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....and many other thoughts about facilitation, coaching ( teams & individuals) and learning


  • David

‘Zero collusion’ can be equally bad

Updated: Mar 26, 2022

My take on collusion (e.g. pleasing participants in developmental interventions) has been changing in the last few years. First, I was not aware at all that I may be doing it. Then, I became aware of it and saw it as a bad thing – counter-learning. See previous post – Unconscious Collusion with Learners. I even sometimes found myself enjoying being an annoying consultant. But in the last year or 2, things changed further. Collusion could be useful and sometimes even necessary for quality learning. It could be useful data to gain understanding onto the unconscious. The article ‘Petriglieri, G. & Wood, J.D. 2003. The invisible revealed: Collusion as an entry to the group unconscious.Transactional Analysis Journal’ describes it well. And to a certain extent, it is almost necessary in building up the ‘working alliance’ – a useful concept by Catherine Sandler in book 'Executive Coaching - A Psychodynamic Approach'.

Recently, I heard of a coach with an psychotheraphist background who struggles with a tendency to quickly and persistently finding the unconscious processing, instead of the interest in the person. I think of the case of ‘zero collusion’ i.e. a coach behaving always as an icy-cold analyst. He / she shows only a poker-face for projection and directly confront participants with hypothesis of the unconscious.

In a way, ‘zero collusion’ could be as ‘bad’ as the case of ‘full collusion’. In fact, on reflection, it is not about how much the collusion is. It is whether we know what is going on. To be specific:

1. How much is the coach aware of the colluding acts?

2. How much is the coach colluding to lower the client’s defense in order to better embrace change?

3. How much is the coach even using the colluding acts, from both parties, as data for learning purpose?

The worst is that I collude (or not)… primarily to meet my own needs. For example, I please the client in order not to be disliked. Or I show no emotion / friendliness and only analyse in order to stay safe by intellectualizing everything.

Interestingly, or boringly, it goes back to our own self-awareness as practitioners to help others develop.

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