Those who can answer the essential question inside become more able to handle the uncertainties around them. –Michael Meade
As coaches, we often encounter vestiges of long-held patterns that continue to echo across our client’s stories and live in ways that limit their potential. These patterns can be seen in the choices they keep making when they are stressed, the postures they instinctively adopt when feeling vulnerable, the stories they tell themselves when they look at their email inbox (e.g., “If I just work harder then . . .”). These patterns seem more easily triggered and more problematic in a time when change is the constant state of play, and we are working near the limits of our human capacities in trying to “keep up.” How can we help leaders and others we coach to remain resilient and resourceful?
Many of the suboptimal mindset and behavior patterns we encounter in coaching reflect our client’s well-worn attachment strategies. For example, do they tend to move away from us or toward us when they are feeling anxious in a session? We can see these patterns in the stories our clients tell us, particularly in how they relate to and talk about the characters in them. Coaching can provide a safe yet provocative space where people can work with the material in their stories to experiment with new regulatory strategies (and the narratives that go with them) and create new options for themselves. Our greatest gift to our clients is often the opportunity to experience a new way of relating, which they can then bring into their own life. In the process, they can become more aware of their current attachment strategies and develop new ones that reflect and reinforce a greater sense of attachment security.
According to research, when people feel more attachment security, they are more able to:
- Self-soothe and mutually regulate, so they can learn and grow
- Sustain positive yet mature beliefs about themselves and the world
- Constructively (re)appraise situations to maintain self-efficacy
- Distinguish between their experience and that of others
- Sense and articulate their feelings and empathize with others
- Address existential concerns rather than be perpetually on guard
- Break up their stories and reconfigure them in order to grow
- Be tolerant of ambiguity and less dogmatic in their thinking and communicating
- Notice and repair ruptures in their rapport and communication with others
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