How Unconditional Positive Regard is really Coaching with LOVE

Unconditional positive regard, what does this concept mean or phrase mean? It was developed by Carl Rogers, an American psychologist, for client centric therapies like counselling and used very extensively within the coaching world as well. Somebody asked me to describe what I mean by unconditional positive regard, so I’ll reference Tommy Tiernan and professor Brendan Kelly who was a psychiatrist speaking with Tommy Tiernan. Professor Brendan was explaining the concept of unconditional positive regard and what it means for looking at an individual: looking at an individual from the point of view of being non-judgemental, of acceptance without maybe actually agreeing with what it is they’ve done, but acceptance of the individual. Brendan’s description of unconditional positive regard evoked the response from Tommy, “you mean love?” and with some reluctance, Professor Brendan eventually said “well, you can call it love”. Tommy said, “Aye, you mean love.” So, they agreed on love as a definition for unconditional positive regard and I think it is a useful term to bring into the whole idea of coaching, love for the other person.


I was thinking about love and how you would describe what exactly is meant by love in a coaching context. I think you can use an acronym for love and use the L for Listen – listen unconditionally, “listen until it hurts”, somebody said. The O for observe, observing everything about the individual, not only what they’re saying, what they’re not saying, how they’re saying what they’re saying – observe what’s going on. V for value – value them as a human being, value them for what they’re saying, value them for what they’re trying to get across to you. And the E for engage – engage with them or connect with them.

So, this concept of love in coaching, it’s a concept of being there for the individual. Being there for the coachee, it’s just being connected. Unconditional positive regard as a way of being, or love as a way of being, can play an important part in helping the person who’s talking about whatever the issue is that they want to talk about, talk about it in a way that’s free and a way that’s accepted by the person who’s listening. And in a way that just helps them, if you like, to free up their own mind and helps them to tap into their own potential for greatness, their potential for unlimited thought, their potential for creative thought, their potential for seeing that they’re alright, and their potential, therefore, for feeling alright. What could be better in a coaching or a counselling session than to leave that session knowing that you have unlimited potential for being alright? That’s really what unconditional positive regard…or love, is about in a client centred session.