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How To Make A Coaching Session 100% Effective For A Client – The Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve

Forgetting can be infuriating, particularly when you’re trying to learn a new skill or absorb vital information. When you can’t recall the knowledge you need, stress can build and your confidence can take a knock. It may even lead to wasted time, missed opportunities, and costly mistakes.

What Is the Forgetting Curve?

German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus wanted to know more about why we forget things and how to prevent it. His research resulted in the forgetting curve – a visual representation of the way learned information fades over time (see figure below).

Ebbinghaus experimented with his own memory performance using a list of nonsense syllables that he tried to recall after varying lengths of time. His experiences and results revealed a number of key aspects of memory:

  • Memory degrades over time. If we learn something new, but then make no attempt to relearn that information, we remember less and less of it as the hours, days, and weeks pass.
  • The greatest decline in memory occurs shortly after learning. This is illustrated by the steep drop at the beginning of the forgetting curve (see Figure ). If we don’t repeat or reinforce what we have learned, our ability to retain the information declines rapidly. For example, you may leave a webinar or meeting with a bunch of new facts and figures in your head, only to realize a few hours later that you remember very little of it.
  • It’s easier to remember things that have meaning. Things with little or no meaning (like the nonsense syllables Ebbinghaus was trying to learn) most closely match the forgetting curve. So, for example, if you hear a lecture on a topic you don’t really understand or have little interest in, you’re likely to forget it more quickly than if its on a topic that really captivates or excites you.
  • The way something is presented affects learning. The same piece of information can be more or less memorable depending on how well it’ is delivered. You’ll probably find it easier to remember something that’ was logically constructed and clearly presented. But youll probably forget that haphazardly scribbled shopping list!
  • How you feel affects how well you remember. Ebbinghaus believed that physiological factors such as stress and sleep play an important role in how well we remember information. Many people experience this as a vicious cycle – they feel stressed, which makes it harder to remember, which in turn leads to even more stress. There’ is also strong evidence that sleep can help our brains sort and retain information.

How overcome the curve and get the best benefit from coaching sesssion?

  • Memory degrades over time: Use “spaced learning.” This means repeating several times what you have learned in the past. In Integral Coaching practice, we have daily reflection questions and weekly reflection questions. The weekly reflection questions are usually based on an analysis of the answer to the daily question. This is because you need to “spaced learn”. By going through the answers to the daily questions, you will dive again into your daily reflection and have great opportunities to remember them.
  • The greatest decline in memory occurs shortly after learning: In Integral Coaching practice, we place great emphasis on the present moment. It is very important to be in the present moment to feel and understand what is going on. But it is even more important to hold that. Since the biggest learning lows occur shortly after learning, it is very important to take notes of what happened and how you feel at that particular moment. This is part of any Integral coaching practice.
  • It’s easier to remember things that have meaning: Our approach to coaching is quite different then other coaching methode. We are using metaphors. “A metaphor is interpretive, but it is an interpretation made in soft clay rather than cold analysis. It invites the client to put his hands on it and reshape it. Especially when the metaphor addresses the internal circumstances of being a maker of meaning-structures, the client may find that, drawn to put his hands to reshaping it, he is engaged in reshaping the very way he knows.”
  • The way something is presented affects learning: That’s the power of the coach.
  • How you feel affects how well you remember: Here again we can see the power of the metaphor. Metaphors have a number of salutary features, especially when they are introduced tentatively with an ear to the client’s own use of images and a readiness to abandon the course.”