and developing the habit of paying attention to what’s going on with your body. 


It’s not difficult to notice when you’re in the grip of an extreme emotion like intense anger. But it’s not so easy to notice your lesser emotions, the general run-of-the-mill emotions that you experience every day. But you should. Because every emotion that you experience impacts how you will behave.

Try this – right now:

  • Sit back. 
  • Close your eyes. 
  • Notice how you’re breathing – fast/slow – shallow/deep? 
  • Silently scan your body starting with your feet and then move on up through your legs to your face and neck – don’t forget your arms, hands, and fingers – did you find some discomfort? Where? What does it feel like?
  • How would you describe your mental state at this moment – tired/alert – open/preoccupied?
  • What’s the connection between your bodily discomfort and your state of mind?

Jot down your observations in a notebook and then in a couple of hours, repeat.  With practice this exercise should only take a minute or two and if you’re to become master of your emotions, you’ll be doing it, at a minimum, several times a day. Once you’ve established a track record with your practice, you’ll soon start to spot unhelpful emotions as soon as they arise.


OK, now what?

There are several options. The least helpful, is to ignore your feelings. The most helpful is to actively choose them using anchors.

How does it work?

Some triggers, like the knotted stomach, make your feel tense and anxious. But other triggers, like seeing a friendly, familiar face, make you feel excited.

All triggers are external stimuli that lead to an emotional or behavioural response and that response will usually be automatic.  

But not all triggers are naturally occurring like the familiar face. Some triggers will be self-created using anchoring in order to experience the emotion that serves you best.

Managing difficult emotions is as easy as relaxing in the bath

Try this – right now:

  • Sit back.
  • Close your eyes.
  • Think back to a time when you were feeling really relaxed – maybe you were soaking the bath – was the water warm – what music, if any, was playing – what fragrances were lingering in the air?
  • As you let yourself go, allow the feeling of calm to pervade your whole being and when that feeling is at its most intense – ANCHOR IT – physically, by touching the tip of your nose or pressing together your thumb and forefinger.
  • Stop.
  • Wait.
  • Repeat.

Now, back to start a difficult conversation with your spouse or colleague. Are your shoulders starting to tense? Is your stomach knotting up?

USE YOUR ANCHOR – exactly as you’ve been practicing – if you’re now feeling calm, great!  If not, keep practicing and in no time, you’ll be ready to handle stress-inducing situations of all kinds with the same calm and ease as taking a relaxing bath.

coaching

The Art of Communication

Communication is an artform; it’s also a two-way street. 

But before you even open your mouth, do yourself a favour and pay attention to the person you’re about to address and gain some crucial insight into how he or she processes information. 

We can each process only 5-9 chunks or nuggets of information at a time and so we use ‘meta-programs’, or unconscious filters, to ‘select’ them from the shower of stimuli we constantly receive. These patterns run behind the scenes in our brains. They are so automatic that we usually don’t even realise they’re there. But they are there. So, if your favoured ‘meta-program’ differs from that of the person to whom you’re about to speak, you’ll want to adapt your communication style.

match your meta program to theirs for best results

Research suggests that there are six basic ‘meta- programs’ that most of us use to varying degrees. Here’s how best to approach them:

  • First decide your own patterns and preferences.
  • Next advance to the person with whom you are desirous to communicate and test them out.
  •  If you meet with enthusiastic nods, you’re on the right path but if you get a stern-faced response or anxious questions, try something else. 
  • This approach works equally well at work, at home, and with friends/neighbours/acquaintances.
  • The focus is always on having whatever it is that you wish to convey enjoying a good reception and being understood.

The Six Metaprograms

  1. General/Specific– this pattern controls how much information should be given and how best to be deliver it.
    • People running with a ‘general’ program, are likely to respond well to a conceptual overview but people running with ‘specific’, need lots of details so they can build their own view up step-by-step.
    • Research shows that about 60% of people are ‘general’ whilst only 15% are ‘specific’. This leaves about 25% responding equally to both.
    • To discern which you’re dealing with, ask the person about a  project or hobby with which he’s currently engaged. A response with lots of detail (he said/she said, I feel, they did), provided in specific steps with plenty of adverbs and adjectives tossed in, suggests he/she operates on the ‘specific’ program. Alternatively, someone operating on the ‘general’ program will probably give you a brief, comprehensive overview and/or summary often presented in short sentences delivered in random order.
    • Beware that context matters. Even someone usually operating on the ‘general’ pattern will, from time to time, need details.
    • Equally, you can tell much from someone’s written communication – emails, for example. If their usual style is to keep it short and sweet, then match it and do the same. If not, adjust your own electronic missives accordingly.
  2. Proactive/ Reactive– this pattern deals with how best to channel energy during the communication.
    • Some people are more inclined to initiate things than others – and so when you’re dealing with a ‘proactive person’, you need to always be pushing forward. These folks do not like delays and want to get started at once.
    • By comparison, a ‘reactive’ person wants to consider all the options/implications of situation presented to him/her before doing anything. These folks are great at research/analysis as well as fire-fighting and problem-solving.
    • 60-65% of people have a mix.
    • Spot the ‘reactive’ person by his or her ability to sit for long periods of time. Also, he or she will tend to use long, incomplete, and convoluted sentences. They will use passive verbs and conditional words like should/could/would/might.
    • Give the ‘reactive person’ plenty of time to think – if you push, they will not respond well. Use the alternative strategy for the ‘proactive’ types who are ready to get started right away. 
  3. Toward/Away-From– this pattern is key when trying to motivate someone to do something.
    • People take action primarily for one of two reasons – they want to move ‘toward’ something (like a target or goal) or they want to move ‘away from’ something (escape).
    • The ‘away-from’ folks are problem solvers – they look for potential problems and thus can avert crises.
    • The ‘toward people’ tend to be self-starters – give then a goal and they’re on it.
    • Each of these polarities tends to judge the other poorly – ‘away-from’ people think that ‘toward’ people are naïve or sloppy because they don’t see potential problems and the ‘toward’ people think their opposite is negative or cynical.
    • A few questions will help you to tell the difference – when asked what is important to them and why, they’ll reveal their type in their answers – do they want to succeed or not to fail.
    • About 40% of people are ‘toward’ and 40% are ‘away-from’. This leaves a grey area of about 20% in between.
    • To motivate the ‘toward’ people, use words like – get – attain – achieve – accomplish – advantage – obtain.
    • For the ‘away-from’ people, use words like – fix – avoid – prevent – wrong – solution – remove
  4. Sameness/ Differencethis pattern is key when it comes to selling change especially in a fast-paced environment.
    • Those with pure ‘sameness’ (5%) feel comfortable in a highly stable and unchanging environment – consistency their mantra.
    • The ‘difference’ folks (about 20%) thrive on change and love to switch jobs frequently as well as reinventing and reorganising their environment/organisation.
    • About 65% of people are ‘sameness’ with allowance for some minor changes/improvement that are more evolutionary than revolutionary. Some of these folks (10%) can tolerate even more difference as long a major change doesn’t happen too frequently – every 3-4 years is good for them.
    • To tell where someone sits on this spectrum, ask them what is the relationship between something important (for example, their job) between last year and this year and then listen carefully:
      • the ‘sameness’ person will tend to focus on things that haven’t changed – although he may toss in a few difference and make comparisons like more – less – improved – better – fewer.
      • The ‘difference’ person will point out all that is new and different and may even be surprised you asked the question.
      • Other people will mix and match the differences and those things unchanged – listen to their emphasis and their assessment of both sides of the equation.
    • When explaining to people about ‘change’ – adapt your weighting of ‘sameness’ and ‘difference’ according to their preferences.
    • Choose words ranging from – as usual – similar – better – identical – improved – revolutionized – upgraded – more – fewer
  5. Options/ Proceduresthis is about how one tackles his/her work – do they rely on the tried and tested approach or look for new, improved alternatives.
    • ‘Options’ folks (40%) like choice and variety – and are great for deciding how something should be done but not necessarily doing it themselves. New projects are started with zest but following through to finish is less predictable.
    • ‘Procedures’ folks  (40%)  believe there is a ‘right’ way to do something – start with point A and move through these procedures to get to point B. Too many choices are not helpful. 
    • About 20% of people are a mix.
    • The ‘options’ folks says things like  I can or I could whilst the procedures folk say I must or I should.
    • To influence the ‘options’ folks use words like – possibilities – choice  – play it by ear – options  – break the rules – variety.
    • To influence the ‘procedures’ folk, use words like – right – tried and tested – first, second, and then (this or that).
  6. Internal/ Eternalthis is about giving/receiving feedback  – there is an optimum approach and amount.
    • ‘Internal’ folks tend to believe they’ve done a good job regardless of what others think. Their own judgement of their work (measured against their own standards) is what matters most.
    • Give these folks much space as possible to make their own decisions and when that is not possible, negotiate the standards to be used for measuring in advance. Generally, these folks don’t want feedback and when they get it, they tend to ignore it.
    • For ‘internal’ folks, a set of advance instructions is informational only.  Use words like – you may wish to consider – only you can decide – here’s a suggestion – up to you – what do you think?  
    • By contrast, ‘external’ folks love lots of feedback – they need to know on a fairly consistent basis ‘how they are doing’. Use words like – I’ve noticed – word in the street is – statistics show – opinion is

coaching

The Benefits of Magical Thinking

21 million Americans suffer from Paraskevidekatriaphobia or fear of Friday the 13th. Yet, according to a 2008 Dutch study, Friday the 13th is statistically safer than other Fridays because people either choose to stay at home or those that do venture out, take more care than usual.     

13Yesterday, I was privileged to attend a lecture at Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum entitled The Natural Origins of Supernatural Thinking given by Professor Bruce Hood (Bristol University). Hood provided curious anecdotes such as that cited above in a very matter of fact way. As an experimental psychologist specialising in developmental cognitive neuroscience, his major research interests include discovering the cognitive processes behind adult magical thinking.

According to Hood, we humans are pretty much hard-wired to develop beliefs as a way to make sense of our world and these beliefs carry with them manifest consequences. We’re also hard-wired to impose structure and order in our lives by developing certain rituals around those beliefs (touch on wood) and one of the most intriguing involves what Hood calls sympathetic magic – or the belief in naturally occurring correspondences (or sympathies) between things such as food, colours, animals, gem stones, fabrics, plants, and days of the week. Imagine two violins. Sympathetic vibration occurs when two strings are tune to the same pitch. When one is plucked, the other sings out ‘in sympathy’.

The implications of Hood’s work for coaching are two-fold:

1.    When someone believes that she cannot do XYZ, then at least until she changes her belief, she probably can’t do. Likewise, if she believes that she can do ABC, then, it’s a pretty good bet that she will. One of the primary goals of coaching is to eliminate (or strengthen) such beliefs as needed and this is why a good coach focuses less on asking ‘why’ than ‘what’. For example, if I ask my client ‘why’ she feels so terrible, then in answering, she is only reinforcing her negative beliefs about herself. But in answering the question ‘what’ situations make her feel terrible and what do they share in common, she has a genuine opportunity to examine the origin and triggers of her beliefs.

2.    Let’s face it, change is hard work. If it weren’t then New Year resolutions would stand a better chance of success. But if my client creates a ritual or talisman that can rely upon in times of stress to remind her of the changes she’s chosen to make, she’s in a stronger position. Even better, if her chosen rituals and talismans are in line with long-accepted sympathies, she might accomplish even more. For example, if she has an important meeting or interview set for Thursday, she might tap into the ‘luck’ traditionally associated with Jupiter, the planetary ruler of Thursday. Choosing to wear a royal blue dress or suit or maybe a piece of lapis lazuli, turquoise, or amethyst jewellery reminds her of this ‘luck and who knows but that this might give her little extra boost.

Certainly Professor Hood would not be surprised if it did.

In his book Supersense: From Superstition to Religion – The Brain Science of Belief, Professor Hood reminds us that Tony Blair always wore the same pair of shoes when answering Prime Minister’s Questions and that John McEnroe notoriously refused to step on the white lines of the tennis court between points. He also reminds us that President Barack Obama played a game of basketball the morning of his victory in the Iowa primary and continued the ‘tradition’ the day of every following primary.

Let’s face it, most are us are more into magical thinking than we might like to admit and according to both Hood and those Dutch researchers, this is probably not such a bad thing.

Astrology

When’s your Mid Life Crisis?

Astrologically, the timing of your mid-life crisis is about as predictable as it gets. After all, they’re generational transits and you’ll share them with many others.

But how each of you choose to handle this time differs widely. Some view it as a profound opportunity while others see it as a terrible loss and some, well they don’t know what to make of it at all.

There are three different (although possibly overlapping) transits involved during this period and each of them lasts approximately 2-3 years.

For most of us, the (1) Pluto square Pluto comes first followed by the (2) Neptune square Neptune. That saves the most potentially exciting one, (3) Uranus opposition Uranus, to come last.

Opposite woman on her back on a wall
This is where coaching comes in.

Here’s how it boils down for calendar years 2018-2020:

BORN in YEARS TRANSIT DESCRIPTION

Prior to 1974

Finished

Congratulations – other transits will come along to challenge the progress you’ve made to date but you’ve got some valuable experience under your belt.

1974 -1977

Uranus Opposition Uranus

If you’re up for change this could be a very good time. Expect the unexpected. You might go on a short holiday to some exotic, foreign land and end up staying forever. Opportunities abound. They come out of the blue and unless you’ve got other things going on in your chart, the advice is that if it sounds good, grab it!

If you’re not so keen on change this may prove to be a challenging period. You still should expect the unexpected but it might feel more like a crisis than a blessing.  You also still may end up in a place other than you’d expected but the road getting there may be rather bumpy.

Any way that you choose to look at it, this transit forces you to evaluate (or re-evaluate) the choices you’ve made to date.

 

1975 – 1980

Neptune Square Neptune

This is the ‘oh my God, I’m so unhappy’ transit – everything is one big soppy mess. Confusion reigns. Deceit is rife (yours as well as others). What you see is definitely not what you’ll get.

This is the dark night of the soul. Fantasies and day dreams abound but don’t be surprised when they fail to materialise.

If during this period, it sounds too good to be true, then it’s probably is. Face up to it –  that ‘perfect’ job, lover, house, or whatever – does not and will never exist.

Look deeper, inward, to find personal meaning.

1979 – 1981

Pluto Square Pluto

This is the ‘past its sell-by date‘ transit. Whatever is no longer serving you will  disappear from your life  – be it a marriage or a job or even a beloved pet.  It’s hard to understand why this is happening to you – especially now – yet why is the most important question that you could ask.

Your choice is whether or not to gracefully let go but I can say from personal experience that if you choose to hang on for dear life (which so many of us do) then you might make yourself very ill.

This transit brings to the fore that which is grumbling inside you,  especially when you’ve not consciously acknowledged it. You’re frustrated and unhappy with the status quo and something must – and will –  go.

This is deep, dark, primal stuff seeping out through the cracks and so don’t be surprised when you get a glimpse of the more unpleasant sides of yourself and/or others.

This transit will not last forever. Hold on. Eventually, you’ll see there’s light at the end of this tunnel.

 

After 1981

You’ve got something for which to look forward.

You may want to consider advance strategies to handle these transits. You might save yourself a good deal of grief if you do. Being caught off guard leaves you on the proverbial back foot, not a pleasant place to be under such circumstances.

 

coaching

Why is making constructive change in your life so hard?

Backstory – six months ago, as the result of some coaching, you’d identified some unprofitable behaviours you’d concluded needed to be changed.

To be honest, you’d not really thought much about this kind of thing before but some people’ (including your best friend, your spouse, and your boss) had been increasingly complaining that when things didn’’t go your way, you got angry and  aggressive. Now, as the result of coaching, you understand that this behaviour is down to ‘attachment strategies’ formed during infancy.

OK, it’s time to move on!  After all, who wants baggage from childhood holding them back?

In real time – yet by the end of six months, you are not best pleased to discover that not only are you still not calm in moments of stress but actually you’ve gotten worse. The road rage incident this morning in which you were involved during your commute really scared you.

Epiphany– if you don’t change soon you might kill someone – or worse, get killed yourself.

Environment – You resolve to work harder on on this stuff this time  – you bring some of the techniques you learned in coaching out of the proverbial mothballs –  but just when you’d started your meditation – out of the blue – your boss storms into your office (or cubicle) and accuses you of doing something you did not do  – that’s it – you’ve had it – you quit.

Regret – on your drive home  – after have hung around in a coffee bar working out a story to tell your spouse about what happened – you hear something on the radio about a book named Triggers (available on Amazon in paperback or Kindle) by a guy called Goldsmith – could this really be you?
Unknown

The 15 ‘Belief’ Triggers that stop change in its tracks:

  1. Confusion– just because you realised that you needed to change (along with the reasons why and the benefits to be expected) never meant that you would do it.
  2. Overconfidence– just because you’re convinced that you have the necessary willpower to do what’s needed (you did quit smoking, after all) doesn’t mean that you won’t give in to temptation when it sneaks up on you from behind like your boss did today. Who could have expected that?
  3. Indulgent inconsistency– and on your birthday too – well, he (your boss) deserved it and will regret having been so horrible to you – you’d not have reacted the way that you did if it hadn’t been your special day  – and your boss ought to have known that.
  4. Immunity – well, it may not have gone well with the boss but it could have been worse – a couple of years ago something similar happened when some guy named Jim  (an ex pro-boxer) broke your boss’s nose during an argument – quitting is much better than dismissal with cause – at least you had more sense than to get yourself into the same mess as Jim.
  5. Exceptionalism– that coach did mention that you needed to practice those calming techniques every day but hey, that’s for other people, not you, right?
  6. Depletion– you were tired – if you’d been sleeping better, that wouldn’t have happened – but with the new baby and all…God, life is difficult.
  7. Procrastination– OK, to be honest, you’d been putting off practicing those calming techniques – and maybe things would have turned out better if you had – but there’s always tomorrow – yea, that’s it – you’ll start practicing those techniques tomorrow.
  8. Unrealistic expectations – no one in their right might could have predicted that your boss would behave so badly today and right after you’d had that road rage close call on the morning commute too – when it rains, it pours, right?
  9. Epiphany – so unfortunate that you’d just had your epiphany this morning – before you’d had a chance to get back on track.
  10. False sense of permanence – if only the changes you’d put into place six months ago had lasted – they should have done – but they didn’t – it seems acutely unfair that you would have to continue to work at them.
  11. Future challenges – just when you’d got that new promotion as the result of having implemented those changes six months ago, it all went wrong – how could you possibly have known that the new job would be more demanding than the old one especially with the new baby at home…
  12. Resentment – your boss really should have been more appreciative of the changes you’d already implemented six months ago – at the time he’d seemed pleased enough but then he just kept demanding more and more – it’s not fair.
  13. Isolation– you were just sitting quietly in your own office (cubicle) minding your own business and privately nursing the wounds inflicted by your earlier road rage epiphany – and then your boss jumped you.
  14. It’s just the way that I am – to be honest, you’ve always been a little hot-headed – and what’s wrong with that? At least it has kept others from imposing themselves on you – in fact if you’d not done that coaching and tried to be something that you’re not (i.e. calm and collected) this wouldn’t have happened.
  15. Objectivity – by the way, who were all those people (best friend, your spouse, and your boss) who said that you needed to change anyway – aren’t you the best judge of your behaviour? Of course, you are and besides, you aren’t angry as often as are least 75% of the people in your office – no, if you were to be honest, you’re calmer and more collected than 90% of the people you (used to) work with. It’s the office environment caused by hot-headed bosses like yours (or at least the boss that you used to have until this morning).

 

 

Astrology

Dear Taurus – ready for revolutionary change?

On 16 May 2018, Uranus enters the zodiac sign of Taurus. This will mean different things to different people. But one thing that’s for certain is that sometime between 16thMay and April 2026, each and every Taurean will be for an interesting ride when Uranus conjuncts his or her natal Sun.

Sun Trine UranusThis is a perfect time for astrological coaching.

To understand why, remember that Uranus was discovered by William Herschel (in Bath, England) around 1781 – a time of revolution – both for the United States and France. It was also the time of the Industrial Revolution – massive breakthrough in science, technology, as well as sense of community – huge evolutionary change – for better or worse. Those who were in sync with such changes, fared well and those who weren’t, probably didn’t. So it’s probably also worth noting now that as a general rule, Taurus (fixed earth) is not keen on change.

Without considering your precise circumstances (i.e. any natal aspects to your Taurus Sun as well as which houses, or areas of your life that will be affected), Taurus can expect any/or all the following:

  • Unexpected opportunities for change – maybe a new job, a new course of study, or even someone coming into your life to inspire you in completely different way.
  • Excitement and upheaval – prepare to face the unknown.
  • Restlessness – feeling bored and trapped by circumstances and/or relationships. If only ‘he or she would change, it would be alright’ – but of course he or she won’t and so, now what?
  • Circumstances force a change in your relationship with your father or other significant man/authority figure in your life. Time to take control – you’re in charge now.
  • Buzzing with thoughts and ideas – breaking free from tradition.

If ever there will be a time to make key, evolutionary changes in your ‘essential self’ this transit provides you with the perfect opportunity.

Want to find out more?

Give me a shout!

Astrology

Transference & Countertransference for Coaches

The psychological realty is that both coaches and their clients come into a session with personal agendas that will feed into the session for better or worse.

One aspect of this is what is known by therapists and psychologists as transference/countertransference, something they are trained to spot as well as to deal with it. Usually, however, coaches do not benefit from such training and hence may mistake transference/countertransference for any number of things.

De Haan reminds us that unspotted transference/countertransference can lead to serious client/coach misunderstandings, mistakes, the gradual deterioration of the coaching relationship, as well as unconscious collusion and/or abuse of power. The thing to keep in mind is that transference/countertransference is perfectly normal as well as, for the most part, completely unconscious. The best that a coach who is not trained to deal with this can do is to spot it when it’s happening and seek appropriate help and/or supervision.

 Jung was convinced that it was not only personal material that could be the subject but also archetypal (Main, 2004, p. 24) This opens the way for astrology, which reflects the archetypal patterns at work both for a single individual or between two persons. As Liz Greene (1997, p. 172) reminds is, projection often has to do with unresolved parental issues (mother and father) on both sides and chances are pretty good that these will show up in both the client’s and coach’s separate and joint horoscopes.

According to Greene (1997, p 177) when a client looks to his coach as mother figure, he wants the coach to make him feel wanted and protected for who and what he really  is – i.e. the client needs the coach to validate for him that it is OK for him to be alive. Astrologically, this generally invokes the Moon and/or Venus Although complexes of the kind that are ripe for projection/transference/countertransference are often shown by hard aspects (squares, oppositions, and sometimes, conjunctions), in reality any aspect (or even a single planet) can form such a complex.Unknown

Father complexes usually involve the Sun and/or Saturn but of course could involve any number of potentialities including difficultly aspected (or otherwise ‘afflicted’) planets in the 10th/4th houses. Also, remember that any/all planets in the 7th house are ripe for projection – being farthest away from the 1st house (essential sense of self).

Also, don’t forget that synastry (planetary aspects between coaches and their clients) will also play an important part in all this, especially in regards to how the coach responds to his client (Greene, 1997, 9. 179). The point is that powerful, unconscious, cross aspects with the client can be played out in any number of covert ways; the client may refuse to look the coach in the eye, ‘accidently’ spill coffee over the carpet, or ‘forget’ to pay at the end of the session. Liz reminds us (1997, p. 181) that whenever coaches find themselves reacting ‘blindly’ to a client, it’s probably an instance of countertransference. Something the client said or did triggered some unresolved complex in the coach/astrologer’s own chart

The following is based on some typical patterns of transference highlighted by Early (2013) as well as a brief suggestion of some the of usual astrological suspects that might underpin them.

For those coaches without astrological experience, consider gaining some. Carl Jung said that all therapists should be astrologers because if they aren’t they are missing important clues although many coaches aren’t therapists, in many respect their relationship with their client’s parallels that of therapists in many, many ways.

Please do suggest any that you think I’ve missed or forgotten!

Pattern Transference

Countertransference

Some Potential Astrological Significators

Dependency

Client sees coach as either a mother/father figure and becomes overly dependent upon coach if he is seen by the client as meeting his needs, he may become too dependent upon coach but if you’re seen as failing to meet his needs, he will feel angry or hurt.

Either coach becomes overly involved with caring for his client (perhaps because of coach’s own dependency needs) or coach become angry and disturbed with the client because of his excessive needs.

Moon/Saturn

Moon/Pluto

Moon/Uranus

Sun/Saturn

Sun/Neptune

Over emphasis of water element (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces) in the chart especially when there is little air to counterbalance all this raw emotion.

Libra also has a tendency toward co-dependency.

 

 

 

Care-taking

Client tries to take care of the coach, picking up on clues about coach’s personal issues, struggles, and insecurities.

Either coach allows the client to take care of him more than is appropriate or he takes so much care of the client in return that the client loses interest in (or is unable to) take care of himself.

Emphasis of either: Leo,Cancer, or Pisces

Neptune aspects to Sun, Moon, or angles.

Rebel

Client refuses to cooperate in sessions and/or picks fights and criticizes coach’s approach.

 

Either coach feels ineffective/incompetent and/or hurt by client’s behaviour. Coach may also become frustrated with the client and engages in arguments and/or power struggles with him.

 

Mars/Uranus

Mars/Neptune

Mars/Pluto

Emphasis of Aquarius or Aries in the chart

Mercury/Mars

Moon/Mars

Saturn/Uranus

Emphasis of fire element in the chart especially if accompanied primarily by air (air fans the flames of fire).

Passive-Aggressive

Client experiences coach as pressuring them to do something. The client expresses desire to change but fails to do so over and over and over again. This is his way of expressing anger as well as to defeat the coach’s efforts to control him.

Either the coach feels frustrated with the client for failing to progress or else feels ineffective/incompetent. Anger or frustration might be overly or covertly expressed, for example by being late for sessions, double-booking, or otherwise failing to remain attentive to the client.

Mars/Neptune

Mars in Libra

Mars/Saturn

Venus in Aries

Mars in Scorpio

Mars or Mercury in Pisces

Combination of Aries/Libra planets

Saturn in Aries

Moon in Libra

Mars in Cancer

Victim

Client complains about his miserably impossible situation (poor me, the world is against me, why do I always have such bad luck) attempting to offload the responsibility for finding solutions on the coach rather than taking personal responsibility. Equally, client may blame the coach for his problems and/or inability to undertake effective change.

Either the coach fails to see what’s going on and constantly tries to reassure client all will be fin or he becomes angry/frustrated with the client for not taking responsibility for undertaking necessary change. The coach may also  fail to take responsibility for his own mistakes when challenged by the client, instead choosing to blame the client for being difficult.

Emphasis of planets in Pisces

Pisces rising

Sun/Neptune

Moon/Neptune

Mars/Neptune

Neptune tight with any of four chart angles.

Mars/Pluto

Saturn/Pluto

Mars in Cancer or Libra

Venus/Neptune

Venus/Pluto

Full 7th house

Full 6th house

Full 12th house

Distancing

Client avoids emotional/personal relationship with coach or denies that this is happening.

Either the coach allows client to remain distant even if it impedes progress or he pushes too hard to force a connection resulting in the client back off even further. Equally, the coach may feel that client relationships ought not to have any personal connection and remains aloof from the client.

 

Emphasis of planets in Aquarius or Virgo – standoffish.

Sun/Saturn

Moon/Saturn

Moon/Uranus

Sun/Uranus

Lack of water in the chart makes connecting with emotions difficult.

Cancer rising can be shy.

Emphasis of planets in Gemini can be flighty.

Emphasis of air in the chart (stays in their heads).

 

Self-effacing

Client feels coach is critical and judgemental or otherwise doesn’t like them.

Either the coach becomes too involved in making the client feel liked or he is completely turned off by the client’s insecurities. Equally, the coach may constantly seek reassurance the client likes him or just enjoys the client’s concerns because it boosts his ego.

Moon/Saturn

Mercury/Saturn

Saturn in Fire (Aries, Leo, Cancer, or Sagittarius)

Emphasis of planets in Virgo, Libra, or Pisces.

Moon/Mars

Sun/Saturn

Sun/Neptune

 

Controlling

Client insists upon being in control of the therapy.

Either the coach gets into a power struggle with the client or otherwise stamps out the client’s attempts to deviate from his instructions/suggestions.

 

Sun/Pluto

Sun/Saturn

Emphasis of planets in Scorpio, Capricorn, or Taurus especially Moon, Mars, and Mercury.

Saturn in Capricorn or Aquarius.

Pluto in tight aspect to any of the angles.

Scorpio rising.

Saturn/Pluto

Saturn/Neptune

Saturn/Uranus

Remember that for transference to occur, it only takes the client (and his own natal chart) but if the entire pattern of  transference/countertransference plays out, it takes two to tango so look at the synastry between the client/coach (astrologer) as well as the composite chart (mapping the nature of their relationship as a separate entity).

Finally, don’t automatically assume that transference/countertransference is negative or unproductive, however. Main (2004, p. 81) reminds us that Jung believed that transference/countertransference could be synchronistic, in the sense that it is a ‘meaningful coincidence’ that bears further investigation.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY

Burke, J and Greene, L ((1997). The Astrologer, the Counsellor and the Priest. Chippenham: Antony Rowe Ltd.

De Haan, E. (2011). ‘Back to basics How the discovery of transference is relevant for coaches and consultants today’, International Coaching Psychology Review,6(2). Pp. 180-193.

Earley, J. (2013). The Pattern System: A Periodic Table for Psychology. Larkspur, Pattern System Books.

Main, R (2004). The Rupture of Time: Synchronicity and Jung’s Critique of Modern Western Culture. Hove: Brunner-Routledge.

coaching

Raising Client Awareness through coaching – why and how?

Under the Association for Coaching (AC) Guidelines (Rev. June 2012), raising awareness in clients is one of twelve key competencies for coaching. So, what might constitute awareness, why is it important, and how might it be achieved?

According to the OED (n), awareness brings one into a state of consciousness (OED, n, b) which in turn requires obtaining facts and information regarding something about or internal to oneself.

awareness1Eurich (2018), organisational psychology and executive coach, suggests that self-awareness can be defined in many ways but basically, it boils down to either 1) internal awareness – or your own values, passions, strengths and weaknesses or (2) external awareness – or how others view you. Surprisingly, these two levels of awareness share nothing in common and unless you actively work to balance the two, it is likely that you will be deficient in one even if proficient in the other.

Consider Jeremiah, who, after coaching, was in touch with his own values, aspirations, strengths, and weaknesses (Eurich,2018). As the result, he left a good career in accounting to pursue his passion for marketing only to discover that, unfortunately, his new employer did not view him as he viewed himself. For Jeremiah, things did not improve until he brought these two viewpoints in line.

For Eurich (2018), this demonstrates that internal awareness is only one possible truth and based on her research, coaches should focus (1) less on asking ‘why’ (the most popular coaching question) and (2) more on asking ‘what’. The reason being that while answering ‘why’, the client will likely reinforce his fears and insecurities (i.e. why wasn’t I able to turn things around?). But in answering ‘what’ (i.e. what do I need to do to move forward), he keeps his focus on finding future-oriented solutions (Eurich, 2018). Interestingly, this meets another AC coaching competency, that of maintaining forward momentum as well as an outcome-focused approach with clients.

Gourguechon (2017) suggests that self-awareness it is not a ‘clutch of soft skills like authenticity and compassion’, which can be achieved by meditation, journaling, or contemplation. Instead, self-awareness, or at least valuable self-awareness, is a ‘data-gathering and processing skill’ that can be taught and learned.

Hougaard, Carter, and Afton (2018) suggest that attaining self-awareness is worth the effort. It produces better results for executives than gaining an MBA.  A study comparing the organizational performance of 440 top-flight CEO’s showed that performance-wise, MBA’s fared significantly worse than those without the degree. The proffered explanation was that hard skills such as taught in MBA programs will only get an executive so far.

The obvious question is what takes them that extra mile?

Consider the case of Vince who was convinced that he had done a great job as CEO because numbers-wise, he had turned the company around (Hougaard, Carter, and Afton, 2018). Vince was shocked however, when, during the 360-degree review process, he learned that the majority of employees, including his leadership team, believed him to be the source of significant corporate dissatisfaction. Vince learned that hard way that whatever his past accomplishments, he could not further his success until he developed enough awareness to understand why people no longer wished to work with him.  Apparently, Vince is not the only one ripe for such realisations. One study showed that of those who believe they are self-aware, only 10-15% actually fit the criteria (Eurich, 2018).  Interestingly, the more senior and experienced the leader, the more likely he or she is to overestimate his or her skills and abilities. There are many potential reasons for this, but the implications for coaches would seem to be better initial contracting to ensure the client knows the score. Research indicates the easier the client believes awareness is to achieve, the less likely he is to achieve it (Eurich, 2018).

Gourguechon (2017) further suggests that self-awareness only becomes useful when it transforms to self-knowledge, which in turn requires an honest evaluation of gathered facts and information. For example, identify certain recurring patterns which predictably provoke certain troublesome behaviours like losing your temper.  Back-up – consider what happened and what you were feeling just before you blew your top – What might you do to reframe/reprogram your response to such situations/feelings in the future more in line with your conscious wishes?

Interestingly, research suggests that not all insights are of equal value (Longhurst (2006). To achieve transformational change, clients need more than understanding or even realisation. Instead they must experience an elusive ‘Aha’, or life-changing ‘road to Damascus’ moment. Because such experience is felt simultaneously on so many levels (somatic, emotional, as well as cognitive), it is almost akin to a religious experience. This research suggests that awareness gained by problem-solving is one thing, but that awareness gained by a more holistic illumination, is of a different order.

In summary, awareness for coaching clients requires obtaining and honestly analysing facts and information allowing him or her not only to become conscious of his own values, passions, strengths and weaknesses but also of how others view him. Awareness is important not the least because it has been shown to foster and support real and measurable success, especially for executives. Finally, although awareness may be achieved through a variety of approaches, it requires more than just polishing up traditional soft-skills.  Instead achieving useful awareness requires (1) developing data gathering and processing skills that may unearth some potentially difficult to digest feedback as well as (2) even some more holistically inspired moments of life-changing realisation.

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References

Eurich, T. (2018). “What Self-Awareness Really Is (and How to Cultivate It)’, Harvard Business Review Digital Article, 1/04/2018, pp. 1-11.

Gourguechon, P. (2017) ‘The Unexamined Mind Doesn’t Think well: Why Self-Awareness Is A Fundamental Leadership Capacity’. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/prudygourguechon/2017/09/19/the-unexamined-mind-doesnt-think-well-why-self-awareness-is-a-fundamental-leadership-capacity/#1689b32c455c, (Accessed: 16 March 2018).

Hougaard, R., Carter, J. and Afton, M. (2018) ‘Self-Awareness Can Help Leaders More Than an MBA Can’, Harvard Business Review Digital Article, 1/12/2018, pp. 2-5.

Longhurst, L. (2006). ‘The Aha Moment in Co-Active Coaching and its Effects on Belief and Behavioural Changes’. International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring, 4(2), pp. 61 – 73.

Astrology

Psychological projections – uncomfortable gifts for a more authentic you

It’s only natural to assume that the world is as we see it and that people are as we imagine them to be. But the reality is a bit more complicated than that and part of the reason is because of the psychological phenomena known as ‘projection’.

According to psychology folks, projection is an automatic process whereby the contents of your own unconscious are perceived to be in others. According to astrology folks, projection is down to a particular planet (or group of planets) in one’s natal chart that is, in effect, disowned and attributed to others. According to counsellors and coaches, perception is projection and vice versa because it is only then we can become conscious of our projections that we can deal with them and implement desired change.

hqdefault.jpgFor example, if I’m angry at someone but because of variety of reasons I can’t express it, I might ‘project’ my anger (or astrological Mars) onto that other person and then be surprised that I’m a victim of his or her  aggression. Once I understand what is happening, I can work with my coach or counsellor to stop blaming others for my own anger and find a better, more profitable way of expressing it.

Being able to hone in quickly on to people’s most likely projections will benefit (among others) psychologists, therapists, counsellors, and coaches.

Typical places in the  natal chart to look for potential planets or energies ripe for projection are as follows:

  • 7th house – because these planets are the furthest away from your essential self (i.e. 1st house) they are often ripe for projection – for example, consider the client with Venus in the 7th. Because Venus = values, it’s not unexpected to hear her say that she leaves decisions to her husband because she doesn’t really know what she wants.
  • 10th house – this is a perfect place for projections onto role models and authorities both good and bad. If, for example, your Pluto is in your 10th house and you do NOT see yourself as being particularly ambitious, it would not be unexpected to hear you talk about having experience relationships with bosses, teachers, or even public officials (authority figures) with whom you always lose.
  • 4th house –this is the place you’re more likely to project onto family – past, present, and future. For example, one client with her Moon conjunct Saturn in Virgo in the 4th has always found her mother to be bitter and critical. It wasn’t until she had a daughter of her own that she began to realize that she could be as bitter and critical as had been her mother and this was not a welcome realization.
  • 9th house – in this house your look for faith and meaning as well as your own ‘highest good’. If Pluto is in your 9th, you might believe that teachers and professors and priests care nothing about anyone but themselves. By contrast, if your Sun is in the 9th, you might find the perfect guru – one who seems to be everything you’d like to be and more.
  • 6th house – this house is associated with servants, employees, animals and other ‘inferiors’ and so planets in the 6th house may well become part of a power dynamic making us behave in cruel ways to those considered inferior to ourselves (in status). We might also project onto ‘inferior’ parts of ourselves. For example, consider the client with a strong Mars in 6th house – a Mars that she seems reluctant to use for her own benefit. It’s little wonder that she finds herself the proverbial whipping boy of for her employers.

Although these are some typical candidates for projection, we can project anything that doesn’t feel comfortable with the rest of our charts and/or which we have been forbidden to do (i.e. like display anger).

The telltale signs of projections include strong and often uncomfortable (or fearful) reactions to someone or something  – an extra emotional charge that is out of keeping with our usual proclivities. Such reactions may have a luminous – amorphous quality – i.e they don’t make sense – rather like ‘falling in love’ (which is apparently, itself, a projection).

As counselors and coaches, we should resist the temptation to jump in and ‘make it all better’ for the client. Likewise, don’t rush to name or explain. Let clients sit with their the results of their projections with it for a while – because it is through them that they’ll find lost parts of themselves.

 

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