The Use of Self in Coaching

Use of self is a difficult concept to put in words, harder to put into action, and can be demonstrated more easily than described. However, it can be a very effective tool in a coach’s kit bag. Some coaches describe the use of self as simply self-disclosure, where personal information is shared by the coach to help understanding and the development of the coach/coachee relationship.

My Thoughts

In my view, this is a narrow definition of self and lacks imagination. It can be described as the observations and feelings evoked by a coachee that help build a deeper understanding of the coachee than can be gained by simply listening to the words said. It is about paying close attention to what the coachee evokes in you as a coach. By being aware of the coachee’s impact on you, you may learn something important about their impact on others. Your reactions to a coachee could reveal how other people may respond to the coachee’s interpersonal and communication style and these reactions could, therefore, be extremely useful in the coaching relationship.

Ask Yourself

Ask yourself the question: what am I noticing about the impact the coachee is having on me, what feelings are they invoking? What you observe, whether it is external factors (such as fist pumping) or the arousal of feelings, may be really important in helping the coachee become aware of their own true feelings or their impact on others. The coach’s awareness may not come from a single coaching session but could be built up over a number of sessions where the coach notices a pattern in the coachee’s themes, behaviour and the impact on the coach.

The Benefits

Once you can objectively understand your reactions to the coachee’s words and actions, you can choose to reflect these reactions back to the coachee where appropriate. The key to the successful use of self is not just the coach noticing the coachee’s impact on them but careful selection of if and when the coach should choose to share the observation with the coachee. This raises awareness in the coachee of their behaviour that may have been difficult to achieve through other means. I believe this raising of the coachee’s awareness and the increased possibility that the coachee, by being aware, has the choice to make changes, is the reason why the use of self is so important.

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