Coaching and Neuroscience

on BLOG, Coaching 10 set, 2017

Coaching e neuroscienze

For some years now, neuroscience is increasingly being used to provide a scientific base for coaching and justify its powerful process, leading to radical changes, new behaviours and habits, and challenging goals.

The term neuroscience refers to the scientific study of the nervous system, which includes not only the brain, but also the spinal cord and the networks of both neurons and sensory nerve cells, present throughout the body. In order to understand the links between thought, emotions, behaviours, memories, attitudes and illnesses, the neuro-scientists use highly sophisticated technologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging and neuro-imaging.

If applying neuroscience to coaching may seem exaggerated, I remind you that seventeen years ago the Dalai Lama went personally to the E.M. Keck Laboratory for Functional Brain Imaging and Behavior at the University of Wisconsin to provide – using Functional Magnetic Resonance – evidence of how the brain modifies its mode of functioning and its synapses, by changing states of consciousness and meditation. From that experience, the bestseller "Destructive emotions" was born, written by the Dalai Lama himself and Daniel Goleman.

Back to our topic, I can assert without any doubt that a certain knowledge of the brain is key for the coaches who want to make a quality leap in their own discipline: understanding the basic mechanisms of brain functioning can allow the coach to interpret more quickly and correctly some responses and reactions of the coachee, and to guide the client more effectively towards change and transformation. That, to happen, must necessarily "have the consensus" of the brain itself.

The crucial point, in my opinion, is precisely this: the change. Neuro-scientists confirm what each of us knows instinctively and by experience: a radical and lasting change is a very difficult goal to achieve. But why? Because, when our brain detects changes in the environment, it sends strong signals that something doesn't go as it should, that something threatening might happen. These signals come from the amygdala, the oldest, "reptilian" part of the brain, placed in the back of the skull. The amydgala is tasked with providing information on potential threats, both physical and psychological; if it's activated, strong signals will distract us from our goal of getting a change, reinforcing our commitment to maintaining the status quo ante.

If, on the contrary, by means of appropriate techniques, the coach manages to reassure the coachee and make him activate the prefrontal cortex – also known as the "executive brain" located in the front of the skull –, he will witness an "opening" to novelties and to visions of a different future. In that case, the brain, by interpreting and managing information and electrical/biochemical impulses, will allow to deal "the new" without blockages, but with empathy and foresight.

So we can say that one of the most important benefits of coaching is to allow the coachee to focus on what he really wants, pushing his willingness beyond the brain's anti-change signs. This can be done in a variety of ways: by using powerful questions, exploring the intuitions of the coachee, creating opportunities of reflection, modifying the points of view, simulating, and, above all, focusing heavily the coachee's attention to the change to be done and the new behavior to be taken. Thanks to the brain plasticity, focusing attention on something new allows us to create new connections, intruding thoughts and new behaviors, with an obvious effect on how we perceive and interact with the world around us.

 

 

 

 

 

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