Positive Emotions in Coaching Success Stories
by Mark Teahan Director of Education Spencer Institute
In our holistic life coaching course, we discuss the merits of both positive and negative emotional attractors. This means that understanding both can be vital for coaches. We need to be able to understand our client’s emotional states and the need to balance negative and positive emotions because each has a significant impact on the brain’s capacity to learn. More specifically, coaches benefit from helping a client develop an optimal emotional state to support learning when the transformation is needed. In a more therapeutic sense, one of the initial steps towards helping clients sort out thoughts is to identify negative emotions that reduce our ability to learn or take new information and skills. This also results in diminished abilities, and this puts your client at risk of trouble being creative and strategic in their thinking. The coach has to work hard to keep the client balanced within their emotional range. It can not be too positive, it certainly can not be overly negative. This is especially true if we need our clients to step through the cognitive agility needed for changes they are either making currently or thinking about starting to change.
Benefits of Empathy in Your Coaching Practice
One interesting aspect of this is empathy. One such study was conducted on empathy among physicians and their patients. The results show that patients whose physicians have high empathy scores were more likely to have good control of blood sugar and cholesterol levels than physicians with less perceived empathy. Similarly, the coach’s compassion makes an important contribution in helping clients handle their negative emotions. Most people, particularly those who have chronic diseases and feel badly about their personal contribution to a disease process, have a strong inner critic in the form of a voice that says “I can’t do this,” “I’m not good enough,” and “I have failed.” This form of self-criticism is potent and will negativity block your client’s ability to maximize their brain in the process of moving forward.
When we convey a sense of warmth, patience, and empathy, clients are better able to let go of the past, accept how they are, and feel self-compassion. It can be difficult for health professionals to be patient and empathetic when people are not making progress, and yet acceptance and empathy are essential if coaches are to help clients override negative emotions and self-talk.
Changing Your Brain’s Capacity to Learn
Are you unsure of where to begin with redirecting negativity? Try moving your client toward self-compassion. This can lead to a softer, kinder type of internal motivation that improves the brain’s ability to learn and change.
It probably just makes sense that the fear of failing and of being a failure is not a good source of motivation. With self-compassion, we can guide a client to start with a mindful acceptance of negative emotions, followed by a heartfelt connection to others who share the same negative emotions, so that our client feels that they are not alone in their thoughts. The coach should avoid aligning negative emotions with stories or self-disclosure; doing this changes the leadership perspective your client holds us to.
Instead of getting bogged down by all of this, consider just two types of emotional reactions: low and high levels. Low-level reactions occur automatically, like a close call on the road when driving. High-level reactions involve reassessment or evaluation of a situation in an effort to stop more intense reactions, like those tied to enduring high-stress events that elevate stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. Reassessment suppresses the action of the amygdala; when this occurs, our client is more inclined to remember the details of these stressful events. Coach your client to mindfully distinguish between an occurrence and our interpretations of it. When we can orchestrate this you allow your client to be more optimistic in reassessing situations. This reassessment process is simply one where we become aware of often unconscious interpretations, bringing relevant filters (values, beliefs, culture) to the surface and this allows for positive changes in perspectives.
Coaches are tasked with supporting clients in these reassessments, and this goes a long way toward boosting self-compassion, self-confidence, self-esteem, and the suppression of negative self-talk.
As an ongoing process, we strive to make this an automatic response in your client’s collection of internal resources. It is also important to distinguish between the suppression of negative self-talk and the suppression of emotions. Higher levels of negative emotions show a vulnerability to errors and poor judgment when brain function is dominated by fear. But your coaching dialogue should only be focused on shining a light on unconscious processes and shifting them to the conscious mind, where it can be labeled and stabilized as normal. Simply naming a threat can calm the amygdala into more constructive activity in the problem-solving portion of the brain. For clients who bring a myriad of factors and challenges to the coach, this is a powerful approach but should be used with caution and great care.
Positive emotions improve attention, open-mindedness, creativity, and greater success when a shift in perspective is called for. To be able to reach – and sustain – a positive emotion shift from a negative emotion is a marker of resilience in a client who is not only willing and ready to do the hard work of transformation, but successful in many areas that demonstrate their ability to adapt and change. Positive emotions are vital for brain learning in the moment and for a client’s change success over time. This is a best practice of high-functioning coaches and comes with experience, ability, and training.
Where Can You Learn More?
If this topic interests you, you will also want to consider professional training, certification, and career opportunities as a Certified Holistic Nutrition Coach, Certified Holistic Life Coach, Certified Master Health and Wellness Coach or Stress Management Coach.
You can also check out these other blogs posts:
- What is Green Living?
- Can a Green Living Lifestyle Help Prevent Disease?
- Reasons That Going Green and Sustainable Living Makes Sense
Is your recertification coming up? Learn more about earning your CEU credits. You can find the full list of CEU courses here.
There is always something exciting about earning a new training or coaching certification and applying that new knowledge of how you train your clients. This also helps you hit the reset button.
NESTA and Spencer Institute coaching programs are open to anyone with a desire to learn and help others. There are no prerequisites.
That’s it for now.
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