Sometimes who we are doesn’t embrace who we want to be – and it acts accordingly

Occasionally coachees, who are motivated to participate in their coaching programme, seem unable to progress despite logically understanding the steps they need to take. Although these desired behaviours are natural to other people, it appears that at some level these coachees find it questionable as to whether they can also act in these ways. Thus, their nonconscious response is to curb their attempts at trying to change their current behaviour.  

This phenomenon has been called ‘reflexive hindering’.

These coachees are often fused with their responses, which can feel unquestionably obvious and pertinent. This makes it difficult for them to be objective and think about how to advance their goals. Research has shown that understanding some fundamentals of the brain, how it tends to operate and why improves the efficacy of coaching these coachees.

Their brain may be their biggest challenge

Reflexive hindering can manifest in various ways during a coaching programme. It evolves as a growing cautiousness towards discussing possibilities and developing options for action, which seem increasingly implausible. Thus, it progressively hampers the coachee’s ability to take meaningful actions and curbs progress towards their desired coaching objectives.

So, if coachees,

  • Keep reverting back to their usual behaviour
  • Are stuck on something that they say they want to change 
  • Realise that they are getting in the way of their own progress
  • Understand what they need to do but only do small aspects and reiterate that it is difficult to change
  • Have negative thoughts/assumptions or unhelpful emotional responses that they seem unable to avert

        then they could be hampered by reflexive hindering rather than being resistant to coaching or having low coachability. It is possible however to change the above situations by having a MERE Coaching Conversation.

A coachee can usually logically comprehend that they are hampered by the responses they are experiencing once it is brought into their awareness. Research shows that using a purposedly designed infographic to appreciate pertinent aspects about the brain and how it tends to operate and why, can give the following benefits:

Benefits for coachees

  • An explanatory understanding of brain function that makes it real
  • Real insights that make a difference
  • Puts a focus on being kind to yourself and others
  • Creates a subject to object shift
  • Invigorates a commitment for action
  • Belief or hope that change could happen

Benefits for coaches

  • Useful structure and aide-memoir
  • Creates an immersive and instructive neurobiological exploration
  • Can be an easy-to-use neuroscience-based tool
  • Gives coach or coaching credibility
  • Enables different (insightful/ explanatory) conversations
  • A deeper understanding of neuroscience

Overall, there are three main considerations informed by my research and coaching experience, that can basically be summed up as,

“It would be good to know what you are up against”:

  • Realistic appreciation: In coaching we look to explore the situation and what helps and hinders coachees. When reflexive hindering is present, I believe it is worth adding in brain function as well. Then coachees know what they are up against with respect to themselves and can make more informed choices.
  • Compelling belief: Realistic appreciation creates a firmer basis for coachees believing that they can change this dynamic – that these aspects of who they are, are not as absolute as they appear. It appears helpful to appreciate that this seemingly innate response is probably a learned response at a time when they were not fully aware of that happening.
  • Pragmatic hope: At a high level, it is also useful to think about what it realistically takes to achieve some of these changes.

Knowing the above information in an explanatory way can be insightful in understanding how coachees may hinder themselves. It can also explain the seemingly contradictory responses and thoughts that might be present. Overall, it gives coachees a different perspective and the ability to explore different actions with this new awareness.

In order to facilitate this conversation, I have designed a relevant applied-neuroscience infographic and a webinar series covering its content and best practice on its use within a coaching programme.

Find out more here