What makes coaching so powerful? I’ve seen time and time again that clients’ state, almost invariably, improves quickly once the coaching relationship starts.

This does not mean that all the problems are immediately solved.  No, a long road may lie ahead.  But, with a well-trained professional, it is almost guaranteed that the early-stage results will be highly encouraging for both the coach and the client.

Why is that?  Surprisingly, the answer lies in human chemistry.  In order to trigger this natural mechanism, the coach and the client need to fulfill only one condition:  Establish a bond of trust.

How does this work?  In simplest terms, the mechanism copies the nascent relationship that a newborn infant establishes with the caregiver­.  The infant has a higher chance to become a healthy adult if, from the very first days of its life, its eyes meet a friendly gaze of the caring adult.  A reaction by the caring adult will lead to increased secretion of oxytocin, a peptide created in the hypothalamus of the infant’s brain.  This friendly contact between the caregiver and the infant is so powerful that the level of the stress hormone cortisol is depressed, thus reducing propensity for fear.  At the same time, the levels of serotonin and endogenous opioids rise, increasing the overall sensation of well-being and calm.

Importantly, while all these functions are maintained into adulthood, secretion of oxytocin leads to the development of new cells in adult brain. When two human beings establish a relation of trust, the secretion of oxytocin is intensified.

This explains largely why successful coaches see a seemingly smooth progress at early stages of engagement with the client.  When the client and the coach trust each other, a form of therapeutic alliance emerges. This leads to sharp fall in the client’s stress levels.

The same chemical processes happens between an infant and his caregiver are responsible for breakthroughs in the coaching context.  According to neurobiological research conducted recently in Germany, between 30% and 70% of the success rate at early stages of the coaching engagement may be attributed to this phenomenon, regardless of the coaching method adopted.

Consequently, it is important that aspiring coaches develop the skillset to establish such a deep level of connectivity with the client.  The coach needs to learn how to hold space for the client.  Holding space means the ability to experience the content of the present experience by striking a delicate balance:  between affirming and challenging the client at the same time.

While these basic coaching skills will benefit from the genius of human chemistry, longer-term success will rely much more on a reliable method and appropriate calibration of the approach to the client’s personality.  This requires commitment and there won’t be many ‘chemical’ shortcuts there.

But those early-stage progress will still feel good, and they lay the foundations for sustainable coaching success!

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