Social Psychology and Coaching

How could I have been so stupid … ?

—John F. Kennedy (after the Bay of Pigs invasion, as quoted in O’Brien, 2005, p. 538)

Social psychology is the study of interpersonal influence—how people influence one another. Although we like to think of ourselves as autonomous and independent, humans do not operate in a social vacuum. The real and imagined thoughts and behavior of people around us have a powerful impact.

The topics of social psychology are directly relevant to executive coaching and the process of influence. This chapter describes how coaches can effectively learn social psychology’s lessons and apply them to coaching. Social psychology has contributed much to what we know about leadership, persuasion, ...

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