In today’s guest post Andy Lucas shares his coaching and therapeutic experience as he focuses upon beliefs.
Believe it or not
by Andy Lucas
It seems to me beliefs are an intrinsic part of coaching and therapy, whether it be the belief by you, your client or both. And along the journey, during the dance between coach and client, all kinds of beliefs emerge, both generative and limiting.
So how do we help our clients to overcome limiting beliefs and to “power up” the generative ones?
When I completed my training all those years ago I remember being excited about using all the great stuff I’d learnt. But then as I actually worked with clients on a daily basis I didn’t always achieve the rate of change I’d anticipated. I sometimes got disappointed and even disillusioned about what I’d been taught, or at least what I thought I’d been taught.
Then things got really exciting because I became determined to understand what else I could do to become more confident about helping people. I became intrigued, even obsessed about the role of belief in coaching. As I investigated further I decided beliefs are probably just a string of thoughts giving meaning to what we see, feel and hear. As Plato wrote in Timaeus, we “should not look for anything more than a likely story”. And perhaps that’s all a belief is – “a likely story”.
If you’re going to make up stories then you might as well make them good ones.
As I continued to study and practise I began collecting a range of resources to work with beliefs. Some were just useful tips or ideas, others were entire approaches or techniques and all became part of an essential toolkit. And I wonder if this toolkit might help other coaches too.
BELIEF TOOLKIT (OR A FEW RULES IF YOU LIKE RULES)
Stay out of the way
A shamanic instructor once taught me the importance of staying out of the way when working with clients. Even though it can be tempting to offer advice or ask “content-leading questions” our work is generally more effective when we resist that temptation and allow our clients to generate their own solutions. So I have a rule for myself – do whatever it takes for the client to create their own generative beliefs. And if they’re thinking “stupid stuff” let them make it so stupid they find it impossible not to notice.
Get on with it
Belief follows experience so I reckon it’s a good idea to generate a rewarding experience for your client at the very first meeting. You want your client to believe in the work you do right? Creating a good experience for them at the outset is a good start, because experiences lead to belief. Perhaps there’s no better way to ensure your client believes in your work than to have them experience concrete or visible evidence at the very beginning. (And you might find you get to believe in yourself more too.)
Get out of your head.
I let loose my internal police from time to time, just to make sure I’m doing my job properly. And the chief asks me “Who are you treating, yourself or your client?” That’s all I need to hear to create total inner silence as the client begins to speak. I wonder what kind of ritual you might develop for yourself to create and maintain your external focus, the kind of state that has you pay close attention to your client’s communication.
Acknowledge the nature of belief.
Christian De Quincey in his book “Consciousness from Zombies to Angels” offers a simple seven step guide for “experience beyond belief”. Running through this process as a guided “closed eyes contemplation” can offer a useful foundation for your programme of coaching / therapy, because it gives the client an opportunity to develop flexibility in thinking and believing.
Do believing the client’s way
I like to find out how the client gets to be convinced about something, what they already believe strongly, how they “do believing strongly”. Help your client change their own beliefs, when they want to, by working with those structures of belief. I like Richard Bandler’s use of submodalities in belief change in his book “Get the Life You Want”, pages 19 to 30 Building New Beliefs: The Structure of Certainty”.
Notice the “degrees of belief”
Perhaps a client is presenting an analogue rather than digital function of belief. It isn’t necessarily a choice of believing or not believing. Maybe there is a scale. How does a given proposition measure up against hope, intent, fear? What is their attitude to it? Does the client have a scale and how do they move things on that scale.
Use the client’s believable inner voice
If a client wants to use compelling affirmations or self dialogue what kind of voice will have them pay attention and believe it? Michael Neill in his book “SuperCoach” demonstrates how to “make believe” something is true. In his exercise “Changing the Movie of Your Life” he illustrates a practical approach acknowledging the effect of the tone of the internal voice and of the kind of feelings when generating beliefs.
Use an outcome frame
When preparing a session I ask myself “What are you doing to help your client move their focus from beliefs about problems to beliefs about solutions?” Even though it can be tricky for a client to resist focusing on a limiting belief some conversational approaches do the job. Robert Dilts, in his book “Sleight of Mouth – The Magic of Conversational Belief Change”, uses conversational skills to shift attention from a “problem frame” to an “outcome frame”. You can also read about focusing on solutions in Bill O’Connell’s “Solution-Focused Therapy (Brief Therapies Series)”.
Have a laugh or quote someone else (or both)
Often the easiest way a client breaks free from the chains of an unwanted limiting belief is through humour. Frank Farrelly’s book “Provocative Therapy” is about using humour in therapy and coaching. Even though some examples in the book can be shocking it is still worth reading to explore the art of using humour to illicit rapid belief change. I often hedge my bets with this approach and start a potential piece of provocation by saying “If Frank Farrelly were here he might say to you…..”
Have a sing song
I think there’s a good song about most things. I don’t know if it has anything to do with coaching but it makes me feel good. And don’t we all owe it to our clients to do that? So here’s some music from the wonderful Jocelyn Brown called “Believe”. She says “ …. all you need to do is find a way”.
About the Author/Further Resources
Andy lives and works in Brighton. He is an NLP trainer (Society of NLP), coach, hypnotherapist and meditation instructor with a particular interest in Hawaiian Huna and Yoga Nidra.
Visit www.springtomind.co.uk for more details about Andy’s work.