Another piece of filing from my old website. I was quite surprised at the reaction to this first time round; I lost quite a few twitter followers who happened to be life coaches (the woods are full of ’em around Tunbridge Wells!)…
It’s always struck me that there’s an inherent flaw with the whole concept of life coaching, in that it implies a level of potential on the part of the coached that is completely unjustified by performance to date, and an assumed level of expertise on the part of the coacher in a ‘field’ that is at best subjective, and is, in any practical terms, pretty much impossible to qualify. In this respect, it is little more than an act of faith – a capital investment in a futures’ market for a product that has, by definition, a track record of failure, undertaken on the advice of an unqualified broker with absolutely no experience of either the product or its potential market.
In most other areas of coaching it is a prerequisite that the coach has some tangible credentials to back up their claims of expertise: either a personal record of achievement testifying to their skills or perhaps the recommendations of a client base who have achieved success under their mentorship. I have no idea how that can work with life coaching, because any measure of a successful life can only be undertaken retrospectively, and/or would have to take account of all other factors pertaining to the life of the successful individual to ensure a full holistic assessment ruling out all influences other than those attributable to direct individual action. At the very least, if we ignore those wider imperatives, a life coach should be able to demonstrate that they are enjoying, and seem likely to continue enjoying, successful, happy, fruitful lives, and to have prospered, and seem likely to continue to prosper, in their chosen field. To be honest, the few I’ve met don’t seem to be able to demonstrate those qualities (other than in their own estimation which is of course as inconclusive and unreliable as any other form of self-monitoring) and the qualifications they can offer as supporting evidence tend, by and large, to be gained in areas of psychology, sociology and counselling where ‘woo’ abounds and regulation, if it exists at all, is flimsy [see Cats and Their Qualifications, Q.I. (excerpt), BBC Television, 2009].
By far the biggest problem with Life Coaching (IMO) is the fact that it’s actually self-defeating, as any personal growth achieved by the coached individual will be attributed directly to the positive influence of the coach, while any negatives arising will be taken as clear evidence of the coached individual’s inability to follow the guidelines given to them. Rather than offering a boost to self-esteem, the underlying implication will always be that the mentored individual is either too feckless to successfully negotiate their own life without the help of a mentor, or so totally inadequate that they can’t manage to negotiate their own life even with the help of a mentor. Hardly reassuring or life-affirming is it?
And that, to paraphrase Mr Frank Zappa, is the crux of the biscuit, and the point at which the advantages of Alternative Life Coaching become self evident…
So what exactly is Alternative Life Coaching? Well, in the simplest terms it is the polar opposite of life coaching, in that rather than offering to instruct through the demonstration of positive behaviours enacted by people who may be totally unqualified to demonstrate them, the focus is primarily on negative behaviours, enacted by people with a proven track record in the enactment of negative behaviours, from which students can learn to recognise behaviours they should eliminate and avoid in their own interactions. In so doing, this provides only positive feedback and increased self-esteem by offering the coached individual a model of inadequacy and underachievement that by comparison shows their own limited skills to best advantage.
This is, of course, a firmly established principle, and there are many historically proven models to demonstrate that the most effective way of applying lustre to a turd is to stand it alongside an even more lacklustre turd. Young women do this all the time, naturally and seemingly subconsciously, by pairing up in couples that show each to their best advantage: ugly with pretty, thick with bright, garrulous with socially withdrawn etc. This is known as the Halo effect, or, in some circles (“scrooby-roooby-rooo”), the Daphne and Velma Dichotomy. The advantage of these symbiotic relationships is that pretty/ intelligent/ social girls will appear even more pretty/intelligent/social while their friends possessing alternative traits are afforded elevated social opportunity and implied status by association.
(NB: While elements of the ‘halo effect’ are also evident in male bonding and group behaviours there is a subtle difference, in that the beta, gamma or omega male will usually be an obvious ‘foil’ for the alpha male and his inferior status firmly established, whereas female pairings tend towards a more tacit acknowledgment underpinned by a complex charade of mutual respect and egalitarianism known as The Trinny and Susannah Phenomena*)
A further principle of Alternative Life Coaching is that instruction is offered via practical demonstration in the field rather than through theoretical analysis, eliminating all of the bullshit, denial and projection usually associated with one-to-one counselling and offering a truly WYSIWYG experience for counselled and counsellor alike. It’s also a much simpler coaching system, reducing by around 50% the workload associated with ‘Don’t do as I do, do as I say’ coaching methods by eliminating the ‘do as I say’ and the need to even listen. What’s the point of listening to someone who quite demonstrably doesn’t know what they’re talking about and/or is incapable of acting on their own advice?
So, cutting to the chase… In exchange for a few pints of Guinness and the occasional bag of nuts I am available most weekday evenings to offer practical demonstrations of behaviours that should be avoided by anyone seeking to enhance their life, work and social opportunities. You can watch me:
- Hopelessly fail to win friends and influence people
- Fall flat on my face (metaphorically and sometimes literally) while trying to engage others in conversation.
- Hover ineffectually on the periphery of a social group dynamic while trying to come up with a good ‘opening line’.
- Fail completely to notice the eyes of the person I am speaking to glaze over
- Consistently say the wrong thing at the wrong time to the wrong person
- Introduce myself to people whose names I immediately forget
- Inadvertently offend people by speaking disparagingly about certain occupations just before asking what they do for a living only to find that they do that very thing for a living.
- Tell people that the books they have just read, films they have just watched, CD’s they have just bought are crap just prior to them telling me they have just read, watched or bought said book, film or CD.
- Give, while intending to be positive about a book, film or CD, the impression that I think it is crap
- Ask people what they do for a living and then try to talk as if I have some knowledge of that career when I don’t but am too wanky to admit it.
- Spout opinions on things I know nothing about (see above for rationale).
- Offer my opinions on things I do know something about but have controversial opinions on to people who may know less but are never the less challenged by my controversial opinions.
- Spill drinks on people
- Yawn in the middle of other people’s jokes and then interrupt to explain that I’m just really tired and not bored, inadvertently drawing attention to the yawn that nobody had noticed in the first place and giving the impression that I’m bored.
- Ask ‘Gawwww, who dropped their guts?’ before realising there’s only me and two young ladies present and it really would have been the gentlemanly thing to ignore it
- Say to a very tall girl ‘Gawww, you’re a biggun’ and then dig myself into an even deeper hole by trying to qualify it.
- Totally dominate conversations for fear that if I stop talking people will get bored and walk away
- Gabble (see above for rationale)
- Fail to ‘listen’ (see above for rationale)
- Make endless jokes of varying quality purely and simply because it is the only bit of social I can ‘do’ even halfway effectively
- Start talking about my ‘safe’ subjects of music and books to the exclusion of all else.
- Lose the ability of coherent speech and/or up to ninety percent of my vocabulary because somebody has asked me a direct question
- Forget to make appropriate eye contact (the ‘engage and break’ rule)
- Forget not to make too much eye contact (the ‘three second’ rule)
- Forget when avoiding eye contact by looking elsewhere not to look as though I’m looking at women’s breasts
- Swear too much
- Agonise that I am doing any/all of the above
- Apologise for doing any/all of the above and thereby come across as ‘needy’
- Apologise for appearing needy and offer assurances that I am not just seeking reassurance in a way that totally fails to reassure
- Agonise that by offering assurances that I am not just seeking reassurance I have appeared needy
- etc etc etc…
I could go on, but I’m guessing you’re probably feeling better already, no? And that’s the beauty of Alternative Life Coaching; instant feedback and immediate results. Now that’s got to be worth a couple of pints and a bag of Percy Dalton’s, hasn’t it? Well hasn’t it??
* Not to be confused with The Mutton & Lamb Equation, which generally introduces an age-related variable and considers physical co-morbids such as Bingo Wing and Widow’s Wattle.