The Need for Relational Coaching

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The Need for Relational Coaching
Anneke Zwart, Student (University), Netherlands

The term 'Relational Coaching' might seem to be synonymous to Coaching, since coaching always involves at least two people that communicate and form a relationship in some way. However, the term relational coaching refers to something more specific than creating and maintaining good relationships by listening well, being polite, and taking into account norms, values and ethics, cultural diversity, etc.

The term “relational” in relational coaching refers to the acknowledgement of the relational needs inherent to social processes and the subsequent importance of relationships in development and transformations. Relational coaching is thus used to articulate the importance of the relationship itself in any coaching appointment and the required responsibility and awareness that coaches will have.

The Attachment Theory of Bowlby (1988) highlights the importance of relational needs. According to this theory, our earliest built relationships will – at least partly – influence and determine the type of relationships, attachment, and way of living we'll have in the future. Coaches need to be aware of their clients’ early relationships and experiences (whether unconsciously or consciously).
A skilled coach that acknowledges and understands such relational needs is able to contribute to human development and will be more effective. Not recognizing such relational dynamics will only lead to inefficient and even hurtful coaching encounters.

Source: Critchley, B. (2010) “Relational Coaching: Taking the Coaching High Road” Journal of Management Development Vol. 29 Iss. 10 pp. 851-863



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