January 25, 2015

Eyes closed during a coaching session?

An important part of progress-focused coaching is that clients remember past successes. These are situations which they have experienced in the past in which they have, to some extent, managed to accomplish what they are now trying to accomplish. Past successes nearly always exist. No matter how difficult the situation or goal of clients may be, it is very likely that they will have experienced a situation in the past which was somewhat similar to their current situation in which they have done things that have worked and that may be useful again in some way.  That past successes can be found nearly always does not mean that they can always be found quickly or easily. Because we cannot be permanently aware of  all our previous experiences these past successes may be hidden away deeply in our memory. This means that we may have to dig up these past successes from some far away corner of our memory.

This process of digging deeply requires that clients feel at ease in the conversation and that they take their time to think deeply about those situations of past success. As coaches we can do a lot to make clients feel comfortable and to give them time to calmly search their memory. One helpful thing is to acknowledge what clients say so that they will feel taken seriously. Another thing is to let them choose whatever they want to talk about so that they will feel autonomous. Finally, we give them all the time they need by not interrupting them when they are thinking and by encouraging them to take their time.  We emphasize that our questions can be difficult which makes it normal for them to think about their answers deeply and calmly.

A new study (Nash et al., 2015) suggests that there is another thing which may be useful to help clients remember past successes. In an experiment participants were better able to remember details from a film they were shown when they closed their eyes. With their eyes closed they answered questions about that film 23% more accurately than participants who did not close their eyes. Another interesting finding in this study was that participants felt more comfortable when closing their eyes when researchers had first built rapport with them than when they had not done that.

Question: Would it be a good idea for clients to close their eyes during coaching sessions in order to remember past successes more easily?

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