Channels of Perception

Are you opening up enough Channels of Perception for your coaching clients?
by Maria Iliffe-Wood

No one lives or works in a vacuum. Every action taken has a ripple effect that has an impact elsewhere. Often unforeseen outcomes arise and sometimes these are positive, but sometimes they lead to new problems. Part of the reason these additional problems arise is because the decision or solution is based on a limited view of the situation.
When I am coaching or even just helping someone to come up with a solution, my aim is to help the person to find their own solution based on a deep level of awareness about the situation.

This is where opening up the person’s “Channels of Perception” is really helpful. The higher the level of awareness the person has about the situation, the better the decision or solution they will be able to come up with, resulting in actions that are less likely to have unexpected problems attached to them.

But what do I mean by Channels of Perception? They are the different viewpoints, different angles and different means of exploring a topic, and they are almost countless.

Imagine that you have decided you want to move house. You haven’t decided on the type of house or location, so you have asked me to coach you to help you to find a solution.

I could start by asking about your needs, those of your spouse and children, including your employment and schooling needs. Then, perhaps the needs of your parents and wider family and your pets, if you have any.

Next I might ask about how the house needs to fulfil your leisure and social needs (e.g. hobbies and maintaining friendships). And then I might ask what financial considerations you have both now and in the future.

Each viewpoint is a Channel of Perception and different information is surfaced through each one.

So now I’m going to ask you to think about the house through some slightly different channels.

  • How long do you think you will want to live in the house?
  • What is likely to happen during that time?
  • How will your financial situation change during that time?
  • How might your physical health change?
  • What are your long term plans for retirement?
  • What legacy (if any) do you want to leave?
  • What environmental considerations do you want to consider?
  • If you were to take a socially responsible position, what would this mean for the choice of house and location?

These Channels of Perception will help more information to surface about the needs and practicalities for your new house.

Now I’m going to introduce some other Channels of Perception that might draw out yet more information. I invite you to think about the house move using some of the following channels:

  • How about if I ask you to dream about your ideal home and draw a picture or make a collage of that dream home?
  • Or ask you for a metaphor of what that ideal home might be like?
  • What if I ask you to narrate a story about living in your new home? And then narrate the same story from the point of view of the different characters who might live in, or visit the new home?
  • And if I ask you to imagine yourself sitting in the new home in 20 years time and tell me about your life there?

What information would these Channels of Perception open up for you? Perhaps they might surface more of the feelings, emotions and aspirations associated with moving home.

These are just a few examples of the countless ways in which you can help people to understand a situation so that they can find their own solution. Every coaching tool and technique that you learn provides you another Channel of Perception to use with your clients. To make sure that they explore the situation thoroughly, use enough channels to surface information across a wide spectrum including needs, practicalities, feelings, emotions, aspirations and dreams.

I leave you with one final thought: After considering your house move through all of these Channels of Perception you could ask me what I think you should do. I could tell you my view and that would be another channel of perception. However, do you really need to know what I think, when you have explored the move through all these different Channels of Perception?

Maria Iliffe-Wood


Maria is an executive coach and coach supervisor. She is the director of Meridian Iliffe Ltd and works with coaches and business leaders across a broad range of organisations and sectors. Channels of Perception is a concept introduced in her book Coaching Presence, building consciousness and awareness into coaching interventions.

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