Becoming the Best Coach or Mentor You Can Be 4: How’s Your Peripheral Vision?


The use of foveal and peripheral vision in coaching and mentoring increases your ability to catch much of what is being communicated to you by your client that would otherwise be lost.

In my last blog we considered the part that sensory acuity plays in opening up communication. Now I want to explore this further and to focus specifically on the use of foveal and peripheral vision in coaching and mentoring.

Central to sensory acuity is the ability to ‘see’ what is being communicated to you by your client. To be able to ‘catch’ that all important message that gives you a clue as to what is ‘really’ going in.

We know, from the increasing amount of research on the workings of the brain, that our ability to be aware cognitively of what is going on around us is severely limited. And that the vast majority of what is communicated to us – and by us – is non verbal. This, as we know, supports much of the work of early pioneers in this area, many of whom were anthropologists who had only their powers of observation on which to base their research.

So – if you can only focus consciously on 2 or 3 things at any one time, what do you need to do to give yourself an increased opportunity to catch these messages?

One of the ways is to increase your ability to make use of your foveal and your peripheral vision.

Sight plays a central part in enabling you to collect information about the world around you at both a conscious and unconscious level. It is central to many key functions including communication and learning.

For you, as a coach or mentor, the processing of what you are ‘seeing’ is central to gathering information about what is ‘happening’ for your coachee/mentee. This information, placed alongside information collected through other senses, enables you to make a decision about the most appropriate action to take.

For this reason

. . . it is important to understand how you can use your sight to maximum advantage. Having both an understanding of, and the ability to consciously use, both foveal (direct) vision and peripheral (indirect) vision is an important tool for any integrative coach’s metaphorical coaching and mentoring rucksack.

Research shows that when you view an object directly, you often ‘see’ something quite differently to if you view it indirectly. On occasions, one is more important than the other, although we are often not as aware of, or as well skilled in using, peripheral vision.

We often talk about the ‘line-of-sight’, highlighted by the painter Leonardo da Vinci, which relates to a clear line from the fovea to a fixation point in the outside world where we can achieve 100% visual acuity. We talk less often about ‘side vision’, an important part of our ‘danger alert’ system, enabling us to be aware of what is happening beyond our direct gaze.

When you read a word on a page, it is foveal vision that enables you to know what the word says. It is peripheral vision that tells you where the word is on the page (top or bottom) and where it is in a sentence (beginning or end).

How good is your peripheral vision?

Do you know?

If not, then you might want to diary my next blog!


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