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A brief history of non-directing coaching: with Dr. Leonardo Ravier, Part II – The Human Element

(The editor apologizes for the delay in the publication of this next installment.  Covid-19 interrupted our workflow for a bit.)

Q: Dr. Ravier, can you provide an example of adulteration?

Sure. Unfortunately, much of what is known as “coaching” implies an adulteration of its non-directive essence. “Ontological Coaching”, for example, uses coaching to introduce a philosophy or way of seeing the world, which in addition to being inconsistent with the non-directive essence of coaching, is false and potentially harmful. “Transformational” coaching models are another obvious example of adulteration of the most basic and fundamental premise of coaching.  Transformational coaching approaches are premised upon techniques, tools and methods that are diametrically opposed to what coaching is. Another type of adulteration occurs when ‘coaching’ is mixed with “NLP”, “therapies”, “Enneagram”, “Constellations”, and any other practices that insert into the coaching relationship an agenda, content, learning path that is not the coachee’s path. All adulterate, to a greater or lesser extent, its essence.

Response:  I thank you very much for clarifying how the adulteration occurs and what it may entail.  I have, for instance, wondered at statements by a well-known coaching accreditation firm, and to the effect that it “teaches nothing” (which would be a non-directive approach), while I see that the coach training programs it accredits are often conducted in conjunction with “NLP”, or other training.   I also know of many coaches who hold accreditation with this body, are often certified or accredited as “NLP” practitioners, or in “neuro-leadership” techniques; presumably, they are incorporating these ‘technologies’ into their coaching work.

Q: I know this is a HUGE question, but could you briefly explain your understanding of how non-directive principles have influenced the practice of coaching, a brief history of NDC, so to speak?

In short, the genealogy of coaching derives from:

  1. the method of Plato’s Socrates that induces a respondent to formulate latent concepts through a dialectic or         logical sequence of questions,
  2. the original existentialist position of Kierkegaard who presented the value of learning from our own experience,
  3. the original phenomenology of Husserl under the attitude of not judging through the Greek concept of “epoché” (ἐποχή),
  4. Carl Rogers’ methods of non-directivity in therapy, Tim Gallwey’s constructs related to not providing ‘instructions’ to the learner, the coachee, and, finally,
  5. the key “tacit knowledge” epistemological distinction of Michael Polanyi’s, which is present, implicitly and transversally, throughout the entire historical-evolutionary journey mentioned above. Basically, traditional aid processes, have so far been based on helping from the “outside-in” (i.e, are transfer-based). Coaching provides help where learning happens from “inside-out” (i.e. without transfer).  And this requires the mastery of specific skills.

Q:  Thank you, this is very helpful.  Please bear with me, here, but can you clarify that coaches who  –  with, or without the consent of their clients — utilize psychotherapeutic methods, NLP, or other interventions are helping from the “outside-in”, and that in doing so they are depriving their clients of benefits that are unique to coaching?

Yes, that would be my position.

Q: Do you have any non-directive advice 😉 for coaches, coaching clients, and other stakeholders who want to learn more about NDC?

Unlike what can be seen in the world of coaching training, the domain of non-directivity takes time and focus. Understanding, integrating, and practicing non-directivity is a truly complex art. The idea seems simple, but it is not.  And, its practice even less so.

Soon, I will be defending my doctoral thesis in psychology on a General Theory of Coaching.  I am hopeful that the framework I have developed will provide a great place to start.

Until then,  I recommend the books by Tim Gallwey (e.g. The Inner Game of Tennis), John Whitmore (e.g. Coaching for Performance), Graham Alexander (e.g. Supercoaching), Alan Fine (e.g. You Already Know How to be Great), Myles Downey (e.g. Effective Modern Coaching) and my own (e.g. Non-Directive Coaching).  Interested parties could also visit our International Non-Directive Coaching Society website https://www.internationalcoachingsociety.com/ for more information.

Practicing coaches can benefit by monitoring their coaching conversations and becoming aware of how and when they may be transferring their own knowledge or perspectives, or are providing ‘advice’ to the client.  Journaling coaching conversations would be a great way to increase awareness of when they are being directive.

Response:  OK, thanks so much for all of this! We look forward to the publication of your General Theory of Coaching.

We also hope to greet you in Japan sometime soon, or, to welcome you remotely.

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