Top Menu

Relational Coaching (part 3)

Knowing You – the coachee

There are several ways that we can deepen our understanding of the person in front of us.  Broadly speaking, we use cognitive, intuitive and somatic data to know our coachee better. All of these functions operate naturally from the moment we first speak with a new coachee; using this data to hone interventions, is a powerful coaching skill. As our coaching conversation continues, we learn more about the coachee, through the energetic exchange between us. We read this somatically and cognitively; for example, the exchange may be light and dancing or sticky and draining. We may feel pulled off centre or deeply touched by the coaching conversations, as sessions progress. It’s all information that can teach us about the person we work with and about how best to serve them.

In this energetic exchange, we may notice patterns. For example, we may notice coachees who get regularly caught up in other people’s dramas, or who try too hard and get tired. Or the coachee may put us on a pedestal; we need to know if that too, is a pattern and how it affects the power dynamic in their other relationships. It’s important to note here that we need to have a coaching approach to exploring personal history – we are not therapists. So, enabling the coachee to be more aware of patterns in their history in order to give them some cognitive holding, is valuable. What is not useful is if we unpack what we cannot hold; we need to know the limits of our own competence. That provides safety for the coachee and for us, as professionals.

Coaching Psychology has developed significantly in recent years to support coaches to ‘read’ the person in front of them and to be more aware of what is occurring in their professional relationships. Coaching has taken some excellent practices from Transactional Analysis and Gestalt theory, for example. Many coaches now use TA’s Parent, Adult, Child (PAC) model or the superb communications tool, the Karpman Drama Triangle, to get a much better understanding of their coaches and of the relational dance between them. Others may use a Gestalt or Transpersonal framework to attend deeply to both body and mind in order to understand the coachee.

We are fortunate to have access to a growing number of disciplines that can enable coaches to achieve real insight into the relational side of coaching. Since our services are more needed than ever, it is important that we equip ourselves as well as we can. I include some resources that you may find useful.


J Welwood: Awakening the Heart 1983

Lewis, Amini and Lannon: A General Theory of Love 2000

Eric de Haan Relational Coaching 2008

Rollin Mc Graty Article on The Resonant Heart.

Miriam Orriss: Article on the Karpman Drama Triangle

Bill Critchley: Article on Relational Coaching

Edna Murdoch 2012