The ETC self-coaching model is a simple tool that individuals can use to coach themselves away from negative, emotional and unhelpful thoughts towards more helpful, rational and truth based thoughts. ETC stands for emotion, truth and choice.

Summary by The World of Work Project

The ETC Self-coaching Model

The ETC self-coaching model is a tool which helps people change the way they think and feel. It’s very closely related to the ABC model which details how we respond to stressful events.

It’s focused on changing thought processes in relation to a specific situation. Over time, it can change longer term thought patters as well. It works by getting people to focus more on rational thoughts than emotional ones. It can be particularly helpful when an individual’s “fight or flight” response has been triggered.

A diagram showing the three stages of the The ETC Self-coaching Model

The model is most useful in situations when something negative has happened. For example you’ve become emotionally upset by something and you’re experiencing negative and unhelpful thoughts. This might happen as the result of receiving feedback, or perceiving a social threat.

In the model E stands for emotion, T for truth and C for conscious choice.

The ETC Self-coaching Model in Action

Everyone has experienced moments in life when an “activating event” or a “trigger” has occurred and emotions take over. When this happens most people experience a lot of negative self-talk. The little voices in our heads take over and tell us unhelpful things. They say we’re not good enough or that the future is bleak. As a result we feel distracted, perhaps panicky and certainly not rational. When this happens it’s really hard to make good decisions, take positive actions or even keep doing the basics well.

It’s possible, though, to challenge these negative thoughts as they appear and to replace them with more helpful thoughts. The ETC model is a great tool to help you do this. The model has three stages:

Stage 1- Emotion

An illustration showing an emotional trigger, the first part of the The ETC Self-coaching Model

The first thing you need to do when using the ETC model is to recognize the emotions that you’re feeling as the result of experiencing a negative activating or triggering event. This ability to step back and be aware of the emotions you’re experiencing is sometimes known as meta-mood.

Emotions are natural and everyone has them. When you start to feel them getting on top of you though, it’s time to acknowledge them.

Do this by being mindful of them. Acknowledge them, perhaps even name them and note them as emotions you are having. Don’t judge yourself for having them, just acknowledge them. By the act of acknowledging them and noting them you start to distance yourself from them. Having done this, you can take a few deep breaths then move on to stage 2.

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Stage 2 – Truth

Having acknowledged your emotional response to an activating event or trigger, you can now move on and find the rational truth.

Having parked your emotions, reflect on truth and evidence relating to the event or the situation you are in. Find helpful facts relating to the situation. What has happened in the past? What have other people said? How have you performed before? How have you overcome similar challenges?

The purpose of this stage is to help you achieve an evidence base and rational set of thoughts on which to based your next action. Once you’ve completed these activities take a few more deep breaths before moving on to stage three.

Stage 3 – Conscious Choice

Now that you’ve grounded your thinking in helpful and rational truth, you’re in a position to make choices and decide on your next action.

Take a few minutes to decide what your next steps should be in the situation you are in. Base this decision on the evidence and truth that you uncovered in stage two.

Using the ETC Self-coaching Model in Work

The ETC model is designed for self-coaching in the moment and is primarily a tool for individuals to use. It does take some practice to be able to use well, but it’s helpful once individuals are experienced with it.

From a leadership perspective it may be worth sharing the model with members of your team. This can be done through facilitated sessions to help them get to know the model and appreciate how it works.

It’s also potentially worth discussing the model and perhaps using it to work through specific real examples with your team members in your regular one to one coaching and development sessions.

Thoughts that at first appear rational might not do so under closer inspection.

Learning More

The ETC self-coaching model can be helpful when we’re overwhelmed in the moment. This is great, but it might also be worth learning more about different types of stress as well as wellbeing and resilience. Improving self-awareness also helps us understand what types of events might trigger us

You might find our podcast on the ABCs of stress and resilience helpful as well. In it we discuss what people can do to manage stress in their lives:

The World of Work Project View

The ETC self-coaching model is a fairly helpful tool. It’s another one of those models and frameworks that we think about as broadly falling under the emotional intelligence umbrella. It also shares some aspects in common with some meditation practices, particularly the focus on acknowledging thoughts and feelings without being overwhelmed by them.

We do recommend sharing the model within your organization because it is helpful, but think that the concepts behind the model and perhaps more helpful than the actual model itself.

In our experience not too many people actually use the model as described, but many people benefit from being aware of the power of their emotions over their decision making process. Knowing this and knowing that they need to get back to being at their best before making decisions or taking actions is often enough to help individuals give themselves the space they need to return to a rational frame of mind before making any decisions.

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Most of the information used in this article comes primarily from our working experiences. We have no specific sources for this post. If you think it should be attributed to someone, please let us know.

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