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Common Coaching Blind Spots: What You Need to Know

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We all have blind spots. Even us coaches. It’s part of how we humans have learned to survive – narrowing down what we focus on, labeling our experience to reduce energy drain, projecting our past onto the present to increase predictability.  It’s normal.

Part of our role as coaches is to be doing our own work constantly – identifying our own blind spots, understanding our habituated patterns, expanding what’s above the line and shrinking what’s below the line of our conscious awareness. We do this work in coach training. We do this so that our blind spots, our patterns, our conditioning don’t get in the way of our coaching.

And yet, they do. We can’t rid ourselves of all of our blind spots. Because we’re human. All we can do is to keep looking for them.

After having worked with and trained coaches for many years, we’ve identified three common coaching blind spots – coaching choices made by coaches that reflect the patterning of the coach and negatively impact the coaching.

Stepping Over Certain Emotions

You may be reading this and thinking, “I don’t do that. I know some coaches do, but I don’t step over my client’s emotions”.  And if so, we invite you to notice that.

What are we talking about? Stepping over emotions refers to a coaching conversation in which a client expresses an emotion, either in words or expression or tone, and the coach doesn’t acknowledge the feeling or perhaps acknowledges it and doesn’t explore it with the client.

Most coaches don’t step over all emotions. However, many coaches step over at least one of the distressing emotions and some coaches step over virtually all distressing emotions. (See more on distressing and pleasant emotions in our Relational Feelings Inventory).

Coaches will tend to step over the emotions in their clients that they tend to step over in themselves. 

Coaches, like all humans, learn at an early age, what emotions are ok to feel, to express and which are not. They learn what emotions are too uncomfortable to feel, what emotions get what reactions and how accessing or not accessing certain emotions protects us in times of conflict or stress. And we learn these things before we have memory, before we have language.  They become part of our neurological wiring and as such, form a blind spot over “what is”.

Here’s an example of a client/coach exchange to illustrate:

Client: “My boss is a real struggle right now. He’s constantly finding something wrong with what I’m doing.  He’s giving very little positive feedback.  It’s gotten so I hate even interacting with him so I avoid him.  I’m starting to hate my job, but I need this job.” Client’s head, eyes and face droop toward the floor.

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