Category Archive: Uncategorized

The benefits of feeling autonomous within your love relationship

twee_vlinders_378Most theories regarding love relationships focus on the need for intimacy, security and responsiveness. In the self determination theory this is just one of the needs that gets addressed (the need for relatedness). Besides this need for relatedness, it turns out that the degree in which the need for autonomy is fulfilled is a strong predictor of relationship satisfaction as is the fulfilment of the need for competence.

The self determination theory distinguishes autonomous functioning from controlled functioning. You may want to be in the relationship and choose to stay in the relationship volitionally, because you are completely behind maintaining your relationship. In that case you are autonomously motivated for your love relationship. On the other hand your motivation to maintain your love relationship can also be controlled. In that case you stay because you feel a pressure to do so, for instance for fear of social rejection or for financial reasons.

People who are autonomously motivated for their relationship and who function generally autonomously in life, respond less defensively during arguments with their love partner and are more open to their partner’s perspective. The reason for this is that autonomously motivated people have an integrated self concept, which is authentic and genuine, instead of an ego which has to be protected. This enables them to respond reflectively and regulate their emotions when they disagree with their partner, instead of responding in an attacking, defensive or aggressive manner. Autonomously motivated people also attribute failures and successes in equal measures to their own actions, whereas controlled motivated people attribute successes to themselves and failures to circumstances outside of their control.

Apart from the need for relatedness, the need for autonomy and the need for competence also play a major role in relationship satisfaction. If within the relationship the need for autonomy is fulfilled, this predicts higher relationship satisfaction, more commitment to the relationship and less conflicts. It turns out that how one love partner experiences the fulfilment of their need for autonomy not only predicts how satisfied that person is, but also predicts how satisfied their partner is.

Autonomy is not the same as independence, avoidance of intimacy, lack of interest and care or rebellion. Instead, autonomy is a deeply felt personal endorsement for your own actions and your commitment to other people. You could see it as the difference between reactive autonomy and reflective autonomy. Reactive autonomy refers to actively resisting the other person, trying to be independent of the other person, not being prepared to take anything on board what the other person tries to tell you. Reflective autonomy refers to making informed decisions which you fully endorse and which are firmly grounded in your awareness of your needs, interests and values. Included in this is an openness to your partners needs and a full willingness to take into account what he or she wants and needs.

So what can you do to fulfil your partners need for autonomy? The answers is to take into account and acknowledge your partners perspective without judging, offering choice and encouraging their initiatives, letting them be a self-starter and being responsive to them. The effect will be that your partner feels his basic needs are fulfilled, opens up emotionally to you, feels safe in your relationship and is more committed to the relationship. He or she will be more open to your needs and more responsive to them, will be better able to adjust himself or herself to the different needs of the both of you and will integrate you as a part of his or her own self.

Based on: self-determination and regulation of conflict in romantic relationships, Knee, Porter, Rodrigues in Human Motivation and interpersonal relationships

NOAM seven steps approach

CenterforprogressheaderIf you wish to get to know the progress focused approach, the NOAM seven steps are a good starting point. The seven steps approach is both a way of thinking as it is a coaching tool. My colleague, Coert Visser, and I developed the seven steps approach about ten years ago and we train coaches, managers and consultants to use this approach to make progress in their work.

NOAM seven steps

Ten progress focused interventions

tenThe progress focused approach is both about beliefs and techniques. In this post I write briefly about these beliefs. Beliefs, or mindset, and techniques, or interventions, together make or break a progess focused interaction. What people really think is hard to tell, but if what they think and what they say is not the same, they come across as disingenuous. So if you want to become more progress focused there are two rotary knobs available to you. One is to get to know progress focused interventions, like the positive behaviour descriptions or process compliments. The other is to reflect on your own mindset. What do you believe about the malleability of humans? What do you believe regarding what motivates people?

InProgressed focused interventions you will find ten progress focused interventions, if you want to make a start getting to know the progress focused approach.

Chapter: helping clients make progress

logoyuo (2)We, humans, are remarkably resilient and self supporting. Very often we know exactly where we want to go and what works best for us to get there. A progressed focused coach keeps these kinds of thoughts at the back of his mind, when talking to his clients. He asks all sorts of questions which help the client to vividly visualise what he wants to achieve. He also helps his client to remember all the things that work for him to get there. Every now and then the coach suggests something that might help. He only does so after permission to do so.

In  helping clients make progress I describe the NOAM-seven-step-approach, a simple progressed focused coaching model. I illustrate the seven step approach with dialogues between a coach and a client. You will also find examples of progressed focused interventions with involuntary clients. These may come in handy when your client doesn’t want to talk with you because someone else thought it would be a good idea for him to be coached. This chapter starts with the concept of leading from behind. That’s a key concept which defines a progressed focused interaction.
Leading from behind

Reader solution focused mindset at work

The solution focused approach is a respectful change approach. It works with the perspective of the client and acknowledges that the solutions to the problem have to fit with the unique and specific circumstances of the client. The approach acknowledges the perception that a problem exists, without analysing its causes or history. Instead, the approach explores what the desired future looks like for the client. The approach defines this desired future in concrete and positive terms, using vivid language. By analysing previous successes and positive exceptions to the problem in the past, solutions are build that suit the specific context and situation. This analysis of what works is then used to reach the desired future step by step.

This reader is an introduction in the solution focused mindset at work, its assumptions and four different solution focused roles.reader solution focused mindset at work

Overdiagnosis in counselling?

Citizens regularly receive an invitation to be screened for diseases like breast cancer and cervical cancer. Common sense says getting screened is to right thing to do. Many of us associate screening with reducing the risk of developing symptoms or dying from the disease. Early diagnosis sounds like the safe option. However, is this actually true? In the absence of symptoms, is looking hard for a disease sensible?

Gilbert Welch, Lisa Schwartz and Steven Woloshin are the authors of the book Overdiagnosed, making people sick in the pursuit of health. In their book they address the risk of Overdiagnosis. First and foremost they state: if you have symptoms, go see a doctor! The medical profession has a lot to offer when you’re ill. Subsequently the authors say: if you don’t have any syptoms, think twice before getting screened. You may be at risk of overdiagnosis. Overdiagnosis occurs when individuals are diagnosed with conditions that will never cause symptoms or death. Overdiagnosis is the consequence of the enthusiasm for early diagnoses. It only occurs when a doctor looks for a disease in a person who has no symptoms. The authors explain that for many diseases your chances of being overdiagnosed are much higher than your chances to prevent death as a consequence of early diagnosis and treatment.

The authors describe how the thresholds to determine who has a condition and who doesn’t have changed dramatically over the years. For many diseases you’re diagnosed with that disease much quicker now than before, because the cutoffs have been lowered. As a consequence, many more people get treatment. The risk of overdiagnosis is overtreatment. Being treated for a disease that would never have led to symptoms can be disadvantageous. The treatment may be mentally and physically hard and may cause negative side effects. Overdiagnosis makes healthy people ill.

Might overdiagnosis sometimes be happening in coaching and counselling  as well?

I think hat in the field of mental health, the goalposts have changed over the years too. What was once a ‘normal’ response to a life event has now been ‘problematised/ / categorised.  Let’s ask what might sound a shocking question – might overdiagnosis sometimes be happening in the counselling room as well? Could it be that as a consequence of counselling the client perceives he has more problems than he thought he had when he started counselling? Might it be possible that counselling could, in some cases, actually induce mental health problems? What do you think?

9 Progress focused questions

Progress focused conversations are concrete, pragmatic, positive and  use easy wordings.

Nine progress focused questions are:

  1. What have you already achieved?
  2. How did you manage to achieve that?
  3. What do you want to achieve?
  4. What will be better once you have achieved that?
  5. Which difficulties do you already handle a bit better sometimes?
  6. How do you already pull that off?
  7. What will you do again, which led to improvements before?
  8. What will you experiment with, to explore whether it leads to further improvements?
  9. How will you notice you’re on the right track?

Beliefs in progress focused conversations

Your convictions steer your responses in dialogues with others and with yourself. Progress focused beliefs are, in my opinion:

  1. Achieved progress is everywhere: however hard a situation is, small improvements are always already achieved and present
  2. Talking about achieved and desired progress motivates: by voicing what has been achieved and what you wish to achieve you start to feel positive. Positive emotions enhance creativity and make you perceive more options and possibilities to achieve further progress. This triggers the progress signal, which strengthens your intention to act.
  3. Progress is possible: the conviction that you can achieve further progress is conditional to actually achieving progress, since it is only sensible to act if you believe your actions may improve the situation.
  4. Progress is normative: change equals progress only if the change leads to moving in the direction of a better state. A state is better when in involves a positive effect on the system (individual, team, organisation, society, univers).
  5. Small, slow progress is just as valuable and motivating as large, fast progress: progress follows the laws of complex systems and is not lineair. Progress can quickly get exponential. Focusing on small progress brakes down barriers to act.
  6. Refining and exploring can both lead to progress: progress can be achieved by improving what you already do and doing more of what works and by exploring and experimenting with new behaviour.

More is not always better?

The “what is better”-question can be a very useful question in counselling sessions. The client starts to mention something that is better and the counsellor asks questions like: ”What went better? How did you do that? How was that beneficial? How can you do that again in the future?”

Clients often are able to provide more examples of what is better than the counsellor would think possible. The question “What else is better” and “What else” may therefore be repeated several times.

However, is it better when the client comes up with 4 examples of what is better, than when she comes up with 2? I always thought it was good to keep on asking the question “what else is better”, even if it took the client longer to think and come up with something. Not anymore.. Because of the “psychology of availability.”

Paradoxically, the psychology of availability says that more positive examples are not always better than fewer positive examples…Why?

  1. people believe they cycle less frequently when they have to come up with more occasions in which they cycled, than when they have to come up with fewer examples.
  2. people are less certain of their choices when they have to come up with more reasons why they have made their choice
  3. people are less convinced a certain event could have been prevented when they have to list more ways in which the event could have been prevented
  4. people are less impressed by a car when they have had to list a lot of advantages of the car
  5. people who have been asked to give 12 examples of their own assertiveness value their general assertiveness more negatively than people who have had to give 6 examples of their own assertive behaviour.
  6. people who have been asked to give 12 possible improvements of a training course value that course more positively than people who have had to list 6 improvements

Counter-intuitive or what? How does this work? It turns out that fluency has a lot to do with it. The first few examples spring to mind relatively easily, but after the first few people find it harder to come up with more examples. The fluency in finding examples or arguments diminishes. Even though in the end they might come up with the requested 12 examples, the effort it took to think of those examples bothers them. They think: “If it was so hard to come up with those examples of when I was assertive, I can’t be very assertive at all”

Might this indicate that asking “what is better” is ok as long as the client can come up with examples easily? As soon as the client needs more time to think about what is better, could it be counter-productive to give more time to think about it and to repeat the question? The psychology of availability surely seems to point in that direction.

More is not always better?