Category Archives: Coaching

Emotional Bias and Mental Models

Our attention tends to be biased towards emotion. We will tend to pay attention to information that is conveyed with emotion more quickly and more often than we will pay attention to the same information delivered in neutral tones. This is a simple matter of brain hardwiring.This is partially why we find it so hard to do something that we know that we “should” if we don’t feel strongly about it.  We’re wired to pay attention to emotion first.

The first step we take in building a viewpoint about any information is to select that information from the world around us. What is significant from a coaching standpoint is that we will tend to pay attention to information with emotional significance first. Which can mean that our perceptions about any particular event are more likely to be charged with some degree of emotion. We will have an opinion, a feeling, a reaction. Ever notice how difficult it is to think objectively and dispassionately about something? It often takes an active effort on our part.

This just means that within a coaching situation it is important to keep this emotional bias in mind as we explore the worldviews involved. It may or may not have significance in any given situation . . . but it will be there. And our understanding of that fact can help us as we address inconsistencies or other self-defeating processes within a particular viewpoint.  Replacement behaviors, strategies, and so forth are most likely to get attention if they have emotional content that is at least as strong as that which they’re attempting to replace.

How about Self-Coaching?

Maybe you’re the type of person who likes to do things on their own. Or perhaps you don’t want to try and weed through the numbers and styles of the already 50,000+ (and growing) life coaches currently practicing.

A new book, Every Day Matters: How You Can Improve Your Life in 7 Weeks or Less, offers readers practical advice based on time-tested research and insights drawn from Dr. Agata Dulnik’s own coaching experience. “This is not a book about commiserating. This is a book about providing solutions by offering a uniquely simple-to-follow process that is quick to learn and incorporate into every day life,” she says.

Self-coaching isn’t necessarily for everyone. But even if you pick up just a tip or two it might be well worth a read.

Link: Every Day Matters

Life Coaching for Boomers

A new life coaching and planning website, www.myplanafter50.com, is aimed directly at the boomer generation, a segment typically under served in the online social networking world. The site serves as both portal and online community and has already registered over 500 users. With forums, articles, online coaching, e-learning, a My Plan after 50 workbook and other resources, the site seeks to provide “all you’ll need for planning a vibrant life after 50.”

If I Trust you I may Feel Better

Research from the University of Michigan Health System suggests that individuals who respond to placebos have significantly more dopamine activity in a specific portion of their brains than those who do not. The dopamine activity seems to be proportional to the amount of benefit that the individual anticipates.

This anticipatory aspect is interesting from a coaching perspective. Anticipation of a benefit is based upon trust in the source, which in coaching is based upon relationship. In a coaching relationship the trust factor has significant influence on whether an individual will consider the coach’s advice. In a good relationship he or she will be open to trying the coaching suggestions, even if they seem counter-intuitive to what the individual thinks or feels. This study suggests that in a good coaching relationship, the expectation of a benefit (say, for instance, relief from being ignored due to poor social skills) may cause the release of dopamine and make the coaching recipient feel better as they go about the process of following the advice. And this increases its chances of success.

Link: ScienceDaily

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See also: The Brain, Trust and Free Markets 

Attention is Biased towards Emotion

Events filled with emotion are more likely to capture our attention. The media has known this for a long time of course. And we know that we pay more attention when spouses finally become angry and yell after we’ve found ourselves only half listening to what they say.

We are not passive observers of the world. To some degree we choose what we see (or our brains do it for us), and then we give it significance according to the well-known “ladder of perception” model. We’ve all experienced the heightened awareness that we have of an event when we feel truly emotional about it.

Neuroscientists can now suggest that emotional significance does indeed influence our perceptions – and that the amygdala is the portion of the brain that is responsible. Researchers at Yale and New York University have shown that the amygdala “alters the ease by which events with increased emotional value reach awareness.”

These findings suggest that our perceptual systems are exquisitely tuned to the occurrence of emotionally significant stimulus events, requiring much less attention or effort to reach conscious awareness compared to events of neutral value.

In other words, out attention is biased to pay more attention when emotion is involved. Motivational speakers know it. Preachers know it. Good teachers know it. Coaches need to know it as well. A little bit of passion can go a long way.

I have long remembered something that was said to me some years ago in the midst of an emotional turmoil at the time – “People will forget what you say to them. They will never forget how you make them feel.” I’ve found that to be true over the years.

Link: EurekAlert

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Have a Bad Memory?

The brain can suppress emotional memories is the suggestion of a new study by the University of Colorado at Boulder. It takes practice, and the results are quite preliminary, but it has medical implications certainly for people suffering from depression and other disorders. It could also have implications for coaching.

One of the more difficult aspects in coaching is helping a person deal with the resulting worldview “cage” created by the strong impact of negative emotional experiences. The emotion colors the thinking and can make it nearly impossible to think apart from it. It would certainly be useful if techniques could be developed that could be used from more than a clinical standpoint. Whether that is likely remains to be seen.

Link: Science Daily

9 Ways to Say “No” with Grace

You’re busy. You have a full agenda and yet you’re part of an organization too. Which means that others are going to ask you to do things and unless you’re comfortable with the social consequences of being the person that everyone knows doesn’t ever help anyone else, you’re going to have to know how to say “no” with a bit of tact and grace.

Here are nine good ways to say no in no particular order. Why not ten? No reason. Continue reading 9 Ways to Say “No” with Grace

Paying Taxes Makes me Feel Good?

Under certain circumstances . . . yes. At least according to a recent study by three University of Oregon researchers. In situations where taxes went to help a charitable cause the same pleasure centers in the brain were activated as when eating chocolate or some other favored pleasure.

“The surprising element for us was that in a situation in which your money is simply given to others – where you do not have a free choice – you still get reward-center activity,” said Ulrich Mayr, a professor of psychology. “I don’t think that most economists would have suspected that. It reinforces the idea that there is true altruism – where it’s all about how well the common good is doing. I’ve heard people claim that they don’t mind paying taxes, if it’s for a good cause – and here we showed that you can actually see this going on inside the brain, and even measure it.”

What might this mean for our old friend Ted? His threat level is down because he’s not afraid of being penalized for failure to pay his taxes. And emotionally he’s feeling pretty good as his reward-centers give him good feelings. As to his thoughts, well the idea of giving to a charity, even involuntarily, resonates with his personal ideas about what it means to do “good.” All three of his systems are pretty congruent and Ted’s at peace with the world for the moment . . . whatever his personal feelings on the how, what or when of it all.

There are of course other factors besides reward that play into altruism. A recent Duke University study suggests that worldview might be more significant than individual action in fostering altruistic behavior. (Activation of Brain Region Predicts Altruism). And there are many other points in the continuing research and discussion.

Interesting implications for coaching situations would seem to revolve around motivation and self-interest. To highly altruistic individuals, appeal to the common good could prove a sufficiently motivating force. To the less altruistic, the University of Oregon study suggests that encouragement in terms of personal reward might be a pragmatic motivational tool.

In any case, it seems that an appeal to altruistic behavior through the “it will make you feel good” rationale may have some actual physiological validity.

Link: http://Paying Taxes, According to the Brain, can bring Satisfaction

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Yawning your Way to Alertness

Psychologists Andrew Gallup and Gordon Gallup of the State University of New York at Albany suggest that yawning boosts blood flow to the brain and enhances alertness by cooling it down. And “catching a yawn” in a group setting may actually serve to collectively enhance group attentiveness as it passes from one person to another. It may well be physiologically true. But the next time you’re coaching along and your coachee begins yawning . . . he may maintain that he’s only trying to be more attentive (rather than finding you boring). Yeah, right – and how’s that for a difference in mental models?

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