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Warm & Fuzzy vs. No-BS

Somebody recently asked me whether my approach to coaching was "warm & fuzzy" or "no-BS." People who know me outside of coaching expect my answer to be "no-BS" because I usually say what I mean without vague or flowery words. However, my answer is "both": coaching combines some warm & fuzzy elements with a no-bullshit approach.

The no-bullshit part is at the core of coaching. People come to coaching to change something or grow in some area. This requires intentionality and a readiness to get to work.

The warm & fuzzy part inevitably comes into play when the client runs into impediments. Those impediments may masquerade as practical but are often psychological. For example, the client's problem may sound like this: "my marketing counterpart is being really annoying and overwhelms me with time-consuming requests." That may sound practical until you realize that the client generally struggles with building strong relationships with stakeholders, which blocks his/her career growth. Of course, helping the client in this area requires more than a straightforward no-BS pragmatic approach. That's the place to help the client reflect on what work relationships mean to them, what they assume about their colleagues, how their assumptions work for them, etc. No action, just reflection. That is the warm & fuzzy part.

Moreover, oftentimes that level of warmth & fuzziness doesn't cut it. Popular psychology & coaching make it look like most psychological problems can be solved with a quick exercise, like "changing perspective" or "rewriting your life story." Of course, a grumpy skeptic like me cringes at this. To be fair, techniques and exercises like these do help, at least momentarily: they help adjust the behavior and gain a feeling of control. The problem is that such methods most often address the symptom rather than the root cause. The behavior changes, and the immediate feeling changes, but the person does not.

Thus, it is often a good idea to combine coaching with psychotherapy. Moreover, not any therapy but psychodynamic therapy. Alright, I have to go dodge all the rotten tomatoes now.


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