Week one of the ADAPT course is in the books. I hesitate to call it a true week one — it was more of an orientation week — as there were no mentor coach or teacher assistant sessions and the workload itself seemed a little on the light side. I’ve worked my way through the content already, with the exception of a journalling exercise, which I will incorporate into the body of this post.
The video content consisted of introductions to the Functional Health and Art & Practice of Coaching tracks.
Through a series of short videos, Chris Kresser laid out the principles of the paleo diet. He stressed that paleo is not a rigid doctrine, but a template, a starting point, and made a case for incorporating “non-paleo” foods — dairy, legumes, whole grains — into one’s diet if they are well-tolerated. Pointing out that paleo is a term that has accumulated much baggage, he said he prefers to describe his dietary recommendations as a “non-inflammatory, nutrient-dense, real foods” approach to eating.
The Art & Practice of Coaching videos featured videos by two of the faculty. Ken Kraybill introduced the core concepts of motivational interviewing. Forest Fein introduced the concept of mindfulness, laying out the importance of its inclusion in the coaching track.
Motivational interviewing is an approach to coaching that taps into the client’s own motivations for change, which sounds straightforward enough, but as Kraybill points out, those motivations are often obstructed, hidden, or buried by varying degrees of ambivalence. Motivational interviewing then becomes a process by which the coach facilitates an examination of a client’s ambivalence to change and assists in the formulation of a plan for working through it.
Mindfulness is a term that emerged from American Buddhist communities and has gained traction in mainstream culture. Originally used to describe a particular approach to sitting meditation (mindfulness meditation), it’s become synonymous with a process of being “present” in all circumstances. A coach’s capacity for being mindful of his or her own thoughts, feelings, body language, impulses, reactions, etc. is a key requisite to being present to the needs of clients. Because mindfulness is best cultivated through the practice of sitting mediation, ADAPT practitioners are encouraged to maintain a daily practice throughout the course.
The Orientation Webinar
The highlight of the week was a 90-minute Zoom webinar with Chris Kresser, key faculty, and administrators. Betsy Salkind, the lead mentor coach, was there, as well as Tracey Long, the lead teacher assistant. Chris gave a 5-minute welcoming speech and then the other staff and faculty took turns introducing themselves. Betsy and Tracey provided informative overviews of what to expect from the mentor coach and teacher assistant sessions.
After the staff introductions, a handful of recent graduates from the first cohort came on to speak and give advice. Then some of the new enrollees were invited to introduce themselves.
The recent graduates spoke glowingly about their experience. I was impressed by the diverse backgrounds of my fellow enrollees. Chris’s staff seems solid.
As I said at the opening, this was an orientation week and probably not a reflection of what a typical course week will look like. I’m sure it will feel much busier once mentor coach, teacher assistant, and peer-practice sessions are added to the mix. For people who are juggling the course with full-time jobs, I can see how scheduling could become a bigger challenge than the actual work itself. We’ll see.
My situation is unique in that I will be based in Mauritius and Singapore for most of the course. And though I’m working only part-time online and can set my own hours, the challenge for me will be working with time zone issues. This week’s orientation webinar, for instance, started at midnight in Mauritius and ended at 1:30 AM. I went to bed at 9, set an alarm, and got up to participate. By the time I decompressed and got back to bed it was 2 AM, and then it took me a while to fall back to sleep. I suffered for it the next day.
I imagine this will be an issue for a lot of the international students, of which there are many in the course. For me, the mentor coach and TA sessions will not be a problem at all. There are several time slots to choose from on each week’s calendar and I’ve already registered for sessions starting at 6 PM in Mauritius and 7 AM in Singapore. But there is only one instructor session each week and most of them are scheduled in the middle of the night my time. Fortunately, recordings of everything are available to be viewed within 24 hours of their happening and the administrators so far have been flexible about adapting the attendance requirements to the needs of international students.
Homework reading assignments consisted of chapter one of Chris Kresser’s The Paleo Cure, review summaries of the video content, and peer-partner practice guidelines. We were given a handout for recording our daily meditation sessions and were assigned a daily journalling exercise.
We were asked to journal for 5 to 10 minutes per day, which I made a conscious decision not to do. I consider this ADAPT Journal to be an exercise in and of itself and to better serve the process of integrating what I’m learning. I may keep a side journal, but plan to integrate most of the journalling exercises into these blog posts.
The journalling exercise for the week was to think about what type of language and communication supports empathic connection in various situations, and, conversely, what type of language and communication seems to create disconnection and conflict.
The first thing that this prompt brings to mind is the practice of nonviolent communication. Nonviolent communication is a non-aggressive approach to setting boundaries and getting needs met in a way that creates connection and understanding as opposed to conflict or disconnection. It’s a way of owning one’s feelings and expressing them without blame or agenda.
The principles of nonviolent communication are fresh in my mind because we were asked to read the first two chapters of Choosing Peace, by Ike Lasater and John Kinyon, as part of the ADAPT pre-course (Choosing Peace is an introduction to the concept and practice of nonviolent communication and one of four books that we’ll be reading as part of the ADAPT curriculum).
I’ve actually been familiar with the concept of nonviolent communication for many years and must say that my attitude toward it has been one of mild derision. But since reading the opening chapters of Choosing Peace, and knowing that it will be an integral part of the ADAPT coaching track, I’ve decided to keep an open mind about it.
At the same time, I’ve given some thought to the fact that every single “nonviolent communicator” I’ve met has rubbed me the wrong way. The reason for that, I believe, is that people who adopt approaches such as nonviolent communication tend to use them as techniques or strategies for getting what they want. That’s to say, in manipulative and aggressive (not exactly nonviolent) ways. See the rub?
Nonviolent communication is supposed to prioritize relationship over outcome, and empathy over disconnection. But if employed as a strategy for getting one’s way, it’s ultimately self-defeating.
Is there a way around this, then, and is there value in the actual practice? Yes, and Yes, I say.
I think the keys are:
Self-honesty — clarifying what you are feeling and examining your motivations thoroughly before entering “negotiations.”
Accepting that the person you are in conversation with may not see things as you do — you may not get your way.
Accepting the other as they are — giving up any idea of changing the other’s mind or behavior, or to fix them in any way.
Surrendering the need to be right.
Prioritizing rapport-building over outcome.
I think one should be invisible in one’s usage of nonviolent communication. That is, it should not be obvious to me, even if I am steeped in its principles, that you are practicing nonviolent communication. I should simply think to myself, “This conversation is going well.”
Okay, that’s my journalling exercise for the week. I welcome your input in the comments.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this orientation week and can’t wait for the first full week to start.