Business Coaching Competence: The Empty Chair Method

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“A change of perspective is often enough to see more clearly.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

What a simple, yet important truth!

The business coaching method “Empty Chair” is great to realize such a change of perspective effectively.

Common concerns that can be processed with the “Empty Chair” method:

– You have an important decision to make and want to go through all the options?
– Do you want to evaluate your present situation from a perspective of the past or the future?
– Does your team include people who constantly advocate concern and doubt, and you want to understand their points of view first to be able to put forth good arguments?
– Are you sometimes confused about your multiple roles and do you want to be in a position to clearly identify and distinguish them?

These are just a few examples. The list of possible issues and perspectives could be expanded almost at random.

The principle of the “Empty Chair” – how it works

– There is a neutral chair, where the client represents him-/ herself – his/ her issue and present perspective.
– In addition, there is one or several empty chairs. Each chair represents another perspective. They are subsequently assumed and processed by the client. To prevent the new perspective from becoming too abstract, it is symbolized as another role, another person or another solution.

The effect of the “Empty Chair”

The “Empty Chair” method implies three factors to facilitate the client‘s change of perspective:

– Specific localization of the new perspective: The new perspective is not only played out in the client’s head, but can be analyzed and experienced locally on the chair defined for a specific perspective.
– Understanding of the new perspective’s emotional side: The chair provides the client with the opportunity to perceive the other perspective not only intellectually but also emotionally, and to experience, recognize and analyze arising emotions.
– Experiencing that the new perspective is limited in time: If a new perspective is experienced only in the head, it can often set the mind racing. But with this method, the client can leave the “Empty Chair” any time he/ she likes.

Working with the “Empty Chair”

– Together with the client, the coach outlines and specifies the situation and issue that the client wants to address.
– Before leaving the neutral chair, the client should consciously – and emotionally, too – address the issue in question and should know what perspective he/ she will take on the “Empty Chair”.
– The client experiences the new perspective on the “Empty Chair”.
– How should the issue be described now?
– How does the client feel in the new perspective?
– The coach and the client address the issue from the new perspective.
– Are there any new and important findings or results?
– Would the client be happy with this perspective?
– The process is complete once the client has gone through and experienced all perspectives. The neutral chair is always the last chair.
– On this last chair, the client and the coach analyze what solutions – from the other perspectives – would be possible, productive and feasible. Are there possibly any combined options resulting from the various perspectives?

Notes and remarks

– Just like any business coaching method, the “Empty Chair” can strongly impact the client and should therefore not be underestimated.
– Therefore, professional business coaching training always provides the opportunity to experience each method from the perspectives of the client, the coach and the observer, while the process is always accompanied by supervision.

Do you want to know more about the “Empty Chair”? Please write me, I am looking forward to an exchange of thoughts!

Prof. Dr. Evelyn Albrecht
About Prof. Dr. Evelyn Albrecht 24 Articles
Prof. Dr. Evelyn Albrecht is the program director of the certified study course “Business Coach” at MBS, also conducting the course herself. She studied natural science, business administration and philosophy. Following this, she acquired extensive experience on the top management level in various international companies for 15 years. For over ten years, Albrecht has worked as a coach and author; she is the Senior Coach of DBVC and QRC. Additionally, she is a member in many international coaching associations. As a professor for company and project management, she presently works as a teacher and researcher. Lecturer Profile