Make Stress Management Personal with MindSonar

Make Stress Management Personal with Mindsonar

Whatever area of coaching you work in, at some point you will probably do some work to enable your clients to discover ways both to manage their current stress level and to become more resilient to stress in the future. MindSonar can help us do this in a truly client-centred way, by identifying the meta programmes operating when a client experiences stress, and so enabling change work to be focused on those which might be fuelling their stress response.

As always when considering a person’s thinking patterns, there are no intrinsically good or bad meta programmes – it depends upon the context and the way in which the meta programme is impacting upon on the way the individual feels and behaves. Therefore, it is possible that meta programmes which help the person in one context, could be causing a problem in another. Likewise, each meta programme of a pair could be unhelpful in different people..

To illustrate this, here are two simple examples from a couple of my clients of how either of a meta programme pair can contribute to stress – in this case, the perceived locus of control.  I’ve also included a brief account of the benefits that each client experienced from becoming aware of how they could change their stress level by changing their thinking

1. Very high Internal Locus of Control: this client spent a lot of time worrying about things which were completely out of his control. He was losing sleep over such things as world events and the future economy. He said that he often felt responsible for anything that went wrong around him at work and at home, even when he knew that he could not have influenced the outcome in any way. During coaching, he was able to identify some situations in which he was content not to be responsible (ie when he had more of a balance between Internal Locus of Control and External Locus of Control). He recognised that he was thinking differently in those contexts, and that he was more comfortable and less stressed in them. After that, he said could imagine how he would feel if he utilised that more comfortable thinking pattern when in the situations which were currently causing him stress. Therefore, he decided to utilise the more helpful style of thinking in relation to the things in his life that he tended to worry about.

2. Very high External Locus of Control:  in this case, the client felt completely out of control in the context of developing a business. The level of stress she was experiencing from this was stopping her from progressing toward this goal. She felt that so many external factors were in the way of becoming a successful business owner that she could no longer see any opportunities. By considering her score for this meta programme, she considered other situations in which she did feel confident and focussed on what she could influence. She then began to be able to identify the changes in her thinking that would enable her to move in the direction she wanted to, gaining in confidence as she did. The result was a business plan which enabled her to accept those factors which she could not control whilst taking decisions and actions on the factors that she could influence.


I believe that any meta programme can contribute to stress. I am still discovering how powerful a MindSonar profile can be for getting clients to understand both the impact that their thinking pattern can have upon their personal experience of stress and anxiety, and their ability to change that.

Let me know of other meta programmes that you’ve seen contributing to stress, whether your own or a client’s. Perhaps we can demonstrate how each meta programme can cause stress in certain contexts..


Improving Relationships with MindSonar

As I’m writing this on the eve of Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d take a look at how MindSonar might be useful in the work I do with clients experiencing minor, but constant, conflict in their relationship with their partner. You know the sort of thing – arguments that seem to flare up  from nowhere, over nothing.  I’ve worked with clients who tell me that they and their partner have no major differences in values, political views, religious beliefs, etc. and yet seem to end up bickering daily about minor things. These arguments, although seemingly unimportant, can gradually start to impact upon the relationship, making one or both partners unhappy.  In turn, this can lead to bigger arguments and so set up a destructive cycle.

This sort of conflict is very often due to the meta programmes being used by the individuals.   Common problems that I see are:

  • One or both partners running a Mismatching meta programme in everyday life. Constantly seeing what is wrong gets in the way of appreciating the things that are right. In a relationship this can lead to a perception that the partner is a negative thinker, down on everything – even a nag. That said, there are times when running a Matching programme can also lead to problems, particularly when a couple is planning a major change in lifestyle, with the risk of the “matcher” being seen as not being realistic about problems and obstacles that might need to be considered in order to succeed.
  • One partner is Internally Referenced and the other is Externally Referenced. In this situation, the internally referenced partner might be frustrated that, when they are thinking aloud about things that need to be done, the externally referenced partner immediately does it – taking the partner’s words as an instruction, not just a thought.  I have certainly experienced this, and the frustration that it can cause if not understood simply as a difference in thinking patterns.
  • One partner has a strong Options meta programme, and the other is highly Procedural.  This difference often causes unexpected  arguments when the couple are planning something about which each is excited – a holiday or a celebration for example.  They begin by feeling great as they start to arrange it, but end up bickering as the two meta programmes cause frustrations as they begin to plan.

In fact, large differences in any of the meta programmes can lead to feelings of being misunderstood or not listened – the basis of many disagreements.

By jointly experiencing a MindSonar assessment and coaching session, the couple can gain an understanding of the underlining differences in their thinking styles and the way that this is impacting upon them.  As MindSonar stresses the usefulness and equality  of each meta programme, the couples can learn to appreciate their differences, rather than to judge them.

Such a session could provide the couple with the following benefits:

  • Each partner can get an insight both into the meta programmes in play in their chosen context.
  • Each can become aware of occasions when they have run the other meta programmes, thus recognising them as flexible ways of thinking, rather than as inherent ways of being.
  • The couples can also “try out” the other’s meta programmes with their given context in mind to gain their perspective on the situation.

Overall, MindSonar can enable couples to appreciate each other’s thinking style and also identify how they could use such differences to complement, rather than conflict with, each other.

Couples work is just one example of the flexibility of MindSonar in working on conflict resolution, and highlights its usefulness in personal as well as business coaching.  I’ll certainly be recommending it to my clients.

Working with new managers


Over the years, I’ve found that a common client problem that is brought to coaching is that of a newly-promoted manager struggling with a promotion from team member to team leader. The related changes to the relationship with members of their team, coupled with developing a leadership mentality often leaves them feeling stressed and insecure about whether or not they are performing their new role effectively.

Since training in MindSonar, it has become apparent to me that one of the underlying causes of the stress lies in the client’s manager not recognising my client’s need for feedback on their performance during the early stages of their new role.   The more senior managers are generally experienced leaders who are expected to take initiative and make decisions. Consequently, they tend to be predominantly Internally Referenced. This can result in them not recognising (or remembering) that new managers may be more Externally Referenced in the context of their new roles, requiring some feedback on how they are progressing.  This difference can lead to new managers being left to their own devices and feeling unsupported, as their managers believe that they’ll either cope or request support as and when needed.

Less often, new managers feel they are not trusted because they feel that their manager is micro-managing them and giving feedback far too often.  Such cases are less frequent, but can also arise from a disparity between the Internally/Externally Referenced Meta Programmes.

In larger organisations, formal structures may exist in which regular feedback meetings are undertaken, but these still operate on the assumption that all staff are running the same thinking patterns, which of course is not the case. The result is that some feel that such meetings are too infrequent (those who are highly Externally Referenced) and some feel that it is micro-management (those who are more Internally Referenced).  Many smaller businesses have no feedback procedures at all.

If middle and senior managers were to invest in MindSonar profiles for their direct reports, they could tailor their approach to individuals, giving more frequent feedback to those who prefer it (the Externally referenced individuals), and feedback on a “as needed” basis to those who do not (the Internally referenced individuals).  This would reduce the stress and insecurity felt by all members of the team, whether new to post or not. As a result, team members will feel more motivated and so develop within their roles more productively.

Of course, there are other Meta Programmes which are at play in such circumstances, especially around the changing context of moving from team member to team leader.  The MindSonar profiles will also enable more experienced managers to support their junior managers to handle those changes too.

If you are a middle or senior manager who would like to get the most from your junior managers, then contact your local MindSonar Professional to learn more about how MindSonar could enable you to get the best out of your team, and keep each team member motivated and less stressed.

If you’re a coach who works with managers at any level, then you’ll find becoming a MindSonar Professional a really worthwhile addition to your coaching toolkit, so do consider adding it as soon as you can.

Developing marketing messages – prevent this common pitfall…


Recently, after a discussion with some fellow business owners, I have been thinking about how businesses develop their branding and messaging – specifically the effectiveness of branding workshops.

It seems that many branding and business development exercises run for small businesses include workshops at which groups of business owners share information about their businesses, the services or products they offer and the future development they hope for. The group members then analyse and critique each other’s current materials and offer constructive comments for improvement.

On the surface, this seems to be a positive exercise, and participants often leave with new ideas and an action plan to put those ideas into practice. However, on looking more into the outcomes that people come away with, I now have some concerns about the final effectiveness. My reason for this is that, in my experience (as I’ve mentioned in previous blogs) business owners have a tendency for certain thinking styles over others. For example, I see a high level of Towards motivation in the self-employed, along with high scores for Internal Locus of Control.

It doesn’t surprise me therefore, that many of the suggestions that come out of these workshops is about making the branding and messages more focussed on the outcome that services provide (Towards), rather than on the problem they solve. Similarly, the wording suggestions are often amended in such a way as to emphasise the control the client will have (Internal Locus of Control). Of course, if your clients mainly comprise other business owners and similar people, that’s great. However, what if your clients are often people who have a high External Locus of Control, or have a predominantly Away From thinking pattern in the context of your product? Your communications could miss them completely.

It has been my personal experience that many types of business workshops, including (but not only) those on marketing, often involve working with like-minded individuals. I now wonder if they carry the risk of resulting in ineffective strategies for those businesses for which the client group are quite a different group of people than those attending the workshops.

Perhaps this is another area in which we can utilise MindSonar profiles – encouraging business owners to use focus groups of actual clients to understand more about what they want in order to decide to develop their messaging, products and services. Or maybe MindSonar could be used within the current groups to highlight similarities and then lead to consideration of whether, from what they tell you, your client group are similar or very different?

It’s certainly something to be aware of whenever we are creating and further developing our own businesses. I’d love to hear your experiences of this or similar situations, so please leave comments in the box below.



MindSonar – a good Tool for Coaching Artists

Previously, I’ve used MindSonar for business people and for individuals seeking coaching or therapy. Recently however, I’ve been thinking about the use of MindSonar for artists of various types. This arose out of my own personal experience. In the last couple of years I’ve developed hobbies in both art and jewellery making. As a result, I now know a number of incredibly creative people. As a person whose background is in science, this is quite a new experience for me and one which I’m enjoying learning from. As a MindSonar professional, I can’t help but notice how the different thinking styles of individual artists impact upon their work. For example, some artists produce works which are realistic representations of the subject, having focussed on the Specific details, whereas others produce representative works which are impressionistic or even abstract having focussed on the General appearance. Similarly, some spend a lot of time on the preparation and design before getting around to making a piece (Reactive). Others dive straight in and create as they go along (Proactive).

Such differences in the thinking styles they employ within the creative process can impact upon their success when they come to develop their work by using different media. I have encountered this myself when recently I decided to move from drawing with soft pastels (which can used to draw pictures quite quickly – ideal for those of us who are proactive) to using coloured pencils instead (which require more planning and the need to take a longer to build up layers of colours). Starting from my “pastel mindset” of Proactive, I initially found the switch frustrating. However, by changing my perspective and moving into a slightly more Reactive thought pattern, I began once more to enjoy the process.

The thinking style around creative work also impacts on the artist when they decide to advertise and sell their work. As a rule of thumb, artworks which arise from a Reactive and Specific approach take more time to create than those resulting from a Proactive, General approach. This then impacts on the artist’s pricing structure for their pieces.

The implications for MindSonar professionals is to consider how we might work with artists who are looking for coaching to help them develop either their art or their business. An artists who feels that they are not progressing as well as they want to could be helped to identify whether they would be helped by changing their balance of Specific to General in the context of their work: strengthening general if they are aiming to be more abstract, or their Specific if they wish to do more detailed, realistic works. If an artist spends so long planning and designing that they create only sporadically, they might benefit from strengthening their Proactive metaprogramme.

There will, of course, be other metaprogrammes at play in a person’s creativity and I’ll be looking out for them the more I spend time within the creative communities to which I now belong. In particular, I’m interested in those artists who have achieved a balance which enables them to be commercially viable whilst still doing the style of art they enjoy. If you coach creative people, or are an artist of any sort yourself, let me know which thinking styles you notice as you work. I think there’s real scope for MindSonar to be helpful in this area.

Brexit debates – a great resource for MindSonar practice

At the moment in the UK it is virtually impossible to escape debates about Brexit. Whether on television, radio , online or even when out with friends, it is a topic that is generating a lot of debate and argument. Many people are thoroughly fed up with the topic, especially with the exchanges between politicians on both side of the debate, whose behaviour is less than exemplary.

At the same time, people are interested and want to stay up-to-date with what’s being debated and decided. So, how might we do that but not get completely stressed by the tempers, arguments and emotions that are on display? As MindSonar professionals and NLPers we might just have the advantage – we can play “Spot the metaprogramme”! Listening to and watching the Brexit debates and the political interviews, it is evident which metaprogrammes are being used. So here is my take on just some the more obvious Brexit debate metaprogrammes…

Many people (even some who voted to remain) are saying that they are now impatient for it to be over and wish we could just leave now, deal or no deal (Proactive) whereas others are calling for more time for debate (Reactive). Some put forward their arguments for why we should leave the constraints of Europe or why we must remain to avoid uncertainty (Away From), while others talk of looking forward to new future arrangements and trade deals (Towards).

Many MPs argue that their personal views are irrelevant because they should only represent what the majority of the public voted for (Externally Referenced) whereas others argue that their own current knowledge means that they must vote for what they believe is best (Internally Referenced).

Meanwhile the Speaker of the House of Commons (the chairman so to speak) is focussed on protocol being observed (Procedure) – often arguing with those who say the situation is so new, no protocol is relevant and new approaches are needed (Options).

On both sides there are those focussing on what they see as the advantages to their side of the argument (Matching) whilst other stress the threats of the other side (Mismatching).

Amongst the public there are those who are now disengaged and feel powerless (External Locus of Control) while many are still actively campaigning for another vote, believing they can change the politicians’ minds (Internal Locus of Control).

Arguments from all side include opinions about the effect on the economic figures (Information) the impact upon particular groups within our society (People) and how the necessary new systems will be implemented (Activity).

What I find really interesting is how the fiercest debates are often between those who not only differ in their belief about whether we should remain or leave, but between those who are running different metaprogrammes. In that case they really aren’t hearing one another. An argument between someone focussing on information and another on people results in each feeling that the other is simply not listening to them. Likewise when an externally referenced MP is debating with an Internally referenced one. It really is an excellent MindSonar practice exercise – and it’s made the debates more bearable for me.