The Heart of Helping: Psychological and Physiological Effects of Contrasting Coaching Interaction

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The Heart of Helping: Psychological and Physiological Effects of Contrasting Coaching Interaction

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Summary: 

This study tested distinctions in the physiological, cognitive, emotional and relational mechanisms at play during different types of coaching interactions. An experimental, within subject design was used to compare individuals' responses to coaching conversations characterized by (1) the Positive Emotional Attractor (PEA), in which the coach assisted the client in formulating a future vision, and (2) the Negative Emotional Attract (NEA), in which the coach assisted the client in addressing current problems and challenges. Forty-eight graduate students participated as coaching clients in the research, which entailed completing two coaching sessions with professional coaches and a series of surveys over the course of one month. Results revealed that compared to NEA-based coaching, individuals reported greater positive affect and a higher quality perception of the coaching relationship in the PEA-based sessions. Additionally, PEA- and NEA-based coaching fostered different motivational orientations to subsequent goal setting, with PEA goals being more promotion-focused and NEA goals more prevention-focused. Participants reported greater willingness to strive toward goals set following the PEA-based coaching session, a pattern that held over time. Despite these psychological differences, physiological differences were not detected between the two sessions. Taken together, the results support the proposition stemming from Intentional Change Theory that coaching relationships characterized by an overall positive emotional tone foster psychological states that optimally support behavior change.

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