Use of self is a doing intervention: the purposeful actions we take with others to provoke their movement toward greater awareness and defined goals. Use of self is a practitioner competency where we consciously exercise the dimensions of our presence to provoke action toward attaining what is needed, wanted, or missing. One integrative task of developing one’s presence and use of self in Gestalt coaching is attending to and being aligned with one’s personal strengths, values, and intentions for influence. Authenticity is increased by this alignment. As presence is only relationally experienced, coaches and leaders alike have to manage their Perceived Weirdness Index (PWI), which refers to our perceived degree of “difference” relative to others. This means knowing how to strategically relate to others with enough similarity so that they feel the comfort of familiarity, but also with enough difference so that they are interested in working with us. If our differences are greater than the value we bring to the work, the PWI may be too high to serve the coach or leader. Awareness of our PWI necessarily invites us to be more alert and adaptive, offering similarity as an interpersonal bridge and unique perspectives and skills as a differential value.
Presence Awareness Dimensions
Presence has extensive expression across individuals, but can be described through a seven-dimension structure which captures the requisite variety to meet contemporary life and work challenges. The dimensions can be developed to respond to and manage the range of awarenesses needed for coaches and leaders. These dimensions are: self-aware alignment with and embodiment of one’s values; creativity; emotions and emotional range; capacity for heart-based or caring relations; communication and voice; intuition; and scanning the field for threats and opportunities.
Each dimension of presence is positively defined by what we pay attention to, and limited by unaware resistances that interfere or stop us from being aware of that dimension and acting in congruence with our values and with related dimensions. Our presence can be strengthened or weakened by intentional practices of our use of self. We can strengthen our presence through self-work in each dimension to guide our use of self skills. We can assess our use of self skills by inviting feedback about our interventions, observations about our interventions, projections about how people are experiencing our actions, and inquiry regarding our impact. (Figure 1.1) Inviting this kind of information is a commitment towards mastery.