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Edie Seashore: On Coaching

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Edie:  Exactly. That’s good. But, we still don’t have a chance to help them see whether they are doing it. They may actually be able to see it. Everybody can talk about doing it and have some verification that that is, in fact, what they’ve done. Even in NTL we didn’t have that. We would have people up here for three weeks in a T-group, and their behavior would change dramatically in many ways during that time in that system. They’d go back into the old system where they couldn’t hold onto this behavior. So they lost it in that system or they got the hell out of that system. They left.  A lot of people left.

Also, one of the things we found out in some of the research was that there was a distinct difference between a person’s internal sense that things had changed and people experiencing those that had changed. Matt Miles did a wonderful study on managers who had gone to NTL for their three-week training program, three-week T-group. They came back feeling that they were very different and they could tell you all these things that they thought they were so different about. Then the researchers asked the people whom they were working with and these people didn’t see that at all. What do you mean he’s different?  Don’t kid me.

Dorothy:  So, their internal experience was different, but nothing really changed?

Edie:  Changed with their behavior according to their colleagues.

Now, at that time, we weren’t very clear about feedback. The truth is that it’s possible they actually had changed, but their colleagues’ perceptions were very strong. These perceptions hadn’t changed. They were still seeing them do things that they weren’t necessarily doing.

Dorothy:  We call these “frozen gestalts”—that is seeing the same picture of things and the perception stays “constant” so the meaning does not change.

Edie:  Exactly. I didn’t write on feedback until our book, What Did You Say? The Art of Giving and Receiving Feedback. came out in 1992. It was totally different than anything that was going on in feedback then and now to a great extent. So, a lot of this stuff was evolving even for us. We thought we had a lot of things going for us, but we didn’t have—we were learning, learning, learning, learning, learning. And as you say, coaching could be just an evolution from what was considered difficult to get to to being able to help people get to it in much easier ways today.

It didn’t occur to people that they could figure these things out. So they went into therapy to find out what was wrong with them. It’s possible that none of that was necessary if we could have had the kind of opportunities that people have today in less dramatic settings than therapy.  I mean, when Carl Rogers started on the West Coast, his groups were almost all feedback groups and reflective groups. NTL was not that. NTL was people in a context. What was the group like? What was going on in the group?

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