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Here at the-Coaching Blog-run by Gerard O’Donovan, our aim is to constantly bring value to those seeking to improve their lives. Therefore we have a policy of publishing articles and materials by guest authors whom we value and appreciate. Today’s guest author is Piers Thurston (Australia).
Relationships, the ability to relate and connect, are like a watermark behind everything we encounter in the game of life. As coaches, our clients often present it to us overtly as a specific topic e.g. ‘I need to work on my relationship(s)’, but really it has an implication for every area of our life and work – from the very second we are born to the second we die, we are relating to others at some level.
I used to believe that open, honest and authentic communication was almost unsurpassable as a key foundation for creating a great relationship. I thought if you could at least talk things through together in an adult and open manner, you would be okay.
I coached from that perspective for many years and it enabled my clients to find new levels of awareness to create different and more effective ways to communicate with people and help them discover their authentic values and beliefs using models such as NLP meta programmes, rapport building techniques, transactional analysis, values elicitation etc. I would enable my clients to gain awareness and clarity of their values and ‘map of the world’ to ensure they found the best possible mate/friend/boss – whatever. Or find new ways to deal with people who saw things differently, and were different to them.
Did it work? To an extent, it was effective and my clients would report more functional and rewarding relationships.
But I see it differently now.
I have now woken up. My grounding and therefore the direction I am pointing my clients and myself in has shifted. Relating to another human being is innate. At a universal level, we are already in a relationship with everything. So you don’t need to create a relationship, you just need to get out of the way of yourself. Communication is there for when we need to mop up the low quality of mind moments where we are coming from a place of ego, attachment and insecurity. We don’t need it, and we shouldn’t rely on communication to mend stuff when we are feeling ‘bad’ (i.e. ‘ok honey let’s talk it through’). All that will happen is you will communicate your low quality of mind feelings, and compound the ‘problem’.
How we feel (our quality of mind at the moment) when we communicate is much more important than what we communicate. Now in my old way of supporting my clients, we used to focus far more on the content, the tone, and the ‘how’ of the messaging – not the ‘how’ of the feeling state you were coming from. Communication is just a channel for how we feel at any moment. If you are at some level (usually invisible) maintaining insecure thoughts, those feelings will just flow down the communication pipe to the other person. But a better rule of thumb is, if you don’t feel clear and quiet inside, don’t communicate (or least be aware of not taking your feelings too seriously).
Difference and Incompatibility
To paraphrase George and Linda Pransky in their fantastic book The Relationship Handbook, any degree of perceived incompatibility in a relationship is purely subject to how you think and feel at the moment. It is not about how different you are. Incompatibility is an illusion maintained by a low quality of mind and conditioned thinking. Surely not! Don’t we all have values and belief systems that will make us more or less compatible with another person? Well, it is true, we need to feel compatible, but we do not need to be compatible in an objective sense. Otherwise, you would not come across happy couples in the world who are so different from the outside or clone couples who argue like cats and dogs. Or the fact that most parents love their young kids unconditionally regardless of their behaviour (until they get into thinking patterns that say their kids need to be a certain way).
It is as simple as this – we, as a default, have an inbuilt ability to connect and build relationships, and that system is bigger and smarter than our personal thinking, intellect and ego. And just as we come with a biological physical immune system that keeps our health in check (and we don’t try to intellectualize getting rid of the flu, by the way), we are also blessed with a psychological system designed to keep your moods and hence connection in check. The trick, though, is to not obstruct this system with outside agents (analysis, self-help methods, and mental techniques) that prevent nature – our innate functioning – from doing its job. I am always amazed how my 3 and 5-year-old children can go from screaming ‘having a brother is the worst thing in the world’ to sitting lovingly together within minutes. They don’t get in the way of the self-correcting nature of the system, and they don’t add meaning to their low-quality thinking.
Well if the connection is innate and universal what is the role of a coach? Are we redundant?
The role of a coach is to help people wake up to that truth themselves and then pointing them towards the truth of the human psychological system.
We are all capable of experiencing ‘low quality of mind’ thinking coming from our habitual thought patterns (you could call it our conditioning). This acts as a block to our innate ability to connect with others, creating judgmental insecure thinking about ourselves and the world. This reduces our intimacy and affinity with others. Now the nature of our psychology is such that this gets normalised, becomes invisible and looks very real, so we start thinking there is a good reason not to connect with someone, and it is right and useful not to accept their views and behaviours. So what, at a fundamental level, is just some low quality thought, then establishes itself as some very real looking reasons not to connect to someone.
So as a coach my role is not to fix the content of a client’s thinking, understand why they have judgmental thinking or help them to contrive reasons to reframe their behaviour. My role is to point my clients to the nature of thought. The coaching intervention becomes about enabling them to see past their personal thinking through a shift in consciousness, creating an insight and fresh piece of thinking about the situation. This comes from their realisations about the nature of human experience and the nature of thought, not from fixing the content of it.
The nature of thought
My old strategies and theories devised to ‘fix’ relationships were simply not as effective. They just empowered and perpetuated thought. And thoughts, on their own, are neither good nor bad. They are formless, transient and not actually true. It is only when we unconsciously assign meaning to them or give them weight that they feel real to us. For example, are you 100% consistent in your thoughts about the same circumstances, in every moment, of every day? You might feel warm and loving towards your partner one moment, and the next feel they are annoying and incompatible to you. Which thought is true? Neither. They are just thoughts in the moment. And it works like this for everyone
Once my clients insightfully see the nature of thought, and how content is actually insignificant, clarity appears along with an innate ability to connect. So in a nutshell, I used to try to get my clients to have the ‘right’ stuff in their head about how to build relationships and communicate. Now I see that at a fundamental level, a truly clear head is all that is needed.
The understanding and grounding behind this approach to transformation is ‘The Three Principles’ – see my website to find out
Piers Thurston is one of London’s leading coaches and corporate trainers, specialising in mindset transformation. He has been coaching, facilitating and training professionally since 2001. Having created two coaching business Making Change Work and FeelHappyNow
His clients have included global bluechip organisations such as Unilever, Mars, Kraft, Coca Cola, Ford, HSBC, Bacardi, Tesco, and the UK government. As well as private clients ranging from national newspaper editors to world class professional sports stars.
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