Impactful coaching always requires increased awareness. Some coaching methods rely almost entirely on developing insight and understanding as the vehicle for transformation. Others focus on action and behavior as the primary tools for change. Regardless of the approach, though, all methods rely on the coach and client working together to reveal a new understanding of the client’s reality. One of the International Coach Federation’s Core Competencies – Powerful Questioning – is dedicated to this purpose: ‘to ask questions that reveal the information needed for maximum benefit to the coaching relationship and the client.’

A moment of insight is a moment in which material is brought from the dark into the light. It is not the creation of some new truth, it is the discovery of that truth. We are making the unconscious conscious, and that is a profound experience. Any person who has experienced this in a coaching session knows the power of that instant in which they are opened up by a question and introduced to something that they did not see before.  If I were forced to choose my favorite of coaching’s gifts, this would be it. 

This process of shining light on the unconscious is so intense partly because we live under an illusion that we are permanently conscious beings. It’s a belief that underpins the notion of free will. But, we spend a lot of our lives on autopilot. There are many good reasons for this, though the result is still the same – a significant portion of our drives, beliefs and behavior is determined by forces outside our field of awareness. 

When we examine our lives we are looking AT ourselves, trying to understand why, what, how. Coaches are largely doing this too, but the best coaches are also looking AS the client, getting a true sense of how they see the world. This is more than empathy. As a coach, helping a client appreciate the manifestations of their personality typecognitive biasesand Shadowcan be illuminating. Every client also has a Native Perspective – a natural orientation that guides how they see the world. Of course, each coach has a Native Perspective too, which will usually inform their type of coaching they specialize in. 

We have previously discussed how human experience can be broken down into four primary areas: 

  1. Our own individual interior: eg. thoughts, feelings values – the personal stuff you can’t see or measure
  2. Our own individual exterior: eg. body, actions, behavior – the personal stuff you can see or measure
  3. Our collective interior: eg. culture, relationships, shared values – the ‘we’ space, the group stuff you can’t see or measure
  4. Our collective exterior: eg. systems, organizations – the group stuff you can see and measure

If we were to draw them as a graph, they could look like this:

Source: Stéphane Segatori

None of these areas, or quadrants, is more important than the others, and all of them are arising in every moment. As you read this post, for example, you are having some form of emotional and intellectual response that is entirely personal and invisible to anyone around you (Internal Individual, or Upper Left quadrant). 

Your cultural values and perspectives are also informing how you engage with what you are reading; you may feel a kinship with me and my perspective or you may feel alienated (Internal Collective, or Lower Left quadrant). 

As you are reading this online, you are connected to a technological system called the Internet; outside your window you witness the manifestation of weather and climate, and in some way or another you are currently paying for data, thus playing a part of a broader economic system (Exterior Collective, or Lower Right quadrant). 

Finally, as you read this you are holding a particular posture while breathing in a particular way, reading quickly or slowly, all while your heart (hopefully) continues beating (Exterior Individual, or Upper Right Quadrant).

Okay, but so what?

Well, using these quadrants is a useful way of looking AT any problem. You might, for example, believe you have a problem with procrastination, complaining that you just ‘never get things done’ (Upper Right quadrant). On closer reflection, though, you might realize that the problem is not that you are a procrastinator, it is that you don’t believe in what you are doing. The core of the problem, then, is not in the Upper right quadrant, it is in the Upper Left. With that insight, you can better develop strategies to move through your ‘procrastination’. 

In their coaching work, Joanne Hunt and Laura Divine of Integral Coaching Canadahave also found that every person also has a ‘home base’ – a quadrant from which they primarily see the world. This is their Native Perspective and it strongly influences how they interpret what is true and valuable.

When making decisions, for example, you will have a quadrant you usually go to first in choosing the best course of action. This is usually an unconscious shift. 

If you orient from the Upper Left quadrant, you might instinctively ask, ‘What does this mean to me?’ In order to feel comfortable with a decision, it has to ‘feel right’ and have some greater value to you than the action itself.

If you orient from the Upper Right, you might ask, ‘What shall I do?’ Your instinct is to jump in and get your hands dirty – take action and get moving. This is usually a physical move – you feel happiest when you are doing, not just being.

If you orient from the Lower Left, it’s important for you to get group understanding and agreement before moving ahead. You might ask, ‘What does this mean to us?’

If you orient from the Lower Right, you want to see the bigger picture before committing to a course of action. You might ask’ ‘How does this fit with everything else?’ before feeling happy with a call.

If, for example, four people with different Native Perspective met up to discuss an upcoming holiday together. They might sound like this:

I’m really excited to be able to go on this trip with all of you. I feel like this is a great opportunity to… (Upper Left)

Before we come up with a plan we need to talk about the different variables, like how much money we want to spend, how long we want to go for, when we can all get time off etc. We’ll have to get everything on the table so that we can decide on something that fits within everyone’s criteria. (Lower Right)

So, let’s decide where and when we want to go. When I go on vacation, I like to be able to relax, but also stay active. Maybe we can go somewhere near the ocean, like Mexico or Hawaii. (Upper Right)

This is so great that we all get to experience this together. I think it will be important for all of us to share what we each want out of the trip, so that we can see if we have common ground for the kinds of things that are of interest to us as a group. (Lower Left)

Source: Integral Life

Understanding your Native Perspective becomes a useful lens for appreciating how you make the decisions you do. But it is also a powerful lens in understanding how others make the decisions they do. Most of the time – especially in human interactions – conflicts arise from individuals seeing the world from totally different quadrants. 

This can be infuriating, but with a bit of intent and compassion, those who are able to see AS the other person will realize that, from that new point of view, the world is a very different place.

For a guided exercise to help you confirm your Native Perspective, click here

Photo by Anika Huizinga on Unsplash