As you can imagine, the presence of overexcitabilities in a client has numerous implications on the coaching process. Some of them are practical considerations like in the example with my client. Individuals with psychomotor overexcitability need the freedom to move while doing deep work. Those with sensory overexcitability will benefit from the coach being mindful of potentially disruptive sensory stimuli in the coaching environment. For the emotionally intense and the deep thinkers among your clients, it often makes sense to allow for a much longer duration of sessions due to their depth of processing. Regular-length sessions may make them feel like they were only able to “scratch the surface.” Other implications, however, go beyond the how-tos and require a deeper understanding of the complex inner processes of gifted and highly sensitive individuals and their intricate minds.
The example of a gifted client who was the CEO of a management consulting firm illustrates this well. We worked on a major career transition that triggered a personal identity crisis and ultimately led to him completely re-inventing himself. When asked about his coaching experience, he offered the following word picture:
“You provided a very large safe space for me to wander around in. It wasn’t just a big backyard or a field, it was a national forest that you walked through with me and kept me from getting lost in.”
His words allude to the deep search for identity that most gifted individuals go through numerous times throughout their lives. Because they are often multi-talented and emotionally complex, the gifted tend to experience less continuity in their sense of self than the neurotypical majority of the population. This can result in a seemingly unending search for how the countless pieces of their identity puzzle fit together. Coaches must guard against labeling these clients as inconsistent or self-absorbed, and instead, learn how to function as midwives to a complicated labor—one that, if supported properly, can lead to the birth of a powerful sense of purpose.
According to Dr. Arthur Aron, 15-20% of the population is highly sensitive. Based on a standard distribution for IQ, 16% of the population have an above-average IQ and at least some of the personality traits to go with it. These numbers indicate that up to one in five clients could be an intricate mind, requiring additional understanding of their unique wiring for maximum effectiveness in coaching. I want to encourage my fellow coaches to consider these numbers and educate themselves about the unique strengths, needs and challenges of their neurodivergent clients. You likely have encountered more of them in your practice than you know—and you may even learn something surprising about yourself in the process!
This article was originally published on ICF Coaching World – https://coachfederation.org/blog/coaching-intricate-minds