I was once invited by a coaching supervisor to depict a live piece of work with a client. I focused on a forthcoming assignment in Asia and drew a diagram representing the different people involved, the relationships between them and the explicit and implicit agendas. I drew a solid line between myself and the key client representing ‘strategy’ (explicit agenda) and a dotted line representing my underlying expertise in ‘psychological dynamics’ (implicit agenda).
She challenged me to re-draw my dotted line as a solid line, to do it and not simply to imagine how I might feel if I was to do it. This proved to be a profound and pivotal moment for me in grasping Gestalt. As I picked up the pen and drew the line, I felt a sudden, powerful and unexpected surge of confidence arise within me. It convinced me to approach the contract with the client in more confident, proactive mode and to raise my implicit value to the explicit level.
In a later coaching session, I worked with a client who explained she felt stressed working with a particular colleague on a board of trustees. I noticed how physically animated she was as she spoke and so I suggested we might explore the issue using a physical experiment, drawing on Gestalt. She was keen to try it out so I invited her to recreate the board room where we were, to sit me where her colleague sits and to brief me on how he behaves.
She left the room, re-entered and immediately stiffened and looked tense. I reflected this back, along with how tense I now felt as she approached me in role. In order to create and evoke a contrasting experience, I invited her to practice physical loosening before entering the room. She discovered a dance-like movement that helped her relax, increased her confidence and provided an alternative entry style. The difference and impact was transformational.
Nick is a psychological coach, OD consultant and trainer, specialising in critical reflective practice.