The Psychology of Coaching Optimists and Pessimists

The psychology of coaching gets to the core of how you coach – different people with different mindsets. When you encounter an optimist or a pessimist in your coaching practice, you might think it’s best to help turn that pessimist into an optimist. You might be wrong.

Psychology Coaching

Is it Better to be an Optimist?

Most coaches are very positive people, but there are certainly a few pessimists in the bunch. Though we’ve heard that it is better to be an optimist, is that really the case? Many experts point out that the best personality type might be somewhere in the middle.

Optimists tend to envision a brighter future, have bigger dreams, and feel outwardly better about life. However, being a pessimist, and believing that the worst will happen, may mean that you can cope better with the bumps and bruises of life.

How to Motivate an Optimist or a Pessimist

Part of what a coach does is to inspire and motivate their clients. The psychology of coaching includes the psychology of motivation. New research suggests that thinking like an optimist motivates one to try again and again because they believe that the best will eventually happen. For others, a pessimistic attitude helps them prepare and protect themselves from failure, and inspires them to plan ways to circumvent and overcome the worst situations and outcomes.

As a coach, you really want to delve deep into the psychology of coaching and motivation. You don’t necessarily want to turn pessimists into optimists; you want to understand what makes them tick and what works to inspire them to achieve their goals.

The Psychology of Coaching Optimists and Pessimists

Some social studies have shown that optimists have a “promotion focus.” This means that they prefer to think about how they can grow, advance, and achieve. These studies also showed that pessimists were more concerned with security and safety.

Another study had participants attempting to solve anagrams. The researchers assessed the participants on their natural tendencies toward pessimism or optimism. They were split into two groups; they encouraged one group to think optimistically and the other to think pessimistically.

To no one’s surprise, the study showed that the ability to solve the anagrams was dependent on how persistent the participants were. However, it also showed that optimists were more successful at solving the anagrams if they used their preferred optimistic attitude, while pessimists were more successful when they used their natural pessimistic attitude.

The Psychology of Coaching is Complicated

Yes – the psychology of coaching different individuals or teams is tricky business. There is no one-size fits all approach. Clients react to different stimuli in different ways. You might think that trying to turn your pessimistic clients into optimists is a good idea. But, the results of these studies show that a more effective approach would be to work with their natural tendency to be pessimistic and derive a strategy based on safety, security, and a more pessimistic approach to achieving goals.

The psychology of a coach has to be flexible and adaptable. People are all different, and all personality types and belief systems have relevance and value…even pessimism. You just have to find out the best ways to inspire and motivate. It is up to you as a coach to help them find the outcomes they desire, even if a little pessimism is involved!

By the way… you’re invited to claim your FREE step-by-step30-Days to Become a Coach video toolkit. Just go HERE now to get your 30-day coaching blueprint videos.

Fred Philips
Business Coach
Writing Team, Coaches Training Blog Community

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  1. says

    Interesting post, not just about coaching, but about understanding different types of personalities and predicting their expectations. I am an optimist who lives with a pessimist. This blend presents unending challenges.

  2. Natalie says

    You would need training and insight into the human pyshe in order to be a good coach. You must also possess listening skills.

  3. Celine says

    It was a very interesting topic – optimists and pessimists – both had their own value points.

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