What is the importance of recognising emotions in Coaching?

Recognising Emotions!

Have you considered the importance of recognising emotions in Coaching? Let me expand, how good are you at recognising your own emotions? How about emotions in your clients?

Recognising or Perceiving Emotions is one of the Branches of the MSCEIT (Mayer, Salovey and Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test). Some people are naturally good at recognising their own emotions and some are less perceptive. This is also true when it comes to recognising emotions in other people.

I want to start by exploring why this is important for you as a Coach first. There are two main reasons for you to be able to recognise emotions in yourself.

The first is self-awareness, being able to understand your own process is essential for your well-being and self-care. For example, if you don’t recognise when something is distressing you there could be stress responses triggered that will have a negative impact on your well-being and resilience. The same applies to your clients.

As a Coach your level of self-awareness is a model for your client. If you are unaware of your own emotions you are unlikely to be equipped to fully help your client understand theirs.

The second reason is linked to the first, clients sometimes share stories that are triggering for you, the Coach. You need to be able to recognise when you are having a reaction that could be connected to Transference/ Counter transference. Recognising you have been triggered allows you to recognise that you may need some supervision to help you process.

Recognising emotions in others is the other side of this branch of Emotional Intelligence. Again, some are naturally gifted in this area while others are not. Clients will sometimes be expressing emotions or supressing emotions in the Coaching session.

Do you always notice at an early stage or do you need extreme signals to notice (eg tears)?

 Acknowledging when a client is experiencing emotions is an important part of the supportive element of the Coaching Relationship. This includes knowing how and when to acknowledge the emotion. Jumping in too quickly can be harsh, leaving it too long can feel unsupportive. How you acknowledge may interrupt the emotion, there are times when this is helpful and times when it is not.

Clients sometimes unconsciously or consciously suppress emotions. As a Coach there is a skill in noticing the signals of suppressed emotions. At times it is appropriate for the Coach to gently challenge possible suppressed emotions to check if there is awareness. When such emotions are out of the clients awareness they may gain valuable insight into their own process.

Even if the client is consciously suppressing emotions a gentle challenge may still be appropriate. As a Coach understanding that many people have been taught to suppress emotions in an unhealthy, think “stiff upper lip” culture. Deciding when or when not to challenge suppressed in emotions can be tricky and again may be a useful topic for supervision.

With both recognising emotions in self and others there is a scale that can be measured by tools such as MSCEIT.

The big question must be can you improve your ability to recognise emotions in self and others? I believe you can. As a Coach you can also help others to improve their ability.

When I studied for the MSCEIT whether it was possible to improve your ability to recognise emotions was a topic of discussion. The two tutors differed in their opinions. One said all aspects of Emotional Intelligence are fixed. The other that we can change it.

However they both agreed that you can learn strategies to compensate and boost your ability to recognise emotions.

Personally, I agree with the tutor who believed you can improve your Emotional Intelligence. This is good news because as Coach emotions are often part of the equation. Later in this series I will share some ideas about managing emotions.

We explore aspects of how to improve your recognition of emotions including reading micro expressions as part of the Positive Psychology Coaching module this month. Click the link for more details.

More to follow in my next article.

Melody Cheal MSc MAPP
Follow GWiz
Latest posts by Melody Cheal MSc MAPP (see all)