My first degree was in Chemistry and it is fair to say that this has not often been of great use to me in my coaching career. However, there is a time and a place for everything in coaching and it surprised me how the topic of chemistry popped up in a coaching conversation recently. It was also a good example of how metaphors can be used to challenge clients. My client was describing to me how whenever they ‘surrendered’ to a situation this was always followed by a feeling of ‘abandonment’. My intuition suddenly popped into my head the word ‘composite’ and true to our principle in the ‘S’ of the FACTS coaching model of ‘Giving the system a voice’, I said ‘Oh, that sounds like a composite’. Here is the dialogue that followed:-
Coachee : ‘A composite?’
Coach: ”Yes, you know when you put two separate things together and make them into one. Like water.”
Coachee: ”Water? How do you mean?’
Coach: ”Well, water is made up of hydrogen and oxygen which are two separate elements that can combine together to produce water. If you were a fish then you would think that water was one thing because that is all you have ever experienced yet a chemist would know that water is made up of two things.’
Coachee: ”Mmm…that’s interesting. So maybe I have made one thing out of my feelings of ‘surrender’ and ‘abandonment’?’
Coach: ”Yep, maybe that’s possible. If that were true and you were a chemist not a fish then you could break down the composite into its two constituent elements and then create something new like taking the hydrogen from water and combining it with chlorine to make hydrochloric acid’.
Coachee: ‘Ok, so how about I take the feeling of ‘surrender’ and I combine it with something new like ‘joy’ and make a new composite?’
Coach: ‘Yes, that’s right because you are a creative chemist. You must be to have made the original composite and you can use that same creativity to combine ‘surrender’ with ‘joy’.’
Coachee: ‘Yes, I can’
….and so the dialogue went on. Afterwards, I realised that I had trusted my intuition to introduce my own metaphor and then followed this without really knowing what I was doing. Practitioners of NLP will notice a number of techniques being used in the dialogue (trance induction, reframing, modal operators of possibility, cause and effect linkages) but I was not aware of them at the time, I was just enjoying being creative (modelling). lol.