Coaching with compassion

Coaching in a positive way allows the person being coached to open up and be more perceptive. Coaching in such a way where the person being coached feels angry or guilty may cause this person to shut down. These findings come from neuro-scientists at Case Western have examined the brain’s response pathways to different coaching styles. I should point out here that coaching in these cases refers more to the type of coaching you would experience in the business world… arguably, there are many carry-overs to sports coaching.

This video would suggest that coaches should give communication in a positive manner that is future focused. This is well established in the positive coaching literature, but it is always helpful to see the hard neuroscience connection to back it up. However, the other side of the equation is the athlete, and I am not entirely convinced that compassionate communication by the coach always engenders the desired response from the athlete.

I have recently been intrigued by the concept of being “coachable.” The term for some coaches means agreeable and cooperative, but a more modern examination of the term shows that a coachable athlete assumes more responsibility and establishes firm, bi-directional communication with the coach. According to these findings at Case Western, we might expect that a coachable athlete is experiencing more parasympathetic stimulation during communication. The chicken/egg question? Does the athlete experience this type of stimulation despite the type of communication from the coach? Meaning, is there something different about the brain of a coachable athlete? Has a coachable athlete trained his or her brain to react perceptively to coach feedback, no matter how it is delivered? Coachable athletes seem to be able to experience success under a variety of coaching styles, suggesting that they know how to get what they need from their relationship with the coach.

Perhaps future research could examine a coachable athlete responding to different types of coaching styles, and examine the brainwaves to look for differences. I would hypothesize that coachability is primarily learned from childhood, but also could have some genetic components to it. Interesting work, nonetheless.

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