Building Social Confidence in the Avoidant NT Client: Part Four on Customizing Your Coaching
In part four of this five-part Customize Your Coaching series, we look at assisting Evan, the 25 year-old INTP Theorist, who would like to find a girlfriend, but who freezes up when interacting with attractive women.
As a result of this problem, Evan has avoided contact with women he does not know. Avoidance is a favored defense for Theorists who are feeling incompetent in one or another aspect of their lives.
Evan has sought coaching assistance as a last resort, and in true Theorist form, he is skeptical that the coach will be able to help him. He will be watching closely to determine if the coach is competent and worthy of his confidence and trust.
What are some considerations and suggestions for coaching Evan?
· Any efforts to convince Evan that he should trust you and your methods are likely to be met with suspicion. A more effective approach would be to commend Evan for his skepticism and indicate that it is reasonable for him to question whether you can help him.
· Monitor your use of language. Theorists say what they mean and mean what they say. You are more likely to earn Evan’s respect if your speech is clear, precise, and to the point.
· Because Theorist clients are often reluctant to open up to a counselor or coach, it will be particularly important to spend time establishing safety in the coaching relationship through reflective listening, asking open-ended questions, and the expression of genuine empathy.
· Like their Improviser cousins, Theorists value their autonomy. It is vital to establish a clear verbal contract with Evan regarding his goals, and a plan for how coaching will proceed. The more input the Theorist has over the coaching process, the more comfortable and cooperative he or she will be.
· Theorist clients often attempt to use analysis and debate as a way of avoiding discussion of their emotions. This means they may prefer to analyze words, meanings, behaviors, etc., and challenge your statements, instead of talking about what is troubling them. If you find yourself trying hard to convince Evan of anything, it is time to point your session in a different, more fruitful direction.
· Another way Theorists may avoid uncomfortable emotional topics is through the use of intellectualization. When asked what they feel, they may tell you what they think instead. For example, instead of saying, “I feel sorry,” they will say, “I think I made a mistake.” Or instead of, “I am scared,” they will say, “There is reason to be afraid.” Evan may need your help in discerning the difference between his thoughts and emotions.
· Currently, Evan is avoiding interaction with women due to his feelings of incompetence. An important goal for the coaching sessions would be to help build his confidence in the social skills arena.
· Theorists appreciate abstract models that help them make sense of themselves, other people, and the world around them. If he was not yet familiar with type and temperament, one might introduce that framework as a way of helping Evan navigate the territory of human relationships.
· As a Theorist, Evan would also respond well to research findings pertaining to the topic at hand. For example, one might share articles from peer-reviewed social psychology journals on topics such as “attraction,” and “making a positive social impression.”
· Sometimes, INTPs can unwittingly turn a dialogue into a lecture on a complex topic that is not of particular interest to the listener. Role-playing would be a powerful way to build Evan’s confidence, and to help him develop basic social skills that enable him to become more comfortable with the give and take of a conversation. He may benefit from learning to smile more, read body language, listen deeply, give direct eye contact, and ask open-ended questions.
· Eventually, Evan may be willing to try some “experiments” for “data collection” and “gaining competence.” An example would be asking Evan to initiate two or three very brief conversations a week with anyone with whom he feels comfortable. The purpose would be for him to have the chance to practice some of his newly acquired social skills.
· Evan could benefit from learning to focus more on his strengths than his weaknesses to overcome his propensity to judge himself harshly. One way to encourage this shift in perspective would be to suggest that he compile a written list of things he did well during each of his real world practice sessions.
· Eventually, as Evan grows in confidence, the goal would be to have him practice initiating brief conversations with women he finds attractive. Chances are, by this point, he would have recognized that the key to his success lies in expressing genuine interest in the other person.
Coaching is not a “one size fits all” business. The temperament model saves time and optimizes results by providing a useful framework for adjusting one’s coaching style and methods to best meet the needs of each client.
Be sure to look for my final article in this series in which I discuss methods for coaching the Catalyst (NF).
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All the Best,