Why change is hard & what you can do about it [Strategy]

Even with the promise of a better future, most people that come to see a life coach still find it
incredibly challenging to overcome the downward pull of their past habits and behaviours. The
question we must then ask is, why? Why do we struggle to change? This article will investigate what
change is, why it is hard to achieve, and what effective methods can be used to create sustainable
change.


In this context, change means the ability to alter one’s life to better suit their needs based on
internal (one’s own thoughts, feelings, and beliefs) and/or external (what others say or feel about
them) feedback. Prochaska and DiClemente’s (1986) model called “The Cycle of Change” will be
demonstrated as it shows how people grapple with change. Be aware that each step also offers the
opportunity for the person to back out of the change process. Below we will use an example of a
person realising they need to lose weight for the end-of-year beach holiday.

The Cycle of Change model looks like this:
1. Precontemplation
2. Contemplation
3. Preparation/Determination
4. Action/Willpower
5. Maintenance
6. Relapse

Up until this point this person was not inclined to change or lose weight (precontemplation), but
recently they have noticed that their clothes seem much tighter and they feel ugly in the mirror
(contemplation). Something must change (preparation). This person signs up with a trainer at their
gym to get things going (action), does well for the first 2 weeks (maintenance), and then starts to slip
back into old habits. Eventually the whole gym thing fizzles out and they are back where they started
(relapse).
The strategy below will help to equip you with the tools necessary to create lasting change.

Start with the WHY

Habits become so deeply ingrained that a person doesn’t even realise they are “knee-deep and
sinking”. Habits are patterns of behaviour that are reliable, dependable, and predictable… And that
have tempting rewards! Everything the brain loves!
Your first mission is to clearly state why this change that you would like to have is so important to
you. Your why must create a thirst, a deep sense of passion, and a determination that will barrel
through any obstacle in its way. Start defining why your goal is important to you!

Then look at the WHAT

The What is that “tempting reward” I mentioned earlier. All our bad habits promise us rewards.
Therefore, what “rewards” are you willing to give up in pursuit of change that your current lifestyle
is promising you? Something’s gotta give! You have not changed your life, because on a
subconscious level you have not been prepared to give up those rewards. Maybe your reward is that
first sip of wine after a long day or getting to sleep an extra hour in the morning. Find your What!

Then look at the HOW

The how will focus on the strategies you will implement when the rewards of your old habits come
whispering in your ear to make you abandon your progress and go back to your old habits. How will
you not only achieve your goal, but blast through all the obstacles that Will get in your way?…
Especially when you are at your weakest. How will you ensure that nothing will stop you? It’s time to
come up with a game-plan that covers how you will stay on track when: you feel stressed, you lose
motivation, your results start to plateau, and/or when others are telling you to quit.

And finally, look at the WHEN

Decide when you are going to start. 99% of the work needed to creating lasting change is getting
your mind on board. Nothing and no one can stop a person who is 100% determined to create
change in their life. Such a person needs the change more than they need things to stay the same,
fore to stay the same would be more soul-destroying than to venture out into the unknown in
search of change. Decide now, because no one can, or will do it for you.

… But do NOT

Try winging it and doing it when and/or if you feel like it. It will wobble for a week and then
completely disappear. The well-known Professor of psychology, Jordan Peterson said, “You need a
routine!”
Create a flexible routine that accommodates for unforeseen disruptions. Creating change will
require consistency, diligence, and perseverance. You must force out the old habits by applying
yourself to the new habits for as long as it takes to stick. It must become a part of your lifestyle
which takes time. This will develop resilience and inner strength that will help you achieve your goal.
You can do this! Believe in yourself!

Thanks for reading,
Donovan – Life Coach

Top 5 Life Coaching Tips to Live Your Best Life

There are not many changes that my clients need to make when they embark on their life coaching journey. A few simple steps in the right direction is all it takes to achieve massive results. Below you will find 5 simple life coaching tips that you can implement today that will reap the greatest rewards, and help you change your life.

1. Be 1% better today than you were yesterday

There are too many people out there throwing success away by reaching too high, not being able to manage such a level of change for long enough, and then come crashing down and abandoning the whole idea, landing right back where they started.
This so often happens!
The person wants change fast because they realise how much time they’ve wasted by not doing what needs to be done, so they think if they put 3x, 4x, 10x the amount of effort in, all at once, then the change will happen faster. This never works!
Old habits die hard and they will be the biggest obstacles to success, so when you overload yourself, you’ll become too stressed and overwhelmed, and your old habits will just come sneaking in the back door again.
Therefore, create incremental, consistent, and repeatable changes every single day that make you just 1% better today than you were yesterday.
This method simply alters your current pattern, which doesn’t overwhelm, and can be easily managed.
Over time, these tiny changes start to compound, and only looking back will you realise how far you have come, and how much you have changed.
Success doesn’t happen overnight, but it is built on good, repeatable habits, over time that anyone can nurture.
Patience, practise, diligence, repeat….

2. Stop trying to control everything

There is very little we have control over in life. We have some form of control over things such as our thoughts, emotions, beliefs, actions, and choices. Essentially, it’s everything within us. Notice how hard it is just to control your thoughts. Now try control your emotions when they start running high… Almost impossible right?
Yet many people’s problems are compounded because they get frustrated about the things that are beyond their control. This is everyone and everything that is outside of us. You cannot control how people think, behave, or act. You cannot control the weather, government, money markets, the price of petrol, inflation, corruption, and endless more things out there in the world.
Stop letting life dictate your thoughts and emotions. Stop being thrown into a tail-spin because you get so overwhelmingly annoyed by incompetence, being let down, delays, and obstacles. If you can’t control it, let it go.
Focus on developing yourself.

3. Learn to say No with confidence

This applies to people who want to say no to others, but say yes instead.
They want to say No, but they can’t help themselves and they say Yes. They feel resentment and frustration, because on top of everything they already have on their plate, they must now take on this extra responsibility.
So why do these people struggle to say no?
2 Things will happen if they say no.
1. The natural flow of the conversation will be disrupted, leading to an awkward tension in the conversation.
2. The other person will not like their request being rejected. In order for “harmony” to be maintained, and to not make the other person feel rejected, our “yes” person will conform and accept the other person’s request.
How to say No with confidence
Learning to say No with confidence, you must be willing to deal with the consequences. Like above, there are 2 things you will have deal with.
1. You will disrupt the natural flow of the conversation, leading to an awkward tension that both parties will feel. You must accept this.
2. The other person will not like that you are not accepting their request, and you must okay with that. You must learn to be okay with letting people down on your own terms. While they may not like what you have to say, they will start to respect you more, and more importantly, you will start to respect yourself more.

4. Learn to speak up at work… and in life

1. Asking for help: The average person I coach thinks they must do everything themselves. They don’t want to, or know how to ask for help if they get stuck or fall behind with something. They think asking for help is a sign of weakness or failure, so instead will over-work to compensate, and therefore, create consistent rising levels of stress and isolation. They will rather hold on to their crippling belief than reach out… It seems silly, doesn’t it?
Contrary to this, the person who sucks it up and asks for help understands the value of time and resources. Such a person can solve problems faster and can learn from their mistakes at a much quicker pace. Such a person can better deal with small moments of rejection as well, because they don’t care if someone denies their request, since they know the value that is created if the person accepts to help them out.
2. Asking for what you want: I will briefly discuss the scenario of hoping to get a promotion at work, but this also applies to many areas where one knows they must speak up to get what they want.
The hard worker thinks their hard work will speak for themselves when it comes to getting a promotion, while they often watch “less capable” people rising above them that don’t work nearly as hard as them.
Why is this? Because, while hard work is a necessary tool for success, its not the only tool. Smart workers also learn to nurture tools such as the abilities to: stand up to authority, not worry about what people might think of them, say No, ask for help, delegate, be agile, maintain high levels of focus, and put their attention on the 20% amount of work that will generate 80% of the results. This nurtures things like charisma and confidence which makes one stand out, and are crucial components needed in today’s busy work environments.
Conclusion
While this isn’t a fool-proof strategy, or something that will work every time, it is however, a useful approach to looking at what tools people are using to help them gain an upper hand on life. The only thing that separates a confident and successful person from one that is not, is that the confident and successful person is more willing to accept the consequences of their actions than the average person. That tiny advantage is often all that is needed.

5. How to diffuse a negative mindset so you can become a better problem-solver

Practise gratitude!
Practise it as often as possible. Take a moment now to think of what you are grateful for… Don’t worry, I’ll wait… Did you notice that when you took that moment to think of the things you are truly grateful for, you weren’t able to simultaneously think of anything negative? You may also notice that you had to get a little creative as your list started growing.
Your mind can only process one thought at a time… No matter how many thoughts come in. This brief moment of gratitude helps you to stay in tune with reality, and not get so lost in the negative, over-thinking, doom-&-gloom part of your mind. Furthermore, once the mind changes from negative to positive, it will automatically awaken the Inner Creative Genius that resides in all of us.
This exercise is not about disassociating from life or pretending your life is something its not, but it is a quick way of slowing down the negative downward spiral that your destructive thoughts can take you into.
Study’s have shown that people are better problem-solvers and more creative when they are in a positive state of mind. Therefore, if you are being challenged with a problem that is difficult to solve, first start your problem solving strategy with 5 minutes of becoming aware of all the things in your life that you can be grateful for. This brief moment will create the right foundations for you to get creative on your problem; to see what you weren’t able to see before; to probe at your problem from many different angles; to find the silver-lining that you may not have noticed before.
Your life is defined by how you choose to interpret your experiences, and that makes all the difference. If you start to see the hidden opportunities where everyone else sees problems, you will become your own best friend, coach, cheerleader, and role model.
And lastly… We did not come to this place called life to be free of problems. We came here because we are inherently master problem-solvers. We came here to fix the mistakes of the past; to challenge the old principles of the status-quo. We came here to realise how powerful we can truly be, as individuals, and as a collective.
Thanks for reading,
Donovan

Life Coaching Contemplation – Who Am I? [Updated Revision]

I believe that who I am (besides being a life coach by profession) is mostly composed of self-created schemas from my past that help me to better understand myself, the world around me, and how I can (hopefully) effectively function in it. The self, in this case, my self is an ongoing and evolving process that is designed to adjust to the many challenges and changes that come with living life. Essentially, the way I view myself in terms of my self-concept, and therefore how I think of myself, depends on the perception of my social identity, personal qualities, and generalisations I develop over time based on my experiences (DeLamater, 2018). This becomes the personality, which is uniquely varied, and are among the reasons why people behave and act differently to each other (Willig & Rogers, 2019).
As a therapist, one is taught that humans are inherently social and interact with themselves and others to achieve certain objectives such as to perceive, motivate, persuade, and control (DeLamater, 2018). The behaviours that not only motivate one to act toward another or oneself, but to also contemplate, analyse, and guide the decisions from the responses of the other is commonly known as reflexive behaviour. I often find myself taking part in lengthy conversations with myself as I examine the potential consequences of my actions to help me make the right choice. This is referred to as I. While the more passive, self-reflective part of myself that evaluates the decisions I made and the consequences that followed is referred to as me (James, 1890; Mead, 1934, as cited in DeLamater, 2018). For the me and the I to function, it must be able to differentiate from the me and the other.

As a young baby I had no concept of a differentiated world that separated me from it. My caregivers had to teach me how to discriminate myself from others so I could recognise my physiological and psychological features as a part of my self, and therefore, as me (Bertenthal & Fischer, 1978, as cited in DeLamater, 2018). Learning one’s name is a large part of helping to consolidate all these features into one distinguishable entity known as me, I, and myself. Additionally, I was taught speech and language to assist my own private communication between myself, and to be able to communicate to the world around me. By realising I can communicate with myself in private creates an inner world where I can store, retrieve, edit, and delete my thoughts, feelings, values, assumptions, and generalisations, further differentiating the I from the other.
A crucial aspect of navigating my way through society is by making use of what Hewitt (2000, as cited in DeLamater, 2018) called role taking, and is the ability to imagine scenarios and evaluate the consequences of my actions in these scenarios, while also being able to perceive such moments through the eyes of the other. This helps me to gain clarity on the choices I should make. This technique becomes a useful asset when I want to be accepted by others, such as potential friends, as it helps me assume what the generalised other(s) may expect of me so I can be accepted as one of them. Along the way I often self-evaluate my public performances to assess how to refine my self-concept and my situated self. I look for signs of approval vs disapproval, reward vs punishment, and rejection vs acceptance so I can assign more energy towards a negative or positive self-concept.
In counselling, a key component to becoming, and then living as an adult is how we define and nurture our roles and social identities. My role identity consists of husband, therapist, and student, and I reinforce these identities with the required decisions and consequent behaviours to claim for myself (Burke & Reitzes, 1981; Markus & Wurf, 1987, as cited in DeLamater, 2018). Whereas I define my social identity as a Caucasian, heterosexual, South African male, and ascribe to an individualist culture. In my society I assess my personal growth, and/or lack thereof, by the reflected appraisals I become aware of so I can compare my progress to others in similar fields or domains of interest. Furthermore, according to Burke (1991, as cited in DeLamater, 2018), I will use the social meaning for an identity as a reference point to better understand the current situation, as I have at my disposal the option to choose from a hierarchy of identities according to the salient qualities of the self-schema, and how much investment has gone into maintaining such an identity.

My sense of self and the associated identities assist the development and nurturance of my self-esteem as I evaluate and weigh them according to their salience. From family experiences to social comparisons, I am constantly measuring my self-esteem to understand if, when, and how I should rate my performance according to the feedback I receive. If I perform well my self-esteem will be more positive, as opposed to if I do not perform well. This is crucial for me as it will affect my behaviour and will either provide me with confidence to take on challenges, or I will not feel confident enough and therefore, opt out of a challenge. Regardless, I will protect my self-esteem and seek to verify my self-esteem expectations when I receive feedback. Furthermore, I will rather choose to associate myself with others who share my view of self so I can subtly manipulate appraisals in accordance with my expectations.
As I explore the question of who am I, I can’t help but scrutinize Erikson’s life stage model theory to help me understand which life stages I have experienced and transcended, and the possible life stage I may be currently experiencing at this point in my life. Erikson postulates that each life stage will be met with an age-related crisis that one must resolve so they are better equipped to manage potential future crises (Van Wormer, 2017). I am at the seventh stage of life which deals with generativity versus stagnation. I am challenged with various crises that are not only based on this stage, but elements of previous unresolved crises from earlier stages. I work in the mental health industry as a life coach. However, while I feel I am following my purpose and attempting to contribute to society, I am being challenged by not only the many directions one can take and/or study in this field, but by being able to create a sustainable business for the long-term. Since I only started this career within the last four years, I recognise that the challenges of stage four and five of creating identity and industry were not completely resolved, and often create great confusion and inferiority complexes for me. Stage seven is an incredibly important stage for me as I already feel I have wasted so much valuable time by hesitating on my career. This has created a sense of regret that stems from the negative elements of stage eight.

When I examine who I am I notice that I can effectively differentiate myself from others. From my appearance, to the way I express my verbal and nonverbal language, to my private thoughts, feelings, and beliefs are all associated to me and mine. I am also aware of the imaginative process I create when I try to view myself, my point of view from another person’s perspective, and their response to me (hence assisting with reflexive behaviour). Since we are social beings a large part of how we form out identities is through our social relationships. By the feedback we get about ourselves from these interactions, we start to form a subjective perspective of how we may appear to others, which then incorporates into our self-concept or self-schema. My personality has been dramatically shaped by my associations with the people who have influenced my life. From my family to my friends, teachers, enemies, and mentors. Each person helped me to imagine how they perceived me and how I should behave when in their presence. Part of my youth was dominated by being unruly in school. Upon reflection I was hoping to gain respect from the “cool kids” by imagining what they expected from me, and then imitating their deviant behaviour, which DeLamater (2018) termed “the generalised other”. I also hoped to hide my inability to concentrate for prolong periods, and my struggles to retain academic information. I would rather be seen as naughty than stupid. Unfortunately, this created a negative self-evaluation and affected my self-esteem for many years, as I believed I was not good enough, or smart enough. A positive spin-off of my negative self-evaluation assisted me to study further, and I now embody the role of student. Although I suffered the consequences of my actions, I also established many friendships that demonstrated the fine qualities of the bonding and growth potential that a friendship can provide. It was through these connections that I met my wife and established my role as a husband, and because of these connections that I understood how to treat a woman with respect.

While a small percentage of the relationships I have had in the past were not satisfactory, for the most part, my relationships have been meaningful and important to my personal growth. My parents got divorced when I was young, and I had little contact from my father growing up. My mom and grandmother raised me, and made up the bulk of my family relationship, which allowed me to feel a deep sense of affection, acceptance, and involvement in the home, yet applied healthy means of noncoercive forms of discipline (DeLamater, 2018). Willig (2019) describes family relationships as social institutions that help children learn about who they are, and the world around them. While my family nurtured an overall healthy self-esteem, I unfortunately lacked confidence in some abilities and would often berate myself for my mistakes and failures. This I later learned was something my mom did to herself, and I imagine I picked it up from her when I was young. I was also highly influenced by a group of significant others in the form of my close friends. They assisted my social development, confidence, sense of adventure, and courage. My social identity became that of reckless, funny, caring, fun teenager that was popular among the members of the group. Then into my early adult years my wife became, and still is, my most influential relationship. Our bond has allowed me to express my compassion and love, but also the permission to explore my potential career roles, and the failures that have come with it, and to learn how to embody manhood that is cognisant of success, compassion, and personal growth. It is because of the relationship that I have with my wife that I now can conclusively state that I have a healthy self-esteem which places importance on my abilities, strengths, confidence, and intelligence.

References
DeLamater, J, D., Myers, D, J., & Collett, J, L. (2018). Social Psychology. Routledge.
Willig, C., & Stainton Rogers, W. (2019). Perspectives on social psychology: A psychology of human being (1st ed.). Routledge.
Van Wormer, K. (2017). Human Behavior and the Social Environment, Micro Level: Individuals and Families.

Life Coaching Experiment – Results from my Emotional Intelligence Test

*The emotional intelligence test can be found by following this link: https://www.psychologytoday.com/za/tests/personality/emotional-intelligence-test

I received a total score of 76 on my emotional intelligence test. As a life coach I somewhat expected this result but may have hoped for a slightly higher score since I spend a fair amount of time introspecting on my thoughts, behaviours, feelings, moods, and decisions. However, this only tells half the story. Serrat (2017), distinguishes two areas to pay attention to in emotional intelligence, namely personal competence, and social competence. I seem to focus most of my energy towards improvement of my personal competence, which is made up of self-awareness, self-regulation, and self-motivation. Since life coach training entails that one must learn to understand themselves so they can understand others, I have spent many years paying attention to my own self-awareness, and self-regulatory processes. I have especially achieved great success in self-regulation that requires one to practise self-control; to be trustworthy and conscientious; and be able to be adapt and innovate with a fair amount of ease. The only area in my self-awareness where my improvement is slow is related to my self-confidence. While I am taking more conscious steps to improving my confidence and being able to accurately assess my strengths and limits, I feel that when I am very challenged, it can be difficult to remain positive about myself and my capabilities.

Unfortunately, I have paid little attention to self-motivation, and this has created issues such as procrastination, laziness, and a lack of focus and urgency. I resonate with the findings of Zang and Feng (2020), where they note that procrastination occurs when a task is unpleasant to perform. While I firmly understand the value of completing tasks, however unpleasant they may be, I still feel challenged to motivate myself to get them done, and therefore, have created a poor habit of waiting until the last minute to complete tasks. This is an area of my life that requires considerable attention to improving.
In counselling we find that the second area of emotional intelligence is called social competence, and this is the most challenging aspect for me to improve upon. There seem to be a few factors in my personal history that have contributed to my lack of social competence. I am an only child; was very independent growing up; and enjoyed my own company. I now work for myself as an alternative therapist, seeing clients on a one-on-one basis, and have a small group of family and friends. This creates the ideal conditions for an introverted lifestyle. While this has its merits, it also come with some flaws. While I am not afraid of social gatherings and/or interactions, I do feel that the social skills in my social competency is severely lacking. Working in a team environment, whether through sport or business, has never been a part of my life. Therefore, I have not had enough time and/or opportunity to fine-tune such a skill. I unfortunately have noticed that this area of lack has had a negative impact of my ability to feel comfortable in social settings. While my social skills are not optimal, my social awareness fares much better as I use such skills in my work with my clients, so I have ample opportunity to practise and improve.

Applying Emotional Intelligence with my Clients

I work as a therapist so a major part of assisting my clients with their issues is knowing how to be present for them; how to sense what they are feeling by making use of empathy; recognise what their needs are in the moment; enhance their self-esteem; and the ability to apply cultural sensitivity accordingly. While there is always room for improvement, and the propensity to make mistakes, I feel I have enhanced this skill because of my dedication and passion, and the sheer joy of learning how to be a better professional for my clients. Having the confidence to be present with a client is a crucial component to a therapeutic relationship and requires one to be empathetic (Tannen et al., 2019).
Singer and Lamm (2009, as cited in Bayne & Hays, 2017) noticed on a social neuroscientific level, that if one were to pay attention to another’s experience, they may be able to create a vicarious response in themselves to better understand what the other person is experiencing. While there is a debate as to whether this comes naturally or can be learned, I have found it to be immensely useful in my practise. Once one can accurately assess how another is feeling, they may be able to better understand what their current needs are. Paying careful attention to the verbal messages and nonverbal cues is crucial to understanding, not only how to interpret such information, but most importantly, recognising what will be the most helpful response for the client. While it is important for my clients to experience personal growth, it is as important for them to feel safe to be emotionally vulnerable when they come to me. This requires patience to nurture trust and rapport over time, so I can know when to challenge, when to comfort, and when to support their self-esteem needs.
While it is important to attribute one’s professional success in life coaching to displaying acuity in social awareness, it is also important to recognise the role that one’s social skills have on supporting the client/counselling relationship. I have realised that with great power comes great responsibility, and when a client steps into my office they are in my domain, and on a subtle level both of us are aware of it. What I say and do has tremendous influence on how my client feels, thinks, and behaves. As a neophyte I was unaware of how my clients might perceive me and my actions during our sessions, but as I honed in on the areas that needed improving I noticed how my unintentional abuse of power was hindering my success. My ignorance on the importance of building bonds, creating synergy, and leading to inspire, worked against my efforts to help. Midwinter and Dickson (2015) express that one must earn the right to work with the power they have as a counsellor.
I have learnt some valuable lessons and seek to constantly improve on my social skills with my clients. I realise now how vulnerable my clients are when they feel they need professional help, and it is vital that I help them to feel that my leadership qualities are up to the highest standard so we can develop a relationship that values a collaborative effort towards achieving their goals. One of my greatest strengths is to help initiate and manage change in my clients lives by being the right influence for them in the way I work with the communication process.
To develop a successful helping relationship with a diverse and multicultural client-base requires one to adhere to the basic principles of what it means to be emotionally intelligent. Goleman (1998) found that awareness, or the ability to sense emotional information of oneself and others, and management, or the ability to regulate the emotional content of self and others, was fundamental to emotional competence. This, I have learned is the cornerstone to building sustainable relationships in the mental health industry.

How to Develop Greater Emotional Intelligence

One can develop greater emotional intelligence by becoming aware of the principles of emotional intelligence, and the benefits gained from becoming emotionally competent. For this to happen, one must learn to take full responsibility for their actions and commit to being emotionally honest with themselves as they interact with themselves and the world around them. By applying these guidelines one can begin the journey towards gaining more emotional intelligence.
Another crucial component to improving emotional intelligence in counselling is to be aware of how one reacts to stressful and/or challenging situations. One can potentially learn from how they manage the unforeseen circumstances that each experience may bring with it. Furthermore, when one can adapt their behaviour to better suit the potential outcome they wish to have, and not be overly swayed by the emotional upheaval, in real-time, that is when they will have a firm grasp of the practical application of emotional intelligence. This communication, as stated by Bradberry and Greaves (2009), between the emotional and rational portions of the brain is said to be the source of emotional intelligence.
The ability to accurately perceive the point of view from another individual, and then to act in a manner that is conducive to a healthy and/or meaningful interaction is another trait of an emotionally intelligent person. While one can only imagine what someone else is feeling and experiencing, one can improve their perception of the other by applying simple techniques during an interaction, such as active listening, and the three attributes of Carl Rogers’ person-centered theory, which are: congruence, empathy, and unconditional positive regard (Rogers, 1965).
Since the human species is naturally social, it would be wise for one to network with a wider variety of people that are beyond their social “comfort zone”. Zajonc (1968) referred to the “mere-exposure effect” as a condition that makes something available to an individual’s perception. This can be observed in the dating world when people become acquainted with each other. The more they spend time together, the more they often tend to like each other. I propose the opposite of sorts, where an individual makes an effort to interact with people they are not familiar with, and with whom they may not have much in common. This ability to successfully socialise with individuals who may have vastly different worldview’s and beliefs, in my opinion, may greatly enhance one’s social (emotional) intelligence, helping them to learn more about themselves and others. To apply such a practise with regularity, and with the intention to improves one’s emotional intelligence, may positively impact one’s social skills, empathy, self-management, self-awareness, and motivation. What Dyre et al. (2016) labelled “imperfect practise makes perfect”, may aptly apply to improving emotional intelligence by practising it in different scenarios with different people so the errors that are made along the way can be analysed, and improved upon.

References
Bayne, H. B., & Hays, D. G. (2017). Examining Conditions for Empathy in Counseling: An Exploratory Model. Journal of Humanistic Counseling, 56(1), 32–52. https://doi.org/10.1002/johc.12043
Bradberry, T. & Greaves, J. (2009). Emotional Intelligence 2.0. Talent Smart.
Midwinter, R. & Dickson, J. (2015). Embedding Counselling and Communication Skills : A Relational Skills Model.
Rogers, C. R. (1965). Client-Centered Therapy.
Serrat, Olivier. (2017). Understanding and Developing Emotional Intelligence. ResearchGate. 10.1007/978-981-10-0983-9_37
Tannen, T., Daniels, M. H., & Koro-Ljungberg, M. (2019). Choosing to be present with clients: an evidence – based model for building trainees’ counselling competence. British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 47(4), 405–419. https://doi.org/10.1080/03069885.2017.1370694
Zhang, S., & Feng, T. (2020). Modeling procrastination: Asymmetric decisions to act between the present and the future. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 149(2), 311–322. https://doi.org/10.1037/xge0000643
Zajonc, R. B. (1968). Attitudinal effects of mere exposure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology Monograph Supplement, 9(2).

Life Coaching Model – Egan’s Problem-Management Model [Strategy guide]

Short Scenario in a Life Coaching Session

My aim as a life coach is to enhance a good working relationship with my client by making use of my communication skills first so my client feels safe to explore all aspects of his presenting problem. Then we will apply Egan’s problem-management model as the tools that serve my communication skills (Wosket, 2008).

Stage 1

I provide a safe space for my client to express his concerns without judgement so we can clarify the key issues being presented (Shorrock, 2011). I ensure that I engage in embodying genuineness, respect, empathy, active listening, paraphrasing, checking for clarity, open questions, and summarising (Egan, 2014). 

Task A. The Story: Problem Situations: My client tells me that his business partner is not working hard enough to make sales and get their business out there to potential customers. During their meetings they share good ideas and get motivated to take action. However, once the meeting is over the momentum disappears and they find themselves back at square one. He is concerned that his business partner is not committed, is lazy, and does not appreciate my clients efforts and input.

Possible questions: “What’s going on in your life?” “What are your main concerns?” “How do you feel about that?”

Task B. The Real Story: New Perspectives: My life coaching client is gaining a greater perspective on his issue. He is discovering a deeper issue that was not obvious before. He notices that he is afraid of sales because he does not like being rejected, and he is concerned that he will mess up in front of potential customers. Therefore, he is subtly pushing his business partner to take the lead in sales. However, his business partner always rather focuses his attention elsewhere.

Possible questions: “As you notice all you have just mentioned. What stands out about all of this that wasn’t obvious before?” “From someone else’s point of view, what should happen that isn’t?”

Task C. The Right Story: Key Issues to Work on: He notices that he also gets caught up in the motivational energy of the meetings and then does nothing about it. He wants to also address his low self-esteem, and overthinking issues when it comes to facing potential customers to make sales.

Possible questions: “Which concern should take priority right now?” “What will make the most impact if we were to work with it now?”

Stage 2

Its time to work with some creativity to analyse different possibilities, goals, and outcomes for the future. I want him to broaden his horizons and stretch his thinking as I help him focus and direct his intentions without too much emotional interference (Egan, 2014). He is very practical and logical so this stage is fairly challenging for him.

Task A. Possibilities: We begin to work with some ideas he has about how to resolve this issue. He considers doing public speaking, doing a sales course, and/or sharing his sales dilemma with his business partner so he can better understand what my client is going through and hopefully pick up the slack in that department.

Possible questions: “If your problem was solved overnight, what would your future look like?” “What possibilities can you think of that you would consider implementing?”

Task B. Goals/Outcomes: It was discovered in therapy that he has always been afraid of the lime light and speaking in front of people. However, he knows that if he can overcome this hurdle this issue will never bother him again, and he would have learnt how to speak in public, and improve his sales approach in the process.

Possible questions: “What do you really want and need going forward?” “What is the best solution?” “What is the goal?”

Task C. Commitment: He decided to start public speaking. The costs: He will have to face his fear of public speaking. He will have to embark on a new experience. He will have to dedicate time away from his family to get this done. The benefits: He will learn a new skill. He might enjoy the new environment. He might enjoy public speaking. He will overcome his fear.

Possible questions: “What am I willing to pay for what I want?” “Is it worth it?” “What will be different once this has been accomplished?”

Stage 3

Its important for my counselling client to set up realistic goals that he can achieve. It’s time to take his commitment to the next level by devising an action plan. I know that this will be more of a guide than a rigid procedure which can be measured, evaluated, and altered over time (Shorrock, 2011).

Task A. Possible Strategies:  We discuss how this can be achieved (public speaking). He remembers hearing about toastmaster meetings that deals specifically with public speaking engagements. He considers seeing a public speaking coach. He also considers going to his chamber of commerce where small businesses have weekly meetings to network and speak about their business.

Possible questions: “What sort of action will help get you what you want?” “Can you think about some ideas to start this process”

Task B. Best-fit Strategies: He finds the chamber of commerce meetings enticing as not only will he engage in public speaking, but he will be able to network and find potential customers, suppliers, and/or partners.

Possible questions: “What is the best strategy?” “What feels best for you?”

Task C. Plans to Accomplish Goals: We agree that he will attend the weekly meetings. In order to review his progress, we devise small milestones along the way. As this exercise is based on his ability to approach potential customers with an offer, we agree that he must 1) Write up a sales pitch, and 2) pitch it to a potential customer following his chamber of commerce meeting. This will be good real-world practise.

Possible questions: “How do we measure your goal?” “What comes first? Second? And third?”

 

References: 

Egan, G. (2014). In introduction to the problem-management process. The skilled helper: A problem-management and opportunity and development approach to helping (10th ed. Ch. 8). Brooks/Cole

Shorrock, M. (2011). The philosophical challenges within counselling psychology: Can Egan’s model help?. Counselling Psychology Review26(3), 63-74.

Wosket, V. (2008). Background and context to the skilled helper model. Egan’s Skilled Helper Model: Developments and Implications in Counselling. Routledge.

Life Coaching Skills – 3 Key Skills of Expert Life Coaches [Skills Guide]

While there are a plethora of life coaching techniques and tools, there are however, a select few crucial skills that can make all the difference during a coaching session. This article will highlight the top 3 skills expert coaches always use.

Immediacy

Immediacy, when used as a life coaching strategy is an effective form of challenging that is based on an empathic understanding of the client that focuses on bringing their awareness to the present moment (Midwinter and Dickson,  2015).  It’s intention is to share hunches, thoughts and/or ideas that are much less confrontational than conventional challenging, and does not need to be accepted by the client, but can serve as a gentle invitation to explore what the life coach may be noticing about the client (Milne, 2010). Furthermore, Hill et al. (2009) found that immediacy assisted clients to express their feelings to the counsellor and to become more open to exploring their concerns more deeply. They also noticed that therapists were better able to manage their own emotions and deal more effectively with countertransference issues.

I have personally found that when I notice indications from my clients that may benefit from immediacy I tell my client that my office is a safe and private space, free of judgment and/or criticism, that I have created for them to share their story with me. This subtle and compassionate challenge invites them to open up as fully as possible about the verbal/non-verbal cues I was noticing that lead up to the challenge. While this invitation is not intended to be acted on immediately by the client, it (hopefully) helps the client to build up the confidence to disclose personal information that they are only willing to share with someone they can trust (in this case myself), thus reinforcing a positive relationship with trust and rapport.

Silence

While silence can bring about an awkward tension in a casual conversation, it can provide tremendous value in a life coaching session when used appropriately (Milne, 2010). By removing the “noise” of a conversation, silence can help a client to reflect on their current experience and provide possible awareness around issues that are usually avoided or not even noticed. A sense of expectancy is created during extended periods of silence which can create connections and awareness around issues the client may be experiencing. Hill et al. (2006) noticed that silence most effectively facilitated the counsellor’s ability to convey empathy and help challenge the client to take responsibility.

It was noted by Alridge and Rigby (2001) as cited in Midwinter and Dickson (2015) that silence from the client may be “saying” something and it’s important for the life coach to know how to respond in such moments that seek to add value to the experience, such as asking the client to further unpack what they may be feeling, sensing or thinking in that moment. However, this must be evaluated on the fly as sometimes simply holding that silence may be effective enough for that moment, but the therapist must always be aware of the non-verbal cues to give prompts on how to proceed (Midwinter and Dickson, 2015).

While silence may be viewed differently across cultures, one must be attuned to the current clients potential meaning and focus on their needs in that moment.

Self-disclosure

Known as helper self-sharing (Milne, 2010) is when the life coach feels it is appropriate to share their own personal experiences and/or details with the client in order to create a more congruent relationship. Derlaga and Berg (1987) found that recipients of self-disclosure were more open to reciprocation and thereby disclosing things about themselves.

Three potential challenges when self-disclosure is used inappropriately

1. life coach’s must recognise that while the client’s information must remain confidential, the counsellor’s information shared during moments of self-disclosure may be shared with others beyond the therapy environment by the client. Therefore, life coach’s should practise caution with self-disclose (Midwinter and Dickson, 2015).

2. In no way should this be used to satisfy any needs of the life coach, but more to add value to, or help “normalise” the client’s experience. Self-disclosure is a balancing act and must not be over-used, nor must it be used to prop up the life coach’s expertise and/or life experience.

3. Furthermore, the counsellor must not get into a “me too” mindset where they try relating many aspects of the client’s story(s) to their own life experiences and memories.

References

Derlaga, V. J., & Berg, J. H. (1987). Themes in the study of self-disclosure. Self-disclosure: Theory, research, and therapy. Springer science & business media.

Hill, C. E., Kivlighan, D. M., III, Rousmaniere, T., Kivlighan, D. M., Jr., Gerstenblith, J. A., & Hillman, J. W. (2019). Deliberate practice for the skill of immediacy: A multiple case study of doctoral student therapists and clients. Psychotherapyhttps://doi.org/10.1037/pst0000247

Hill, C. E., Thompson, B. J., & Ladany, N. (2003). Therapist use of silence in therapy: A survey. Wiley online library, 59(4). https://doi.org/10.1002/jclp.10155

Midwinter, R., & Dickson, J. (2015). Working with the relationship. Embedding counselling and communication: A relational skills model.

Milne, A. (2010). Skills used in counselling. Understand counselling (p54-63). Hachette UK.

How An Empathetic Life Coach Helped Me

There was a time early in my life coaching career that I found I was losing direction, not fully understanding the counselling environment, and lacking the skills to communicate effectively with my clients. I thought it necessary to consult with a good life life coach in my area to assist me with my concerns.

I find that when I am in a new environment, I tend to become more closed-off in my behaviour as I approach new situations with hesitation and often-times, scepticism. I will often guard and hide my feelings around people I do not know to appear that I am un-phased by what is happening and may even appear indifferent. However, meeting my therapist was refreshing as his friendly and welcoming attitude made me feel comfortable to get the process started. Even though I may have appeared stand off-ish, I really wanted someone who would accept me, listen to what I have to say, and understand my feelings towards my situation. My life coach’s  attitude ticked those boxes straight away, and he skilfully brought in a deep empathetic approach throughout the life coaching process. This created, what Pedersen called “an inclusive cultural empathy” the flowed smoothly during our interactions.

Upon deeper reflection I was looking for a role model, someone to boost my self-esteem, and someone I could aspire to be one day. I desired to feel respected as someone with potential to create positive changes in people’s lives.

My life coach made excellent use of the common counselling techniques such as making use of good questions; being able to correctly paraphrase and even summarise what I was saying; helping me to work on some core issues; accurately reflect on key emotions and affective states; and express empathy in a way that really made me feel supported. He confidently and effortlessly embodied what Carl Rogers defines as the three attributes of a skilled therapist. These are: (1) congruence, (2) unconditional positive regard, and (3) accurate empathic understanding, as mentioned by Midwinter and Dickson.

During my therapy sessions I noticed the questioning process he used seemed to be intentionally picked to stimulate certain reactions in me. Most questions were used as open questions, but each type of question would allow me to further explore my issues as if noticing them from many different angles. Sometimes the questions would confront certain limiting beliefs, while others were used to create momentum in my own thinking and problem-solving abilities. I always felt like we were on the same team as he was able to leave out his own agendas, while his use of questioning seemed to provoke a deeper understanding of me and my concerns, as opposed to pacifying his own curiosity.

His ability to pay attention and to remember critical information in the stories I was sharing was admirable. By paraphrasing short sentences and summarising much longer statements really made me notice how focused he was on me, without ever needing to interrupt me. He seemed to understand that I was responsible and capable enough to come up with my own solutions.

Becoming skilled as a Life Coach requires the use of empathy as a tool that helps deliver a certain outcome, and in this case is used to help counselling clients (1) gain a deeper understanding of themselves and their behaviour; (2) provide a sense of hope and motivation that they can achieve their goals; and (3) a space where they can feel safe to be open and vulnerable. It is important to remember that there are no hard and fast rules to abide by when using empathy, but more so that the therapist will have some useful guidelines that can be adjusted to their own style and most importantly customised to fit the needs of the client. Each component that makes up a well-rounded style of empathy needs to be learned with proficiency and then fine-tuned to make best use of it. Coaching should also understand the importance of knowing when not to make use of any components of empathy that are not best suited to the task at hand.

Making good use of high quality, intentional questions helps the clients to explore and really open  their imaginations when delving into their issue. While inappropriate use and overuse of questions can make a client feel intimidated, interrogated, judged, and victimised. Being aware of what one would like to achieve with a question is vital. Questions should be used to identify feelings, underlying motives, core meanings and/or limiting beliefs to name a few, and not to try confuse, trap, or mislead the individual.

The ability to paraphrase and accurately reflect a client’s affective state is a skill that requires active listening and memory recall. Clarkson noted that it can also be used to check the counsellor’s  understanding of what has been said and to spark further elaboration. Such skills must be used with caution due to the negative consequences that can occur if misused. If done too often can make the client feel like the therapist is just pretending to understand  and not really “getting” the what they are saying. Paraphrasing the incorrect information, and/or reflecting the wrong affective state back to the client can likewise make the client feel that the Life Coach is simply not listening, or perhaps hearing the wrong thing. However, done correctly and with tact, can help the client identify their feelings, to feel understood, and feel encouraged to explore their concern further. Correct use of paraphrasing and reflection can demonstrate that the counsellor’s  attention is solely focused on the client and their needs. Rogers and Farson found that when people are listened to sensitively, they tend to listen to themselves with more care and to make clear exactly what they are feeling and thinking.

Knowing how to summarise lengthy pieces of dialogue is a vital asset in therapy, as most often clients will come for counselling with numerous problems that need to be resolved; and an entanglement of different issues that relate to each other at certain intersections. Clients also often feel that the people in their lives either do not listen to them, or do not really understand what they are going through, so it can be difficult for them to freely discuss such issues with them. Over time this can create a build-up of unexpressed emotions and issues, which are then released as a barrage of incoming information when with a Life Coach. The counsellor must use great skill in (1) staying with the conversation; (2) remembering crucial bits of relevant information; and (3) knowing how, according to Angus and Greenberg, in their book Working with narrative in emotion-focused therapy, to integrate the mix of information into a coherent story that resonates with the client.

During my own counselling sessions I found that my inability to paraphrase and/or summarise the correct information back to the client, while at the same time trying to stay focused on the conversation has been a difficult task for me. In trying to “get it right”, I often lose focus on the topic and do not pay attention to using active listening processes such as verbal fillers, eye contact, open body postures and/or providing targeted questions. Being attentive and responsive to the client’s needs are essential elements of becoming a great life coach. In order for me to be my best going forward, I feel that staying focused on the topic of the conversation and on the feelings that it brings up, will help me to formulate the correct response so my client is always assured that I am truly engaging in the conversation. As mentioned by Egan, I must learn to be more perceptive so I can identify key emotions and points of interest in what is being expressed, so I can then respond accurately and with empathy for the greater needs of the client.

So sum up I would like to share a quote by Norcross that emphasises the importance of empathy in life coaching, and goes as follows: “Empathy is linked to outcomes because it serves a positive relationship function, facilitates a corrective emotional experience, promotes exploration and meaning creation, and supports the client’s self healing”.

References

Lynne E. Angus, L. E & Greenberg, L. S. (2011). Working With Narrative in Emotion-Focused Therapy: Changing Stories, Healing Lives. American Psychological Association.

DeVito, J. A. (2019). Foundations of interpersonal communication. The interpersonal communication book. (15th ed., pp. 15-42). Pearson education.

Egan. (2013). Empathic responding: Working at mutual understanding. The skilled helper: a problem-management and opportunity-development approach to helping (10th ed., pp. 104-131). Brooks/Cole Cengage Learning.

Midwinter, R. & Dickson, J. (2020). The skill of communicating. Embedding Counselling and Communication Skills: A Relational Skills Model (1st ed.). https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315730493

Pedersen, P. (2009). Inclusive cultural empathy: A relationship-centered alternative to individualism. South African Journal of Psychology, 39(2). https://doi.org/10.1177/008124630903900201

Rogers, C. R & Farson, R. E. (1987). Active listening. Communicating in Business Today.

Life Coaching Skills – Top 3 Skills of Highly Qualified Life Coaches [Skills Guide]

If I, as a life coach am to become an effective communicator, I think I must (1) understand my current limitations and (2) be open to learning how to improve and gain proficiency over such matters. Effective communication strategies are at the heart of life coaching and are crucial to professional success (Morreale et al, 2016). I have noticed my own improvements over time as I have gained more knowledge and awareness on this topic and have experienced the positive results when working with my clients. The ability to communicate and build quality relationships with my clients is of utmost importance and has even been noted among the competencies exemplified by top leaders (Goleman, 2013 as cited in Egan, 2012). During this reflective process I have chosen to focus on the roles of empathy, paralanguage, and active listening. I found these elements to be of a sub-standard quality when working with my clients, and further feel that if I am to be of most value to my clients then these components must be addressed and improved on. By paying attention to how I define each component, its role in communication and counselling, and knowing how to make best use of it to create the best possible outcomes for my clients is at the core of this continued educational process.

Empathy

While the exact definition of empathy varies, most will agree that empathy is the ability to accurately assess, interpret and understand the feelings of another, and as described by Krzesni (2015) “is a necessary prerequisite for altruism and compassion”. Empathy is seen as a desirable personal characteristic in counselling and is a crucial skill to hone if one is to create effective treatment strategies and interventions, so that client satisfaction is achieved (Clark, 2010 as cited in Egan, 2012; Bayne & Hays 2016). While Carl Rogers found that (1) congruence (genuineness or realness), (2) unconditional positive regard (acceptance), and (3) accurate empathic understanding (Midwinter, et al., 2020) are the three must-have attributes to cultivate, Egan (2012) emphasises the importance of empathic responding with regard to (1) knowing how to respond, and (2) understanding how to effectively deliver such a response during a therapy intervention. Combined, these skills assist the therapist to be present and responsive to the client’s needs.

The developing relationship between the Life Coach and client should, in my opinion, be grounded in the intelligent use of empathy and empathetic responding by the Life Coach to provide a non-judgemental space (Bayne & Hays, 2016) for the client to explore their presenting issues. Making use of empathy can lead to a deeper understanding of what the client is feeling about their issue and may help to identify more responsive and targeted treatments (Neumann et al., 2009 as cited in Egan, 2012). By embedding empathy into one’s responses so as to communicate understanding, allows the client to feel fully understood and accepted for who they are as a unique individual. This builds trust in the client/counselling relationship and which may hopefully lead to the required behavioural change over time.

I feel my need to be a problem-solver during my earlier interventions has been one of my greatest stumbling blocks on my journey to becoming a better communicator across the cultural spectrum and therapist. I failed to realise that even though solutions to clients presenting problems are important, that what was more important was helping my clients to feel understood, valued and accepted. Clients need to feel listened to and that their stories are important. They need to be able to trust the therapist with their potentially deepest and most intimate memories, thoughts, and feelings.

Going forward it will be important put aside my own need to be seen as a problem-solver, but to focus on being fully present and attentive for my clients. I must express empathetic understanding in my behaviour and communication style so my clients can feel they can trust me. By taking these steps I feel that I will then be able to help them realise their own innate intelligence and problem-solving abilities to make the required changes in their lives.

Active Listening

Active listening is the ability to not only pay full attention to what is being said and how it is being said, but to be present the conversation in a way that respects the general worth of the speaker (Rogers & Farson, 1987). The need for concentration, commitment and mental engagement in this process is high as the listener must accurately assess the theme of the conversation and how the individual components fit together to make story meaningfully complete (Egan, 2012). For this to happen the listener must avoid getting distracted by their own thoughts and try not to interrupt the speaker. By applying active listening skills, the listener must utilise nonverbal communication and backchannelling (Rost & Wilson, 2013 as cited in DeVito, 2019) to demonstrate to the speaker that they are fully engaged in the conversation. Things such as appropriate eye contact, verbal fillers, silence, and open body posture keep the listener actively and visibly engaged. It is a useful tactic in life coaching as it allows the Life Coach to better understand what is being said, and then to use that information to respond appropriately to the client.

Active listening is important in not only counselling, but also useful in everyday conversations. When a speaker feels they are being listened to; that the focus is on them; that they feel acknowledged and understood; and that the feedback from the listener is relevant to the conversation, then they will feel more comfortable with the listener (Rogers, 1980 as cited in Egan 2012). Once the speaker feels comfortable to express themselves, then the active listener will be provided with opportunities to give informed responses effectively with questions to expand on what is being said, to stay on topic, and then assist the speaker to dig even deeper into their issue. By making a conscious effort, active listeners are better able to pick up on subtle emotions, which can lead to empathic understanding, and then further to empathic responding (Egan, 2012). This is especially helpful in therapy as it can direct the therapist to core issues and crucial bits on information that the client is experiencing.

I have found that conventional conversations often lack many important considerations for the speaker. As the listener, I have often resorted to a problem-solver, or a “me too” mentality, and have been susceptible to three conversational errors during conversations. (1) I have often been inclined to get lost in my own thoughts and lose important information from the conversation. (2) I have failed to listen-to-understand but would rather listen so I can compare to my own life, and then provide advice on what I would do if I were in their position. (3) I would interrupt the other person as soon as I thought I could give valuable information.

Active listening is a conscious choice one must choose to work with, and fine tune if one is to gain any mastery over. Therefore, as an aspiring Life Coach, I must choose to hold back the need to make the counselling conversation about me and my expertise, and rather focus on what the client needs by utilising the valuable skills that active listening provides. Active listening is a crucial skill to enhance so as to be directly engaged in the conversation with the client, so one can then provide high quality intervention strategies that are best suited to that client.

Paralanguage

Paralanguage, also known as vocalics, refers to the nonverbal vocal aspects of speech that provides information. Paralanguage has an impact on speech as it helps to express emotion, articulate meaning, and convey underlying messages (Meservy & Burgoon, 2008 & DeVito 2019). Paralinguistics, which is the study of paralanguage, investigates the way vocal expressions, and even the lack thereof which influences and modifies speech. Common examples include inflection, pitch, sarcasm, hesitation, verbal fillers, volume, intonation, prosody, and speed (Schandorf, 2020). In simple terms it pays attention to how something is said as opposed to what is being said. Its purpose is to create contextual information about what is being said by the speaker so the listener can better understand the implied message (DeVito, 2019). Listeners form physical, personality and evaluative impressions about the speaker by the way they use paralanguage (DeVito, 2019).

Paralanguage is important to be aware of in counselling as it allows the counsellor to notice potential implied messages, meanings, assumptions, and feelings that the client may be expressing beyond the actual words being spoken. What Pedersen (2009) terms “inclusive cultural empathy”, allows clients to feel like the Life Coach is fully engaged in the conversation as core messages can be picked up on by the aware Life Coaching. If for example the client exclaims in a loud tone, “… Then he said that it was all my fault that the project failed”, the therapist will notice the volume may be demonstrating anger and frustration, while the intonation on the word “my” seems to point to disbelief by what the client heard. At this point the life coach may paraphrase the following, “He (intonation) said it was your (intonation and increase in volume) fault. I see how this can make you angry (affirming the client’s feelings).” Being aware of a client’s unique use of paralanguage and knowing how to make best use of one’s own paralanguage can build the foundation of being an empathically accurate perceiver (Ickes, 1997 as cited in Egan, 2012).

Since counselling and communication skills are a core component of my work, it is crucial to understand paralanguage and its effective use, and the consequences of its misuse. Since, in my personal life I like to make use of humour, I found myself adopting that attitude with my clients and would often resort to using sarcasm. I assumed it could lighten the mood and point out my client’s blind spots or errors in thinking and behaving. While this strategy can work if used with tact, overusing, or misusing it can make a person feel judged and/or ridiculed.

I now value and understand how important something like paralanguage can be in a counselling environment. I am now learning to notice my assumed interpretation of the messages and feelings behind the words being said by my clients. This deeper form of engagement also allows me to immerse myself in their world as they relay it to me. To get more value out of paralanguage I feel it is important to notice it when my client speaks and then to clarify and/or paraphrase various core moments expressed via paralanguage that I feel stand out. Furthermore, I feel it’s necessary for me to learn how best to improve my own style of paralanguage with my clients, so they feel more understood.

Conclusion

The take-away message that I have gathered from this reflective writing process is to identify how best to make one’s clients feel valued, understood and respected for who they are and what they are coming to counselling for. By continued and refined practise of skills such as empathy, paralanguage, and active listening, I feel I can become a therapist for my clients. Furthermore, I feel that these cognitive skills are guidelines when dealing with real-life situations and not hard-and-fast rules and should always be used with wisdom and appropriate use if one is to become a great life coach.

References 

Bayne, H. B, & Hays, D. G. (2016). Examining conditions for empathy in counselling: An exploratory model. Journal of Humanistic Counseling, 56. DOI: 10.1002/johc.12043

DeVito, J. A. (2019). Foundations of interpersonal communication. The interpersonal communication book. (15th ed., pp. 15-42). Pearson education.

Egan. (2013). Empathic responding: Working at mutual understanding. The skilled helper: a problem-management and opportunity-development approach to helping (10th ed., pp. 104-131). Brooks/Cole Cengage Learning.

Krzesni, D. (2015). EMPATHY. Counterpoints, 503, 33-54. https://www.jstor.org/stable/45136520

Midwinter, R. & Dickson, J. (2020). The skill of communicating. Embedding Counselling and Communication Skills: A Relational Skills Model (1st ed.). https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315730493

Morreale, S. P., Valenzano, J. M., & Bauer, J. A. (2016).  Why communication education is important: a third study on the centrality of the discipline’s content and pedagogy. Taylor & Francis Online, 66(4), 402-422. https://doi.org/10.1080/03634523.2016.1265136

Meservy, T. O & Burgoon, J. K. (2008). Paralanguage. Wiley Online Library. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781405186407.wbiecp005

Pedersen, P. (2009). Inclusive cultural empathy: A relationship-centered alternative to individualism. South African Journal of Psychology, 39(2). https://doi.org/10.1177/008124630903900201

Rogers, C. R & Farson, R. E. (1987). Active listening. Communicating in Business Today.

Schandorf, M. (2020) Paralanguage (the cracked lookingglass of a servant, or the uses, virtues, and value of liminality). Filowicz. M & Tzankova. V (Eds.), Reimagining Communication: Meaning. Routledge.

Life Coaching Awareness – Different Types Of Anxiety Conditions

From a life coaching perspective anxiety can appear in many forms, as their are different types of anxiety. Some tend to blend into each other, while others can be completely unique. All anxiety will have similar features which allows the below types of anxiety to be categorised under the term “Anxiety.”

Anticipatory Anxiety

Anticipatory Anxiety happens when a person experiences excessive concern for an an upcoming event of some sort. This can be anything from a wedding, a due speech, a sports event or even just a social gathering. The average person will often experience “butterflies in the stomach” and perceive it as excitement and possibly even minor anxiousness, whereas someone suffering with anticipatory anxiety will adversely react to those same symptoms in a highly charged way, which can range from mild mental, physical & emotional discomfort, to incapacitating levels that have a severe effect on their well-being. These individuals will often predict disastrous outcomes which they foresee will negatively impact them.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)

Nicknamed “Imagined Ugliness Syndrome”, body dysmorphic disorder or BDD, is a disorder where a person will become fixated on what they perceive to be a negative defect or quality on their body. This is often noticeable with some peoples obsession about their weight, muscle size, body shape and various pigments & tones on the skin etc. People suffering with this conditions will often go to great lengths to hide and/or fix. The means of hiding and/or fixing these body parts may in themselves become an obsession, where the person will never acknowledge that they are good enough and more work still needs to be done.

Compulsive Hoarding

Compulsive hoarders collect and hold on to possessions. They will find it extremely stressful and difficult to throw away or give up these items, which will lead to clutter and disorganisation. Extreme clutter can create health & safety risks, and further complicate their well-being. People suffering with such a condition will try justify why various items should not be thrown away and will either place sentimental value or purpose value on such items.

Compulsive Skin Picking

Compulsive skin picking or CSP happens when a person relentlessly picks at normal blemishes such as freckles or moles, pre-existing scabs, sores or even acne blemishes. SCP is often associated with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) because of its repetitive and ritualistic nature. It can also associated with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) if the person picks at their skin to try get rid of “deformities” or “abnormalities” on their body. Sufferers will often pick at their skin to alleviate stress & anxiety. The constant picking will often lead to scars, which can further complicate the issue by making the person notice yet another abnormality that must be picked. This damaging behaviour can spiral downward if not treated.

Depersonalisation Disorder

Depersonalisation disorder (DD) is characterised by a feeling that the person is not experiencing life in their body. As if watching themselves in a movie. They will feel disconnected, lose self-awareness and may lack the ability to feel emotions. This sensation is often experienced during a panic attack and is a way for the brain to deal with high levels of stress.

General Anxiety Disorder

Generalised anxiety disorder or GAD is when a person will feel anxious for no apparent reason and can often be felt when considering about life in general, finances, relationships and their health. This can often create a whirlwind effect as they start to combine topics in their thought processing. It will always seem as though something is wrong or that something is just about to go wrong. They will struggle to move away from the emotional tug of their negative thoughts, which will start to wear them out over time and have increased affect on their lifestyle and well-being.

Health Anxiousness

Its better known name is hypochondria and happens when a person either fears they will be affected by serious illness/disease, or misinterprets harmless physical symptoms as something much worse & life threatening. Sufferers will obsess about becoming ill and this fixation can lead to avoidance behaviour and neurosis.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive compulsive disorder or OCD as it is commonly know happens when a person becomes fixated on a particular thought that is provoked by anxious feelings and eventually gets to a point where it becomes obsessive. This intense compulsion to act on stress driven by an obsessive fear, is based on neurotic thoughts, feelings and emotions that elicit some kind of threat or danger. In order to alleviate the anxiety, the person will commit to performing a designated task until it begins to calm down. The anxiety is often a feeling that there is something wrong, or that if the task isn’t acted out, something bad will happen. The conscious mind often understands and accepts that the behaviour is irrational and wishes it will stop, but can’t figure out how. Click here to read more about OCD.

Phobias & Phobic Disorders

Phobic disorders are focused anxiety disorders targeted at something very specific. The fear is irrational and creates a sense of danger when there is often no actual danger present. A strong and negative emotional reaction to something that really isn’t that bad which also then has a negative impact on the persons life. Click here to read more about phobias.

Postnatal Anxiety

Postnatal anxiety (PA)is a condition that can be experienced by new-moms. Postnatal anxiety is a general term for a range of anxiety related conditions that can be experienced and may differ from person to person. New moms suffering with PA may constantly worry about their child’s health and safety. They obsess about being a good parent and worry about hurting their child. Some will worry that something bad will happen to their child. These conditions can intertwine with each other and compound the problem.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

The term PTSD is used to describe a range of symptoms which occur following on from involvement in a traumatic event. These events are considered to be both beyond our control, and outside of our normal human experiences. The event itself could be anything from witnessing a road traffic accident, natural disaster or terrorist attack, through to being the victim of a mugging, or witnessing harrowing scenes whilst serving in the armed forces. Click here to read more about PTSD.

Separation Anxiety

This is often seen with children that find it difficult to be away from their parents and/or their home. Adults are also prone to such anxiety and may feel its effects when their partners aren’t around them or if they have to go away from the home environment for things such as work or holiday. Sometimes the stress can lead to physical symptoms such as headaches and stomach pain.

Social Anxiety

Also known as social phobia happens when a person fears or dreads going into a social environment. They may worry that they will make a fool or themselves or that people will be nasty to them. The thought of possible humiliation and embarrassment will make them avoid social settings and many public spaces for fear of something bad happening to them.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal affective disorder or SAD is a condition that is affected by the seasons and is most often felt during the colder winter months. Symptoms can include depressed feelings, loss of energy and changes in appetite. A change of season will tend to alleviate the symptoms.

Trichotillomania Disorder

Trichotillomania disorder or TD is when a person pulls out their own hair and is often done to relieve stress & anxiety. Over time bald spots can start to appear where the hair fails to grow back. People suffering with this condition can pull out hair from their scalp, eyebrows and eyelashes.

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is experienced when, for no apparent reason, a person will experience a panic attack. One minute they will be fine and the next, they will be in a full blown panic attack. A panic attack is often characterised by intense fear, sweating, numbness, shaking, shortness of breathe, thoughts of impending doom and sweating. To read more about panic attacks and what to do when one happens, click here.

References:
https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anxiety

Mental Health & Well-Being – An In-depth Look Into Anxiety

What Is Anxiety?

From a life coaching perspective anxiety and its related conditions are among the most common psychological concerns facing our modern society. Affecting everyone from children to teens and men & women, with women being at higher risk for panic attacks. Teens suffering with anxious feelings is sharply on the rise due to the ever-increasing demands that society now places on them. Anxiety can manifest as a mild condition which may slightly affect ones lifestyle, to acute/chronic anxiety which often has a debilitating effect on an individuals life. The characteristics of anxiety disorders are not only identified by the distressing effects it has on the mind, but also by the (often) dysfunctional behaviour’s that reduce the apprehension.

Creation of Anxiety

  1. Genetics and the brain chemistry. Sufferers of anxiety related issues often show over arousal in the areas of the brain that deal with impulse control and habitual behaviour’s. This can possibly explain why some people seem to be more affected with apprehension than others.
  2. Observational learning. Children are highly influenced by their parents behaviour, so if the parent displays verbal and body language that indicate stress/anxiety on a continual basis, the child may take on such attributes as a learned behaviour and never really understand why they exhibit such behaviour.

Provocation of Anxiety

  1. Stimulus generalisation. Associating unconnected things as if they are connected to the perceived threat. This can be experienced if something odd, strange or out-of-the-ordinary is experienced. Most people can simply dismiss it and move on, but some sufferers of may start connecting previous times to what just happened and relate the two events, which can trigger an fear response. This is often experienced with social anxiety. The person may have experienced a difficult social event and will then relate those feelings every time they have to go into or attempt to go into social environments.
  2. Reinforcement. Anxiety is solidified by reinforcement. Every time your actions are anxious driven and therefore try to avoid or escape feared situations, the anxiety will reinforce and embed itself in your working memory. This may temporarily ease, but will reinforces phobic behaviour, making it stronger every time.

Panic Attacks & The Brain

The amygdala becomes active when it detects potential danger. This then triggers the sympathetic nervous system and ready’s it to fight, flight or freeze, along with getting the major senses tuned up so we can be aware of our surroundings to detect danger.

Anxiety of any kind starts at the activation of the amygdala. This can be triggered by a traumatic event or simply by the daily worry-provoking situations of modern day living such as traffic, angry clients, difficult boss, problematic children, tight deadlines etc.
During a panic attack the often subtle anxious feelings become over-exaggerated and amplified, which can create feelings of terror, as if there is an imminent threat to the persons safety. However, while the brain begins searching the outside world for threat, it fails to find any evidence of such an event taking place. This compounds the problem by creating suspicion as opposed to an actual threat where the brain will recognise exactly what the source of the danger is. So therefore the location itself becomes the threat so there is a desperate need to get away as fast as possible.

Panic Attacks & Generalised Anxiety Disorder

Often perceived as a nightmarish experience, consisting of intense dread, terror and a feeling of impending death, which can last from anywhere between a few minutes to hours in duration. The sufferer will commonly experience symptoms such as shortness of breath, sweating, dizziness, faintness, feelings of non-reality, chest pains and overwhelming fear.

The memory of their panic attack can create a sense of dread. This then becomes a conditioned effect where the brain tries creates coping mechanisms which is designed to prevent such things from happening again, so it will show the person that certain locations, atmospheres, people etc. should be avoided at all costs. If this gets out of control it will manifest as a disorder which prevents the person from going out in public and have a negative impact on their life.
Often people who have phobic disorders like agoraphobia in this case, which is the fear of open spaces, may have such a fear because of previous panic attacks that may have happened in open public spaces.

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Generalised anxiety disorder or its common abbreviation GAD is when the sufferer of the condition continually feels tense, agitated, on-edge and apprehensive. They will experience unfocused, negative and out-of-control feelings, which creates a continual sense of worry that either something is wrong or that something bad is going to happen.

Thanks for reading,

Donovan – Life Coach