Artificial Intelligence may not be so intelligent.

We are pleased to share an article entitled Artificial Intelligence may not be so intelligent written by Tim Brodie.

The New York Times published an article in 2014 entitled, “To Siri, With Love” The piece was written by a mother, Judith Newman, and spoke with powerful emotion about her autistic son’s relationship with Siri, Apple’s digital assistant. Newman spoke of how her communications impaired son had finally found a source for conversation with an entity filled with limitless patience. It’s difficult to argue with her relief
in having her son find pleasure and companionship with this artificial being filled with algorithms, faux communication skills and synthetic tenderness. As Newman wrote, what gives her son happiness does not have to be the same as what gives her happiness – or, for that matter, what gives you or I happiness.

Chalk one up for AI. But can this synthetically created relationship match the needs of every client? Is there something else at play in a coaching relationship between two people? Of course there is.

We humans are built to be in relationship. More than 30 years ago, the discovery of mirror neurons prompted us to explore how we monitor and interpret the actions of others. This was the biological underpinning of our understanding of empathy.

Empathy is a deeply researched aspect of the human psyche, with more than 10,000 scientific articles published on the topic, most of them in the 21st century. It is important for coaches to understand this premise because, contrary to the dogma of many coaching institutions that coaching is not therapy, the foundations for coaching rests solidly on the intellectual studies and research of psychological pioneers.

We are, in fact, a profession grounded in the realm of biopsychosocial studies, and we need to become curious about what that means. To do otherwise is to see the profession degrade, wither and vanish.

The biology of our bodies, with mirror neurons generating empathy, tells us that there is something special about the potential for the coach/client relationship that cannot be replicated by a machine. When it comes to psychology, virtually every coaching model is grounded some- how in the works of noted psychologists like Fritz Perls (creator of Gestalt theory) Carl Rogers (the humanistic approach), Viktor Frankl (creator of logotherapy) and others.

The rigorous research and development of these models is integral to our conversation. The social aspect
of coaching is equally important.

Listen to the wisdom of Carl Rogers who, in 1957, spelled out the necessary conditions for client change. He said the therapist (coach) needs to experience unconditional positive regard for the client, experience empathic understanding of the client’s internal frame of reference, and communicate that understanding to the client.

This is the line where the profession of coaching moves from science to art. When hearing a client’s suffering, the coach is deeply genuine about what they see and feel from that experience.

We sense the client’s world as if it were our own, without losing the “as if” quality. It’s not our own. We are visitors to the client’s world, and we learn to experience it deeply, if only as a guest.

Years ago, my dear friend Rick Carson commented on his concern with some novice coaches who were too quick to metaphorically carry their client to a goal, rather than sit in their experience and inspire them to simply make a change for a change.

A machine can’t do that. Only people can feel another’s suffering and keep company with another in that pain.

A great coach remembers that “I am because we are.” There’s nothing artificial about that intelligence.

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