Motivational Interviewing: An Exploration Into The Use Of Positive Affirmations

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After a phone call with a colleague on the topic of affirmations, I was struck by the coincidence of having a project in motion where I was describing the use of positive affirmations and motivational interviewing in coach training. In the middle of this work, my phone rang. If you are familiar with my coaching style and its impact on the way we develop certifications, you know how and why we love and appreciate motivational interviewing. It is a standard for dialogue in the early stages of coaching and it’s important to do it right.

Depending on where you are in your coach training journey and experience, you might know this already. Largely through trial and error, previous generations of coaches fine-tuned and tweaked coaching deliverable services without any training related to psychology, where motivational interviewing has its roots. They were winging it. I know this to be a fact, I am guilty of it.

Depending on where you are in your coach training journey and experience, you might know this already. Largely through trial and error, previous generations of coaches fine-tuned and tweaked coaching deliverable services without any training related to psychology, where motivational interviewing has its roots. They were winging it. I know this to be a fact, I am guilty of it.

Training in dialogue skills should be part of a well-rounded coach training course!

I remember the first time I had formal training as a coach and how I was shocked at how far I had made it working as a corporate wellness coach without training! But I also knew it was going to change everything.

The Past Work of Coaches Informs Newer Generations

We have to be honest and acknowledge that there are coaches who have been delivering wellness, health, and fitness services for decades before us. In fact, we learn from them. They become our mentors and they tell us things like “if I knew what I know now, I’d try things differently“.

Decades and generations of training coaches have given rise to a common belief that we can’t coach someone else until we are (fill in the blank – well, fit, etc.) ourselves. If this statement wasn’t so accurate, we might be tempted to call it an assumption.

On one hand, it sounds a bit altruistic that we would say something like well, I’m going to really learn to figure out my own stuff – get things sorted on my own – before I help someone else. This often leads us to look inward, doing a self-assessment of things we feel we may need. A good coach is always looking at ways to improve service to their client experiences; your competitors are – it’s time to acknowledge this, too.

As part of this process, positive affirmations should be a dominant theme within your collection of self-reflection. These can be thoughts, spoken in conversation, or even written down (journaling works well for this).

To be our best at coaching, we work to harness our strengths, but we must first uncover what these are. It doesn’t involve expectations or someone else’s idea of what they want or need for themselves, it is your situation and scene to own, create and orchestrate. We rely on positive affirmations to have the confidence to use other coaching skills, like intuition, for example.

What Do Positive Affirmations Sound Like?

It doesn’t have to be a formal construct. It could just be a simple acknowledgment within a conversation, reflected back to the client. A coach is tuned in for those times when we hear the client say something positive. Obviously, this also requires that we have great listening skills.

Your own positive affirmations are easy to list. Think of traits that are unique to the puzzle that you are.

We never need to be perfect. But coaches need the confidence to put forth our best coaching presence. With this, we can be a Master. Just as an expert delivers messages learned from their work, we teach our clients to do the same. In other words, a trainer, who is not the most perfect, physically fit person in the room; a weight counselor who might be carrying some extra pounds, or a coach, who may have stress-limits levels that exceed what is healthy; all can still be great coaches! But the reality: we are sometimes seen as being able to help others but we don’t always get it right for ourselves.

This might be a byproduct of the very work coaches do, we tend to put ourselves in the backseat or on the back burner and devote our best energy to our client.

But we also need to continue thriving. Positive affirmations force us to look inward and dig for our own actions, behaviors or traits that are positive in nature and help us live well in some way. It might even be a person; we talk about positive emotional attractors (PEAs) in our coaching models. It’s the exact process we might use with a client.

Your “listening for” skills are a Coach Doing Skill

In service to our clients,
Julia Kristiansen

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