What does sociology have to do with coaching?

Or how can I be a sociologist and also a coach?

Is that a paradox? One is about society, the other is about the individual, right?

Sociology is all about the connection between structure and agency. That’s one of the ways I think and teach about Sociology. Read more about it in this blog.

Agency describes the fact that with action, we can affect courses of action. And this is the part where I bring sociology together with coaching, and coaching with sociology.

One of my favorite questions in general and in coaching:

What is possible from here?

“From here” —  We first get to know the structure. Where are we at this moment? What is the situation? How do we feel? Where are the power positions? Who is holding what in place and for what reason?

And then, “What is possible?”

There are always options. Do nothing is an option. Do something specific. Say something. Think something different.  A shift of perspective can bring a world of difference to the situation.

To take a very individual approach and give some examples:

  • “I am all alone.”  One perspective.
  • “I have time to get to know myself really well.”  Another perspective.
  • “I am at peace.”
  • “My thoughts and memories can keep me company.”
  • “My loneliness tells me that I need people and meaning in my life.”
    • “What can I do about that?”

Another example:

  • “My relationship is not good.”  One perspective.
  • “My feeling of distress here shows me something about what’s missing for me, and that tells me more about what my values are.” Another perspective.
  • “What is my part in the quality of this relationship?”
    • “What can I do about that?”

Dualistic thinking is a problem for seeing things as they are and as they could be. Let’s substitute the word “and” for “or.”

A couple of examples running rampant at this historical moment:

It’s either the economy or the environment.

What if it can be the economy and the environment? What’s possible from here?

It’s either human health and survival or the economy.

What if it can be human health and the economy? What’s possible from here?

Can we imagine a world where human health, a well-cared for environment, and an economy that supports what truly matters to us are consistent with each other? I can.

It looks different from what we have now. How many works of precious art do the richest people on the planet really need to sock away in tax-haven controlled-climate storage?  How does that hoarding of wealth in fewer and fewer hands make anything better? How many yachts, second homes, stock shares, or shoes does anyone really need to be content? When will “content” or “enough” start to be the measuring stick? Right now we have competition among human beings whose insecurities are expressed in their desire to acquire more than the next person. We are better than that, we are born compassionate and loving. Not like this. We have learned this. We can unlearn it.

We can evolve beyond this scarcity-mindset, come into new kinds of spaces.

It is going to take some collective action. It might take a tipping point. Possibly a pandemic will aid with that tipping point. Or possibly it brings out our worst.

Each of us gets to decide, and we get to influence each other, and we can create momentum.

Sociology encompasses social change, dreams of a better future, open eyes about what is already here and where its potential lies for destruction or creation.

Coaching is a tool to recognize that agency is in individuals who then shape the organizations, systems, and groups to which they belong.

Over what do I really have control?

My own thoughts, perspectives, and behavior.

And if I have power, I have control over others as well. How will I use that, consciously, towards higher values, the ideals worth living for?