Changing your story is easier than changing your mini-self

Last Monday I attended Tatiana Bachkirova’s “Coach as an instrument: What does it actually mean and what to do about it?” post-conference workshop after the 2020 Australian Conference on Evidence-Based Coaching.

Professor Tatiana Bachkirova’s area of expertise is developmental coaching and coaching supervision. She is a recognised author, international speaker and holder of various achievement awards including an award in recognition of distinguished contribution to coaching psychology from the British Psychological Society.

During the workshop we explored the notion of self as an instrument of coaching. I came up with two instruments for my self as coach. The first one that came to mind was as a toolbox with an array of different tools I can share with my clients (e.g. listening, presence, questions, models, frameworks). After more reflection, I thought of myself as ground probing radar, used to detect what might lie beneath the surface, without ever having certainty about what might be there.

We discussed how we could increase our reflexivity – our capacity of being conscious of our own actions, thoughts, feelings and their effect. We experimented with the distinction between our Competent (expert) and Dialogic (partner in dialogue) selves to help us to identify our own tendencies as a coach and avoid potential pitfalls of offering one-sided service to our clients. We discussed some important paradoxes in our work, for example, what is more important in being a professional coach: authenticity or flexibility?

Tatiana has a theory of multiplicity of selves, that “there is no one unified authentic self – only these different mini-selves that are involved in a constant interplay”. These mini-selves are context-sensitive, history-dependent, and all need attention! The difficult question that arises from this is how can we be true to ourself if we don’t have a single unified authentic self?

The benefit of this theory of the multiplicity of the self is it “allows better adjustment to different roles, circumstances and changes in values and culture, to minimise internal conflicts”. It certainly has given me a different perspective on how I coach, and on new ways to work with my clients.