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Cover picture: Sam & Jeffrey Adriaens - Fuenzalida
TABLE OF CONTENTS
3 TECHNIQUES FOR COACHING ..............................317
3.1. ACTIVE LISTENING ...................................................317
3.2. ASKING QUESTIONS ..................................................330
3.3 HERON’S 6 CATEGORIES OF INTERVENTION....360
3.4 RESPONSIVENESS .......................................................362
3.5 GIVING FEEDBACK.....................................................364
3.6 FRAMING - REFRAMING ...........................................372
3.7 REALITY CHECK .........................................................383
3.8 SCALING TECHNIQUES.............................................385
3.9 EXTERNALISING OF PROBLEMS ...........................389
3.10 CREATING RAPPORT ...............................................393
3.11 COLLABORATION BUILDING................................402
3.12 SAYING “NO”...............................................................422
3.13 I-MESSAGES ................................................................432
3.15 CREATIVE THINKING ..............................................449
3.16 TURNING PROBLEMS INTO POSSIBILITIES .....491
3.17 SUMMARIZE, EVALUATE AND WRAP UP...........498
3.18 ENACTING ...................................................................509
3.19 THE MIRACLE QUESTION.......................................525
3.20 SHARING INFORMATION........................................530
3.21 SELF DISCLOSURE ....................................................533
3.22 USING INTUITION......................................................542
3.23 RECOGNISE LIFE PATTERNS.................................550
3.24 BREAKING THE DRAMA TRIANGLE....................604
3.25 VOICE DIALOGUE .....................................................611
3.29 HOMEWORK ...............................................................647
3.30 HUMOR .........................................................................648
3.32 AFFIRM, COMPLIMENT, CELEBRATE ................655
3.33 PAYING ATTENTION ................................................661
3.35 ALLOWING TIME AND SPACE ...............................666
3.38 THE PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN ..............697
3.40 JOINING .......................................................................722
3.41 PARADOXICAL INTERVENTION...........................726
3.42 EMPTY CHAIR TECHNIQUE ...................................728
3.43 THE HUNGER ILLUSION..........................................730
3.44 VALIDATE, INTENSIFY, EMPHASIZE...................733
3.45 CHALLENGE EXISTING PATTERNS.....................747
3.46 SOLUTIONS AND SUCCESSES TO DATE..............751
3.47 USING SUGGESTIVE COMMUNICATION............763
3.48 THE POWER OF “YES”..............................................784
3.50 BORROWED GENIUS.................................................839
3.51 IMMEDIACY ................................................................843
3.52 CHALLENGING THE COACHEE ............................845
3.54 PROBLEM ANALYSIS................................................858
3.55 POSITIVITY ................................................................864
3.56 HEAD ON COLLISION ...............................................867
3.57 TRANSFERENCE INTERPRETATION ..................870
3.58 PRIMAL THERAPY ....................................................873
Techniques for Personal
Coaching and Self Coaching
This is the second in a series of three books about
Part 1, “Personal Coaching” is about what Personal
Coaching is and offers a surview of the most popular
models for Personal Coaching (or “Life Coaching”) and
Part 2, “Techniques for Personal Coaching and Self
Coaching” introduces you to the most powerful coaching
techniques in use and describes the most successful
questions and strategies for coaching.
Part 3, “Essential Knowledge for Personal Coaches”, is a
practical standard reference work highlighting the
knowledge and skills that are indispensable for anybody
who is considering life coaching as a career or as a
serious self coaching process,
Dean Amory's Complete Life Coaching and Personal
Coaching Course is your best guide for coaching your
coachees and yourself towards maximizing your life
potential and achieving a happier and more fulfilled life.
Personal Coaching is an invaluable training manual for
anybody who takes life coaching seriously.
3.1 ACTIVE LISTENING
Listening is an art. A lot of people stop talking and in their
mind they're already trying to think of what they're going to
say next. That is not really listening. If you are (pre)occupied
with your own thoughts, then there is no room for the
coachee anymore. Not really.
And even if you are listening and not busy with your own
thoughts on the matter, listening is so much more than just
hearing the words and being able to repeat them. To get the
essence of what's being said -the words behind the words, is
just as important, if not more so. While the coachee is telling
his story, try to also listen for things like a slip of the tongue,
jokes, omissions, recurring themes, metaphors and
contradictions. They can speak volumes.
Apart from the intonations you can pick out the different
emotions in the coachee's voice. Body language and other
signals can strengthen or weaken the story. Contradictions
are called incongruence and the coach can either keep these
in mind or ask about them. Make sure you do this carefully,
so the coachee won't feel caught out.
In active listening, the coach has an open and alert attitude,
he's completely there for the coachee and is peeling his ears,
so to speak.
To listen empathically means the coach shows a lot of
understanding for what the coachee is experiencing and in a
way he manages to convey this warm understanding to the
coachee, who can appreciate it.
Before asking questions, we must learn to listen attentively
and effectively. Active listening includes a number of
techniques: encouraging, paraphrasing, reflecting feelings,
and summarizing. But also other techniques are important.
Body language is important. Excessive eye-contact may be
felt as threatening. Not maintaining enough eye-contact on
the other hand might be interpreted as a lack of interest (e.g.
when listener is repeatedly looking at their watch or
documents on their desk!), or as an indication that the
listener is hiding information or is not sufficiently open or
honest. Body language includes (affirmative) head nodding
and the use of silence, which are powerful tools in any
Gerard Egan describes the correct position for listening as
SOLER S : Sit squarely, face coachee
O: keep an Open posture
L: Lean forward when appropriate
E: maintain regular Eye contact (don’t stare)
R: Relaxed body language
Show coachees that you are interested in the situations,
experiences and feelings that they are communicating and
that you care not only about what they are saying, but also
about how this affects them.
Humming, and short expressions like “Yes”, ”I see" … are
used to confirm coachee that you are listening to him keenly.
These expressions also help them to understand which part
of their message is being appreciated and to elaborate on
that particular topic.
Asking questions is another way of showing your interest
and making coachees feel understood, valued, respected and
In its purest form, life coaching is a technique that uses
powerful questions to facilitate you in finding your own
answers. (Life-coaching for dummies – Jeni Mumford)
Clarifying and reflective questions often are a very good
Examples of clarifying questions:
- Tell me more about …
- Go on …
- I am interested to hear more about …
- What did you do then?
- You say …, why is this so ?
- Is this always the case?
1. Restate what you heard the trainee say
2. Listen for confirmation that what you are saying is correct
3. Encourage trainees to tell you if you are right or wrong
Examples of reflective questions:
- How was this different from …?
- What would it look like if …?
- What would happen if …?
- What do you wish …?
- What did you want him to do instead?
- How would this impact / change … ?
Often enough, it is also very useful to repeat in some way
what they have said.
This forces coachees to concentrate on what you are saying,
thus helping them to take some distance from their own
story and obtain an improved general view of the whole
situation. By repeating coachees’ messages, you also
stimulate their thought process, without introducing new
Different options to repeat a message are available:
1. Parroting : literally echo their exact words. Often, only
the last words are repeated (mirror-questions) in an
invitation to amplify on them. The use of parroting
should however be limited, since hearing your own
words echoed repeatedly soon becomes very annoying.
2. Repeating Content: This technique goes beyond
parroting: The coachee’s exact words are repeated,
inviting them to elaborate on their story or to continue
3. Repeating Conflict: Repeat both sides of a conflict
situation, opposing pros and cons stimulate coachee to
make a considered choice.
4. Paraphrasing or Reflecting Meaning: Repeating
coachee’s message in your own words, that is: reflecting
the facts or ideas, but not the emotions and without
getting emotionally involved, may open new
Often an element of acknowledgement or positive feedback
will be part of the paraphrasing, thus motivating the coachee
to continue sharing.
Simultaneously, paraphrasing is
- either a request for verification of your perceptions
- or a confirmation that you have correctly understood the
Good openings for paraphrasing are:
- So you think, ….
- You don’t believe that …
- You don’t understand why …
- So, what you are saying is …
- Sounds to me like you ….
- The way you see things …
- To you, this means …
- So, you are saying that …
- I guess it is your opinion that …
- If I understand correctly …
- You’ve always thought …, but now you found out that …
Some manuals use the term “reflecting” to indicate reflection
of meaning (thoughts) only and use “paraphrasing” for
referring to reflecting thoughts AND emotions
5. Reflecting - or Repeating Feelings - is very similar to
paraphrasing, but instead of reflecting the meaning, the
coach now reflects the emotions that are the basis of
coachee’s words. Reflecting feelings resorts a much
stronger effect, because coachee will experience that
the coach is not only understanding him, but is also
emphatizing with his feelings.
Reflecting feelings is the basis of emphatic listening and
creates rapport. Naming the feeling that you recognize
in their story, helps coachees to define and explore their
own feelings and become more aware of their
seriousness. Reflecting is very useful also when you feel
coachees are rattling information without feeling
Good introductions for reflecting are:
- You feel doubly hurt, because …
- The situation is worrying you, …
- You are disappointed, …
- You feel it’s a shame, …
- You are feeling sad, …
- You were angry, because …
- You don’t dare to, …
- You are afraid, …
- You must be very fond of him.
- You feel you have failed …
- You are worried that you …
- You had the strong feeling that …
- Yet, I notice some doubt in your voice
- You don’t sound very convinced though
- And yet, you sound sad. Maybe you can tell me what
- I sense you are still angry, troubled, mixed up,
confused … maybe that’s why …
6. Clarifying brings unclear or vague subjects into
sharper focus. It is useful to confirm what was said, to
get supplementary information, to present fresh points of
view or add details, or to shed light on new elements.
- Let me see if I’ve got it all …
- Let me try to state what I think you said …
7. Summative Reflection involves summarizing the
message in order to provide a structured, complete and
comprehensive feedback. Aside from organizing and
integrating the major aspects of the dialogue,
summarizing also establishes a basis for further
discussion and offers a sense of progress in the
It is required to also plan regular summaries and
evaluations during which you
- repeat the essence of what has been said or done
- provide a clear image of the situation
- locate where coachee is with respect to the total
Logical moments for summarizing and evaluating are:
- At the start and end of each session
- At transiting to a new phase
- At any moment that you feel a summary might be
helpful to keep track of the situation or to stimulate
Alternatively, it is a good idea to ask the coachees every
now and then to summarize and evaluate things
themselves. This will help you to take notice of
- Their point of view
- Which elements have stuck
- What is most important to them now
- What they are “forgetting”
- The most important elements in a summary are:
- Accurate summary of core material
- Clarity and structure
- Reflection of content
- Reflection of feelings
- Deeper empathy
Possible opening lines for summarizing:
A. X, let’s see how far you got until now:
- You came to me X weeks ago, because … and because ….
- We determined that …, because ….
- Is there something you would like to add at this point?
B. So, to summarize, you say that …, is that correct?
C. At that moment, you set yourself the target of …. Because
- To this end, we composed an action plan
- Now, the question is when to start with the execution
of this plan.
D. Summarizing your story, you reported that … , but …, and
… - Can you agree with this presentation?
E. This seems a good moment to summarize what we have
done during this session.
- Is there something you want to add?
- How did you experience the conversation?
- By the next session, I would like you
- to consider / go through today’s points again
- to start the actions we agreed upon
- Which would allow us to proceed next time with ….
F. Is there anything you want to add?
I don't understand why my wife is getting worked up, I for
instance never get mad!!
Still I hear a bit of anger in your voice. Your wife might
perceive this as you being angry.
If you think it helps, I'm quite willing to do it, you know?
You don't sound convinced, what might be holding you
I actually wanted to stop coming here as I think I'm doing
much better now.
I'm glad you're feeling a lot better and of course you're
free to stop whenever you want. However I've noticed
there are still some things that seem to trouble you...
I haven't touched a drink in weeks, it's clear I'm not an
Being an alcoholic might be too strong a word, but
something tells me you still do have a drink regularly.
I don't know what's wrong with me or where to start.
We can take our time. You sound very sad, maybe you
could tell me what has happened?
8. Empathy and deeper empathy
In coaching you want to build up a trusting relationship with
your coachee in a short timespan. The coachee has often
heard from people around him things like 'it's nothing to
worry about', 'it will be all right', 'don't get worked up, you
only make it worse' and more well intended things that
unintentionally often made him shut up. With you he is
allowed, or rather he should open up and get rid of this
threshold. So you want to let him know he's at the right
address with his story, his emotions and how he experiences
By showing him empathy, you welcome his inner
experiences and invite him to explore his own feelings.
Empathy is not a technique by itself, it is often part of
paraphrasing or reflecting. You not only express empathy in
the words you use, but also in your modulation, intonation
and by showing the right feelings.
Understanding, empathy and deep empathy are all in line
and in a way connected. Understanding is more a rational
thing and involves mainly intelligence. Empathy involves
feelings, including your own feelings as a human being and
Deep empathy even goes one step further. It goes right into
the inner world of experiencing of the coachee for a short
while. In other words, with deep empathy you can virtually
feel what the coachee must be experiencing. You express the
emotions you feel the coachee has. This can be overdone, not
every coachee expects a strong emotional reaction from his
coach. So use and express deep empathy appropriately and
In these exercises successive understanding, empathy and
deeper empathy are shown.
Mother is connected to all these tubes and can hardly say a
thing anymore. She's also drugged up with medicines.
That must be an awful situation.
I can imagine it must be very emotional to see your
mother lying there so helplessly.
I can tell you're suffering, you would so much like for
her to get well but there's nothing you can do about it
and you feel powerless.
Near my house kids hang out; it's very noisy, they fight
regularly, and there's trash everywhere.
It must be annoying; all that noise, aggression and mess.
It must be threatening; so close to your home, and that
day in day out.
Looks like it really troubles you. You were looking
forward to living in a nice neighbourhood with your
children and now it turns out to be just the opposite.
I got fired last week, out of the blue.
Gosh, that must have been quite a shock.
That's terrible, and you thought you would get that
Of course you feel desperate and betrayed. I would really
like to try and help you to get over it.
“Empathy” is the capacity to recognize (and, to some
extent,share) feelings expressed by others and to
understand their circumstances, point of view and thoughts.
Roadblocks to empathy
There are a number of common ‘roadblocks’ that can
prevent empathy (Jarvis et al., 1995).
- ordering or commanding
- warning or threatening
- arguing or persuading
- ridiculing or labelling
- giving advice or providing solutions
It is also important to avoid:
- using jargon
“Deeper empathy” is the ability to use empathy to help
others understand themselves, their world, personal
situation, thoughts and feelings better and in another
Often the coach will
1. Use questions like “Could it be …”, “Perhaps you might see
…”, “I feel you may think now …” , “you might ask yourself…”,
“Perhaps you feel …”, “it may be that …”, “it seems as if you
are feeling …”
2. Followed by a reflection of information implied by
cochee’s message, but not put into words by them. This
might include naming of themes, patterns, isolated elements
or inconsistencies of thoughts or feelings.
3. and by the suggestion of alternative viewpoints or
Example (E = empathy / E+ = deeper empathy)
Statement coachee: “I cannot bear to see her laying there
E: I can imagine it must be very emotional to see her
laying there so helplessly.
E+: I can tell you are suffering, you would so much like her
to get well but there is nothing you can do about it and you
In a coaching conversation, you will not want to stop at
listening. Towards the end of the conversation, you will
want the coachee to take a next step, start changing things,
commit to action.
- So, where does this leave us?
- What will you do next?
- How will this help you to proceed towards your goal?
- What will be your first step now?
3.2 ASKING QUESTIONS
Asking questions is how we find things out.
An excellent way to do this is “the FRRO technique”.
“FRRO” stands for:
1. FRAME Put aside your own reactions,
opinions and feelings and
concentrate on getting as much
useful and objective information as
possible. Discover the story behind
the story, then pull the elements
that are useful for reaching the
coachee’s goal to foreground
2. REPEAT See the chapter on repeating the
coachee’s message. Show you
understand, show you care.
3. REALITY Checking the coachee’s story,
expectations and beliefs helps to
build realistic expectations.
4. OPEN QUESTIONS Start with open questions and ask
factual questions first, before
proceeding to enquiring about
The best way to start asking, is by asking open questions
Open questions generally do not start with a verb, but start
with a pronoun: who, what, why, when, where, how, how
many, which, …
The advantage of using open questions is that they will
evoke a more detailed response than other types of
questions. They are therefore the obvious questions to ask
when you want to collect information, stimulate the coachee
to talk or stimulate them to put their feelings or thoughts
Exploring questions are very useful during the coaching
For putting the problem in the right context and
Which other feelings play a part?
For scanning and identifying possible goals
For exploring internal and exterior resources
For examining the various paths that might be useful to
achieve the goal
Exploring exact meaning of statement.
E.g.: Coachee says: “I am feeling guilty”
Some possible exploring questions:
- Why are you feeling guilty?
- What does feeling guilty exactly means for you, Ian?
- How do you cope with that situation / feeling?
- How does this make you feel exactly?
- What do you do about these feelings, how do you express
Exploring possible goals
E.g.: Coachee says: “I would like to feel really o.k.”
Some possible exploring questions:
- That’s a great goal, Ian. What would it take to make you
feel really o.k.?
- How would you know that you are feeling really o.k.?
- What could make you feel really o.k.?
- On a scale from 1 – 10, with 10 being really o.k., where
would you locate yourself today?
Discovering internal and exterior resources.
E.g. Coachee says : “I’m a hopeless case”
- You don’t seem to give yourself much courage. Ever
heard of internal resources?
“Ah, my sources have been dry for a long time now”
- Hmm, imagine your sources all of a sudden becoming
active again, what difference would that make?
“I would be nice, be courageous, …”
Probing questions and Clarifying questions
Once we have obtained the general information, we switch
to the more directive types of questions: probing or
clarifying questions, which will yield us the missing data.
They are also used to verify whether we understood
correctly the information we received from the coachee.
Most of these questions will be “Closed questions”.
These questions often start with a verb.
The risks inherent to this kind of questions are:
- they often yield very short questions that do not contain
supplementary information (yes, no …)
- there is always the chance of influencing the coachee’s
answer, especially when our question is of a suggestive
nature (example: “you wouldn’t know by any chance
whether …”, “you wouldn’t want to …” or: “do you think
A, or would you rather say B …”
Generally, people tend to use too many closed questions and
not enough open questions, with the likely outcome of not
receiving all the useful information that they might get
through the use of open questions. Instead of learning about
the coachee’s story, they might end up with a biased story
that is limited in content and influenced by their own
assumptions and prejudices.
A special kind of probing question is the mirror-question in
which all, but mostly only the last part of a sentence is
“I have tried everything!” - “Everything?”
“It was not a nice chat” - “Not a nice chat?”
THE QUESTION TUNNEL
1. Open: e.g. “What does … mean to you?”
2. Probing: e.g. “Which of these objectives are most
important to you and why?”
3. Clarifying: e.g. “So, what you really want is …?”
4. Closed e.g. “What will be your first step?”
Obvious line to take for collecting information, for
stimulating coachee to talk, for helping coachee describe a
situation or put a feeling into words, or for making them
reflect on a specific subject.
Open questions often start with: who – what – where – why
– when – where to – where from - what for – which - how –
how many - ….
They rarely start with a verb.
The use of “why” has to be carefully considered, since this
kind of questions easily lead to coachees feeling that they
have to justify themselves and then often leads to a
In coaching it is recommended to start asking about an
experience or situation and then move to asking about
Phase 1: exploration of situation:
“What exactly happened?”
“What was the discussion about?”
“When did you notice things were going the wrong way?”
Phase 2: exploration of emotions:
“Who was having most problems with the situation?”
“How were you feeling at that point?”
“What did it mean to you that …?”
“What is your biggest fear?”
“What do you think of it now?”
“What are you expecting from him?”
Special probing or clarifying questions that challenge
“What will make you most comfortable with this action /
decision / situation?”
“What stops you from taking action?”
“What would achieving this goal mean to you?”
“What tells you that this is what you will achieve by….”
“What’s great about that option?”
“What would you do next if you knew you couldn’t fail?”
“If you could have …, what would it look (be, feel) like?”
“If it were possible to combine the security of your current
job and the freedom of self-employment, how would you be
Redirect a question back to the learner
Example: “That’s a good question. What do you think
ought to be done in that situation?”
When you don’t know the answer …
“What would you do if you knew the answer?”
“What would the answer be if you did know it?”
Pitfalls when asking questions
1. Being subjective :
- Asking suggestive questions
- Subjective interpretation of the answers received
2. Lack of delineation:
- Asking vague, unclear, ambiguous, confusing questions
- Unclear definition of the subject
- Ramble from one subject to another
- Asking several questions simultaneously
- Lack of “fine tuning” of the conversation
3. Advising, judging, criticizing questions
- Such questions create resistance and tend to block
- Do not try to prove you are right, do not enter into
discussion, do not try to convince: “a man convinced
against his will, remains of the same opinion still!”
4. One way communication :
- Talking too much
- Not listening to coachee’s answers
- Not acknowledging coachee’s answers
- Not responding to coachee’s questions and remarks
- Bringing up your solutions instead of helping coachee to
Difficult questions stimulate independent thinking and boost
the learning or growth process.
Bloom distinguishes 6 classes of questions, with an
increasing degree of difficulty:
1. Knowledge 2. Perception 3. Application
4. Analysis 5. Synthesis 6. Evaluation
1. Knowledge-questions: ask for facts
- Who, what, where, when, which ….
- Asking for definitions, lists, descriptions, factual or
causal links, events, dates, …
2. Perception-questions: require thinking
- Asking for a choice, selection, summary
e.g.: Which elements influence …?
- Asking for an explanation
e.g.: How did this influence you?
- Asking to convey the meaning of contents
e.g.: Can you explain in your words?
- Asking to make a sketch or drawing
e.g.: Can you draw up a floor plan?
- Asking for a prediction or forecast
e.g.: How will A influence B?
- Asking for examples
e.g.: Name a case where this is valid
- Asking for the big scope or great lines of an evolution or
- Asking for points of resemblance and of difference
3. Application-questions: Asking to use knowledge in new
- Asking to develop a plan
- Asking to propose solutions
- Asking to prove, demonstrate, justify, show how, …
- Asking: “How would you … in this specific context or
- Asking to test abstract definitions by practical
- Asking to solve a (mathematical, logic …) problem
4. Asking for an analysis: To force coachee to break up the
subject into its constituent parts and order or compare
the various parts.
- What is the risk of …?
- Describe pattern: which causes led to…?
- Ask for proof for conclusions
- Investigate, explore, …
5. Synthesis-questions: Asking to create a new entity by
joining separate parts
- Asking to design something, e.g. “design the ideal town”
- Asking to create a poem, a stage play …
- Asking to compose a survey, draw up a plan, compile a
- Asking to write an article
- Asking to develop a theme, a point of view, …
- Asking to predict, forecast, extrapolate, …
- Asking to combine knowledge originated from different
6. Evaluation-questions: Asking for a substantiated point of
view and conclusions
- Asking for substantiated conclusions
- Asking for detailed arguments
- Asking to indicate value: “who is the best …?”
- Asking for a detailed critic: “What are the weak points?”
- Asking to choose and justify the choice made
- Asking for a substantiated judgment or verdict.
Tips for asking questions
Replace often pointless “why” questions about the past by
“how” questions about the future. “Why” questions my leave
the impression that one is asked to justify his actions and
thus will easier lead to a defensive position.
Instead of asking :”Why did you take this approach?”, ask:
“How can we move on from here?”
Avoid using “why”, use “how”: If you need to know why
something happened, avoid the “you” approach
Instead of: “Why have you done this?”, ask: “How did this
Instead of asking “What did you think about …?”, ask : “How
do you feel about …?”
or ask: “Did / Do you like …?”
Pay attention to what is scrambled, suppressed or
transformed: Continue to ask questions until you feel you
dispose of all the necessary information.
Be alert for deletions (omission of referential index,
nominalizations, omission of subject, comparative deletions,
…), subjective remarks, assumptions, general truths,
distortions, wordings which contain modal verbs (must,
mustn’t, can, can’t, shouldn’t, …), generalizations (all, every,
never, always, almost never, …)
- I cannot ask her now : ask : why not, what is stopping
- I have enough of this : what exactly is bothering you?
Challenge ineffective convictions.
If you feel that the coachee believes:
- that he is worthless unless he’s outstandingly competent
- that he is special or doomed: either good or bad
- that he must prove himself, must have everything he
- that he must be immortal; must be loved, must have
everything he wants
- that he must be immortal, must be loved and cared for
- that he must be made happy by others, must be treated in
a special way
- Is their any evidence for this belief?
- What is the worst that can happen if he gives up his belief?
- What is the best that can happen if he gives up his belief?
- Why should this be so?
If you really do not know what to answer, ask : “Why do you
say that?” – “Why do you want to know?”
Whatever you ask, add “because”:
Explaining why you want something increases compliance
with up to 50% … even if you add an “empty reason”.
Example: “May I use the Xerox, because I have to make some
Questions for coaching
The purpose of these questions is to bring forth answers
from your (or your friend's, if you are coaching a friend) own
store of values, experiences and abilities. They will also help
you to turn your situation on its head and give you a new
The Miracle question
"Suppose our meeting is over, you go home, do whatever you
planned to do for the rest of the day. And then, some time in
the evening, you get tired and go to sleep. And in the middle
of the night, when you are fast asleep, a miracle happens and
all the problems that brought you here today are solved just
like that. But since the miracle happened over night nobody
is telling you that the miracle happened. When you wake up
the next morning, how are you going to start discovering
that the miracle happened? ... Ask, what else are you going to
notice? What else?"
In a specific situation, the practitioner may ask,
"If you woke up tomorrow, and a miracle happened so that
you no longer easily lost your temper, what would you see
differently?" What would the first signs be that the miracle
A child might respond by saying: "I would not get upset
when somebody calls me names."
The coach wants the coachee to develop positive goals, or
what they will do, rather than what they will not do--to
better ensure success. So, the coach may ask the coachee,
"What will you be doing instead when someone calls you
A couple of supplementary questions you can ask:
1. Who else would notice that this miracle has
happened? What would tell them?
This question encourages you to step outside of yourself and
think about what would be different in your observable
behaviour if the problem were solved. Once you're aware of
this, it's a very short step to beginning to act differently.
2. Does anyone else have to change in order for this
miracle to happen?
Out of dozens of coachees I've asked this question, everyone
has said 'no'. Of course, having just described your answer to
the miracle question makes it a lot easier to realise that you
are able to make the changes you need in your life.
BasicBasic QuestionsQuestions forfor CoachingCoaching
How are you doing right now … on a scale of 1 to 10?
Describe what a ten-point-level would look like.
If you were to go up by two points on the scale – how
would things be different?
Which obstacles keep you from getting there today?
If you were to wake up one morning and those obstacles
were no longer there, what would you think and do?
What is it that keeps your situation from being worse?
If you had already achieved what you wanted, what
would it be like?
When do you want that to happen?
Is this really your own goal or is it someone else's?
What is it you will gain if you reach your goal?
What will you gain by not reaching your goal?
How would it feel to succeed?
How would it feel if you were not to reach your goal?
Would it even be worth trying?
Earlier in your life, have you been in a situation similar to
the one you are in now? How did you solve it that time?
If somebody else with your experience had been in your
shoes, what would you have told him or her?
If some person is involved – who is the most negative?
For what reason?
What other circumstances effect you with regard to this
matter? If necessary, would you be willing to have a look
at these circumstances?
How determined are you to try to reach your goal?
What would be a step in the right direction?
What other possibilities do you have?
What further options are open to you?
What sort of things are there that could be done if you
did not have to do them?
What more can be done?
What can you do to get yourself beyond these obstacles?
What do you first need to do/find out in order to move
Who or what can help you to get what you want?
If you had an unlimited amount of time and money, what
would you do?
If somebody else had the same problems or issues that
you have, what kind of advice would you give him/her?
If your best friend were in your situation, what kind of
advice would you give him/her?
If your child found himself in the same situation, then
what would you advise?
If someone were sitting up on the moon and looking
down on your situation, what do you think he or she
would say you should do?
What would a total novice in the field do in the same
What would someone with a strong sense of self do?
What would a man or woman of enormous wisdom
What is it that really works? Can you somehow reinforce
What has worked before? Can you try it again?
What does your gut-feeling tell you? What does your
intuition tell you?
Answer within five seconds – what would you do if you
knew how you should behave?
Confronting your fears
What are you most afraid of?
What are you least afraid of?
What is the best thing that can happen if you make a
move, even if you are scared?
What is the worst that can happen?
If you were completely without fear, what would you do?
When others are frightened, what do you tell them?
Has it ever happened that you worried about something,
even after it turned out be alright in the end? Can you
draw any parallels to your current situation?
What do you expect if you do nothing – how will you look
at that decision when you are eighty years old?
If you let your fears control you, does it help?
1010 PersonalPersonal GrowthGrowth QuestionsQuestions toto AskAsk YourselfYourself
Question # 10: "How am I spending my time?"
We all have 24 hours each day. We cannot manage ‘time’, yet
we can choose how we manage ourselves with the time we
have. Time is your most valuable resource. You only have a
What is your present relationship with time? Does it give
you the satisfaction and fulfillment you seek? Do you feel
there are never enough hours in the day to achieve what you
want? Do you sometimes feel that others are managing your
How you choose to spend your time is how you spend your
The way you spend your time tells you much about your
priorities and what you value in life.
Do you know what your core values and priorities are?
Have you decided what the top ten things are that you want
to spend your time on this year?
"If you want to make good use of your time, you've got to
know what's most important and then give it all you've got."
Take some time to reflect on the larger areas in your life,
such as your work/career, health, relationships, finances,
personal growth, fun and recreation.
How can you manage yourself more effectively allowing you
to spend more time in those areas that are most important in
your life? What choices will you make? What will you say
'no' to in order to gain more balance and experience more
fulfillment in life?
If you choose to live a more balanced life, you must redefine
your relationship with time, to shift the emphasis from
quantity to quality, from frustration to fulfillment, from lack
to abundance, from pressure to peace.
Managing your time is a choice!
Question #9: What Would I Do If I Knew I Couldn’t Fail?
What if failure was not an option? The fear of failure holds us
back more than anything else in all our pursuits in life. Many
people don’t even set goals because they are often so afraid
of failing that they do not even try.
How many opportunities have you missed in the past
because you lacked the courage to take a chance, to play full
out, all because you were afraid you might fail? How much
more pain and lost opportunities are you willing to endure
by continuing to allow fear and procrastination to rule your
Failure is a concept that only exists in your ego’s mind. If
your ego would have a favorite slogan, it would probably be
“Playing It Safe.” Your ego operates in the emotional comfort
zone of your mind and will do anything in its power to keep
you there. It is that little voice in the back of your head
giving you all the reasons why you shouldn’t do this or try
The only way to create results in your life is by taking action.
Realize that, succeed or fail, you will produce results from
which you will learn.
Don’t be afraid of failure; be afraid of not taking action!
Question #8: Who Am I becoming?
How satisfied are you with the person you are becoming?
What kind of person do you see yourself becoming ? Do you
see someone who is becoming more stressed out or tired
with an unsatisfying job or an unbalanced work/home life,
or do you see someone who is enjoying a happy and fulfilling
lifestyle? How do you feel about your future self?
"If you want to have more and experience more in life, you
have to become more."
What are some of the personal qualities you would like to
further develop this year?
Perhaps you would like to become more skillful or
competent. More honest, sincere, genuine or congruent.
More compassionate, accepting, forgiving or grateful. More
creative or expressive. More courageous. More generous,
loving or happy. More responsible.
No matter how you feel about yourself right now, you can
make a decision to become more of who you really are. The
power to choose lies within your mind and how you think
about yourself. You will become what you think about, most
of the time.
Your thinking process determines how you feel, the choices
you make and the results you create.
If you seek to attract new experiences in your life or you
want to make certain changes, you need to begin the process
in your mind. Focus on continuous personal development;
with books, CD’s, seminars, personal coaching, studying,
listening, practicing, and nourishing your mind.
Become the mental architect of your own personal
Change your mind and change your life!
Question #7: What Am I Tolerating?
What are some of the things you have been putting up with
in your life? What have you been tolerating at work, at home
or in your social environment in the past year? What are the
things you wish would resolve themselves somehow?
Sometimes tolerations show up as minor inconveniences
such as a messy desk, a squeaking door or a friend who
always shows up late for appointments. Other tolerations
are more serious, such as mental or physical abuse or a
controlling or disrespectful boss.
Sometimes it is easier to ignore your 'tolerations' rather
than to take the necessary action to clean them up. Allowing
'tolerations' to hang around in your life will drain your
energy, try your patience and show up under the form of
stress and anxiety. They can chip away at your self-esteem,
confidence and enthusiasm.
Here are a few life coaching tips to help with the process:
Make a list of 10 things that you are putting up with. Ask
yourself what each is costing you in terms of energy,
confidence and enthusiasm?
Resolve to take action. The decision to act on 'tolerations'
is very liberating and will improve the quality of your life.
Set target dates and make time in your schedule to
overcome your 'tolerations'.
Seek the support from friends, family or a personal coach
to keep you focused and stay on track.
Living a life you want not only means choosing the things
you want, but also eliminating the things that are hanging
around in your life that you no longer want.
Now is the perfect time to do some personal housecleaning,
and remove some of the clutter around your house, at work
or in your relationships.
When you resolve to stop putting up, you will find a renewed
sense of freedom and balance in your life.
Question # 6: Where Do I Focus My Attention?
Your life becomes what you focus on. Your thought patterns
create the texture of your everyday life. You are always
focusing on something. The experiences you create in this
very moment, and the next, are based on where your focus
What you see depends on what you look for. What you hear
depends on what you listen for and what you feel depends
on the experiences you seek. Your expectations, based on
what you focus on, blossom into self-fulfilling prophecies.
The results you create are a result of your focus. If you're not
getting the results you are looking for, it is time to re-
examine what you focus on. If you keep focusing on the same
things and keep doing what you’ve always done, sure
enough, you’ll keep getting the same results.
Your mind cannot tell the difference between something you
think about or focus on that you do want, and the stuff you
think about that you don’t want. Your mind is a very
effective goal seeking mechanism and seeks to create
precisely what you focus on. The key is to direct your focus
on the goals and experiences that you do want in your life.
Think of your focus as a sticky boomerang. What you focus
on comes back to you, with more strength that it has
gathered along the way. If you send out anger, fear,
negativity or jealousy, you will invite the same thoughts
What you focus on expands.
Focus on what is going well in your life right now and what
is good for you moving forward. Focus on your innate talents
and capabilities. Focus on what you believe is possible and
you will see opportunities rather than constraints.
Question #5: How Am I Using My Talents?
When you talk with people who have achieved a high level of
success in their lives, you’ll find that they have found ways to
incorporate their passions and talents into their daily
activities. They also experience more fulfillment and balance
because they intentionally played to their talents and
strengths by developing the know-how and experience
through continued focus and practice.
Your talents influence how you think and the way you
respond to the situations in your life. Once you fully
understand and acknowledge your natural abilities, you will
develop a higher self awareness, which will lead to increased
self confidence, a healthier self esteem, more success and
Talents by themselves are not that special, it is what you
decide to do with them that make them special. All too often
we deny our own talents, because to acknowledge them
would mean we have to use them.
Why is it sometimes difficult to identify our own talents?
First, it’s a question we don’t really ask ourselves. Second,
our talents feel so natural to us that we tend to take them for
granted. Third, we live in a culture where we tend to focus
on improving our weaknesses rather than developing our
talents into strengths.
Do you know what your talents are? How do you go about
discovering some of your talents or natural abilities?
Answer the following questions and start to identify some of
the common themes within your answers.
What are some activities or special interests you enjoyed
growing up? What did you enjoy most about those
moments and why?
What are some of the skills or abilities you developed
over the years? What skills were easy for you to learn or
What are some of your favorite activities or projects that
give you the most satisfaction? At home? At work? What
are some activities that whenever you’re doing them,
everything just flows because it just feels right. It comes
natural to you and you tend to lose track of time. What
are some activities that you genuinely look forward to
What would you enjoy doing even when you’re not
getting paid for it?
What do other people regularly ask you to do?
What are some of the qualities that other people think
Once you get a better understanding of your dominant
innate talents and abilities, start looking for ways to
incorporate them into your daily life. None of us have been
dealt the perfect hand, but it is your responsibility and
greatest joy to become the best you can with the cards you
have been dealt.
Question #4: Who Do I spend My Time With?
The people you spend most of your time with have a strong
influence on you. When you are surrounded by negative or
angry people, you will absorb some of their negativity or
When you spend time with people who inspire you, support
you and believe in you, their positive energy will boost your
motivation, self-confidence and inner strength. Do not
underestimate the power of influence of the people you
surround yourself with.
Make a mental note of the people in your personal and
professional life with whom you most often associate and
think of how they are influencing you, both positively and
Perhaps you've heard the story of the little bird. He had his
wing over his eye and he was crying. The owl said to the
bird, "You are crying." "Yes," said the little bird, and he
pulled his wing away from his eye. "Oh, I see," said the owl.
"You're crying because the big bird pecked out your eye."
And the little bird said, "No, I'm not crying because the big
bird pecked out my eye. I'm crying because I let him."
I believe that the quality of your life is greatly influenced by
the quality of your associations and relationships. Be
cautious of the people you allow yourself to associate with in
your personal life and business.
Choose to surround yourself with people who will move you
forward on your journey and let go of the negative
influences that impede your progress.
Question # 3: How Do I Honor My Core Values?
Your core values express the essence of who you are.
Although you may share similar values with others, you have
a unique set of values. Many of the important decisions that
you make, and the actions you take, are based on the values
that you hold. Your values, together with the beliefs that
support them, are an energetic driving force and provide
meaning and direction in your life.
If you commit time and energy to something that violates or
neglects one of your core values, you will most likely feel
resentful and frustrated.
If your values are not respected at your job or in your
relationships, you will feel that something is missing.
While it is enormously helpful to know your core values, it is
not always easy to identify them.
Often these things are so much a part of who you are, that
they become invisible to you.
Take a moment and write down the unique qualities that
What are the qualities that are at the core of who you are?
Create a list for yourself by thinking about the ideas and
questions below. Don’t worry about getting it right and
capturing all of your values. Your list will be a work in
progress. Also, your values don’t have to be a single word;
they could be a string of words or sentences or themes. Find
the words that work best for you.
Think about the following questions:
What is important to you?
What do you really care about?
What do you really want in your life?
When do you feel happiest?
Select a time from your life when you felt particular
fulfilled. There may have been challenges,but you were
still on a roll. It may have been a few minutes, or hours or
days. What was important about that experience? What
values were you honoring?
What do you react negatively to? What makes you angry
What value is being violated? What kinds of situations
cause you to feel incongruent? When are you not being
true to yourself?
For each of us, there are usually values that are so much a
part of us that we don’t even think to put them on a list.
These are often our most dearly held values. A teacher
might fail to include learning; an artist might forget to
write down creativity, a business owner might overlook
Question # 2: What Do I want?
The quality of your life's experiences amounts to the sum of
all the decisions you have ever made.
The power to make decisions is what gives you freedom. The
more freedom you have, the more options you can entertain.
The more options you have available, the more
opportunities you can create for yourself and others.
Have you ever been told what to believe? Have you ever had
someone tell you what you should do, how you should feel or
behave? Why would you have someone else decide for you in
your life? What is the cost of living that way? Life is short,
and time is your most valuable resource. Letting anyone else
decide for you is a waste of time! No one else knows you as
well as you do. You are the expert of your own life.
Think of yourself as the majority shareholder in your life.
What are some of the strategic decisions that will help you
grow and flourish in the New Year? What will you vote "yes"
for in your life? What will you vote "no" for? Recognizing
that you have a choice does not mean that there will never
be any uncomfortable consequences. But not making a
decision is also a decision which could have consequences
that are just as negative.
Peter Drucker once said that whenever you see a successful
business, someone once made a courageous decision! In
what department of your life's organization - relationships,
money, health, fun, recreation, personal growth - do you
currently experience the most challenge? Where do you feel
Whatever you believe is missing, it is yours, waiting to be
claimed. The first step is to make a conscious decision about
the things you would like to have more of and the things you
will need to let go off.
Some people get trapped in inaction. They have a hard time
saying yes, because that would mean that they have to close
off other possibilities. In economics, this is referred to as the
'opportunity cost'. The same principle is true in life. Saying
yes to one thing often means saying no to many other
Don't just dwell in possibility. Dwell in reality! Choose,
decide and take action.
Question #1: How Am I Committed?
Why is it that we tell ourselves we want certain things but
we don’t take action? We might have the best of intentions to
make certain changes in our lives, yet we do not follow
through on our resolutions?
Does that mean we are lazy or undisciplined?
Are we afraid of failure? Are we holding on to limiting beliefs
We get frustrated when we think and say we are committed
to wanting something for ourselves, but no action follows
that voice of commitment.
When you fully commit to something, action always follows
thought. There is no question, no debate, no doubt or
struggle. You don’t wonder whether or not you will take
action or not. Commitment goes beyond making a choice. I
have never met a mother who had to think about and decide
whether or not to feed her baby. People gain a mysterious
strength and resolve when they make a commitment.
Commitment is a unique personal experience. As a personal
coach I can offer you many possible commitment strategies,
yet the best personal style of commitment comes from a
deep emotional awareness within yourself. Often our
commitments are invisible to us and we don’t think about
them as commitments, it is what we do naturally. And that’s
the whole point.
Recall a time in your life when you were committed to
something. You were so deeply committed that there was no
doubt in your mind, and taking action was almost automatic
and effortless. Take some time to answer the following
questions to discover the underlying structure of your own
personal commitment strategy.
When and where were you committed? Was it a
commitment you made to yourself or others? Were there
any external influences?
What were some of the actions you took?
How did you go about taking action? What was your
strategy for taking action? Did you write down your goal
or commitment? Did you visualize your achievements? Did
you call a friend or work with a personal life coach? What
skills or capabilities did you use?
What were some of the emotional reasons why you were
committed? Reflect on the values and beliefs that
motivated you to take action and follow through on your
How did you benefit from taking action? What was the
cost of not taking action at all?
How did you think and feel about yourself as a person?
Maybe you felt like a successful individual or a
How did your commitment impact others?
Understanding and modeling your personal commitment
strategy will help you create resolve to follow through and
achieve your goals.
3.3 HERON’S CATEGORIES OF
John Heron (1986) defines six major styles of intervention
that we can use to increase the effectiveness of our
communication skills in coaching relationships.
In the list below, the interventions are described according
to their intention rather than content. Pay attention to
which of these styles of intervention you use most and least
in your own communication. Notice whether you use some
more than others.
1 Prescriptive: A prescriptive intervention seeks to direct
the behaviour of the patient/colleague, usually behaviour
that is outside of the coach / coachee relationship.
For example – ”I would like you to discuss this issue with
your senior colleagues”
2 Informative: An informative intervention seeks to
impart knowledge, information and meaning to the other
For example – “Grants are often made available
for this type of work”
3 Confronting: A confronting intervention seeks to raise
the awareness of the coachee about some limiting
attitude or behaviour of which he/she is relatively
For example – “I notice this is the third time we have
talked about this – and you have still not been able to act
– I wonder what is going on?”
4 Cathartic: A cathartic intervention seeks to enable the
other person to discharge and express painful emotion,
usually grief, anger or fear (Heron believed that
unexpressed emotion could block development and
For example – “I notice that whenever you speak about
your research you look rather anxious”.
5 Catalytic: A catalytic intervention seeks to elicit self
discovery, self directed learning, and problem solving
For example – “Tell me about a previous time when you
had to work with a colleague who you found particularly
challenging … How did you deal with that?”
6 Supportive: A supportive intervention seeks to affirm
the worth and value of the other person, and their
qualities, attitudes and actions
For example – “It sounds like you handled that in a very
mature and confident way”.
In developing effective coaching relationships, it is usual for
the coach to rely more on facilitative interventions rather
than on authoritative ones – to enable the coachee to
develop their own solutions and autonomy.
(Developed from John Heron ‘Helping the Coachee’ (1990) London
Responsiveness is defined as: “Readily reacting to
suggestions, influences, appeals, or efforts”
Being responsive means acting quickly, reacting to requests,
suggestions, influences, appeals, or efforts. It means being
able to adjust quickly to a change in situation, environment,
or direction. Though not a perfect antonym, I would say that
the antithesis of responsiveness is procrastination, which is
the downfall of many businesses, careers, and lives. (Jeff
Responsive life coaches will gradually develop an approach
and an orientation that is most relevant and useful to both
them and their coachees. (www.associationforcoaching.com)
Responsive questions enable the coach to gather more
information and to help the coachee discover their gifts and
talents - and finds ways to bring those out. A life coach
needs to be intuitive and responsive when guiding a coachee
to see the value in their own unique gifts. (Patti Stafford)
Some examples of responsive questions are:
1. If it were possible to satisfy and alleviate your specific
concerns, would you be interested in discussing this in
2. (I can certainly appreciate how you feel.) May I ask why
you feel that way?
3. What are the top three benefits you would want to
realize if you were to …?
4. What do you need to see in order to feel confident that
you've made the best decision?
Feedback is the term used for giving people information
about their performance.
Sometimes as a coach you have information or a suggested
course of action that you believe can help the coachee—you
have a suggestion or an opinion. The motivation of
suggestion and feedback is to reinforce or change a pattern
of behavior, to assist the coachee in solving a problem, or to
support a coachee’s development.
We often offer our suggestions and feedback early in the
conversation, before we have fully explored a situation with
a coachee. The guidelines that follow assume that you have
been in enough questioning to significantly understand the
situation being presented to you.
Advocacy or suggestion is used only after sufficient
● To truly achieve peak performance, people must see the
relationship between their behaviors, thoughts, feelings,
underlying beliefs, and the result of ALL of these (intended
or unintended) in their lives.
● The spirit of coaching is to offer and let go.
● For optimal success, the coach maintains an open and
curious state about the coachee’s situation. If for some
reason, this is not possible (ex: coach is highly invested in
one alternative or action), another coach may be helpful.
● Coaching assumes that each of us knows our own needs,
situation, and goals best.
Issues with Feedback
Although supervisors may know about feedback, they do not
always have skills to give effective feedback. It takes
practice as well as knowledge. Staff and volunteers often are
not receptive when feedback is offered. They may get
defensive, trying to justify what they did rather than
listening and considering the help they are receiving. Both
supervisors and their staff or volunteers should prepare for
feedback sessions, and know some ground rules. Feedback
should be a regular occurrence, a part of the overall strategy
to improve performance. As opportunities arise for the
supervisor to observe, read, or discuss work, positive and
corrective feedback should be a part of the interaction.
Guidelines for Giving Feedback
Giving feedback is a delicate communication, because there
is always the risk of people interpreting feedback as a
personal critic directed against whom and how they are,
instead of taking it as useful information on something they
The best way to give feedback is to avoid “you-statements”
and use “I-statements” instead:
1. Give a specific description of the concrete behavior
2. Tell how it made you feel
3. Explain why (because…)
4. Describe the desired consequence
1. Be specific and support general statements with
The receiver of feedback for both positive and negative
behavior will be better able to act on statements that are
precise and concise. Example: “During this month you have
improved a lot.” This may be satisfying for both parties but
it’s not as effective as saying, “Your reports were on time and
2. Describe the facts and do not judge.
Describing the facts helps the receiver to understand the
meaning and the importance of the feedback. It tends to
focus the discussion on behavior and not on personal
characteristics. Example: “Did you prepare for your meeting
with the grantee? For me it looked like you did not. It was
not organized.” This type of statement can bring anger,
return accusations, or passive–aggressive behavior in the
listener. A better sequence of statements would be: “I got
confused in your presentation to the grantee. I was not clear
what the presentation was meant to accomplish. A
statement about that at the beginning would have helped us
all focus on the information you presented.”
3. Be direct, clear, and to the point.
In many cultures, it is considered more polite and educated
to not be direct. But in the case of feedback, since the
objective is to communicate clearly and specifically, and not
leave someone guessing, we encourage people to be direct
but in polite way.
4. Direct feedback toward controllable behavior.
Inquire before critiquing. If an employee is continually late
to work, perhaps s/he has a childcare situation that causes
this. Discussing the cause and the alternatives to meet
everyone’s expectations and needs would be a more
constructive approach than simply criticizing the employee’s
behavior. Avoid criticizing a participant’s physical
characteristics. To say, “You are too short to be seen in the
back of the room,” without giving or exploring with him/her
some suggestions (about room arrangement, for example), is
not very helpful.
5. Feedback should be solicited, rather than imposed.
If a collaborative work environment is present with
employees or volunteers, feedback should be expected and
welcomed. It should include positive feedback on good
performance to reinforce what is being done correctly or
better. Feedback that helps improve performance is critical
to the learning environment and be desired by employees
6. Consider the timing of feedback.
Do not wait too long to discuss observations with staff or
volunteers. Given in useable amounts and in a timely
manner, it is much more effective than allowing things to
build up. A person may even feel you that you were holding
things over him/her, if you withhold information about
behavior that you feel needs to be changed.
7. Make sure feedback takes into account the needs of
both the receiver and the giver.
Feedback can be destructive when it serves only one’s own
needs and fails to consider the needs of the person on the
receiving end. If an employee or volunteer is struggling, and
there are many points that could be discussed, select some
positive points and one or two behaviors to work on first.
Then, as performance improves, give feedback on other
areas to improve.
8. Plan your feedback.
Plan what to say, and in what order. Think before you
talk. As you give feedback on a regular basis it will become
easier to balance your comments, and provide feedback that
can be acted upon.
9. Own your feedback.
Use “I” statements, so that the receiver understands that it is
your opinion. Example: “Your posture of standing with your
hands on your hips was very authoritarian as you talked
with the group” is different than saying, “I found your hands
on your hips distracting. That posture is sometimes seen as
aggressive and authoritarian. Were you aware you were
standing like that? What were you thinking as you stood
Guidelines for Receiving Feedback
1. Solicit feedback in clear and specific areas.
It’s always easier to give feedback if one is asked. It’s even
easier when a specific question is asked. Example: “I often
find it difficult to conclude a presentation. Will you pay
particular attention to the conclusion today?”
2. Ask for clarification and make a point to understand
Listen carefully and ask for clarification, if the feedback is
not clear. Example: “Are you saying that if I had given an
introduction stating what I was going to talk about, that the
rest of the presentation was clear?”
3. Help the giver use the criteria for giving useful
Example: If the feedback is too general, ask: “Could you give
me specific examples of what you mean?”
4. Avoid making it more difficult for the giver of the
feedback than it already is.
Strive to avoid being defensive, angry or argumentative.
5. Don’t ask for explanations.
Clarification and examples are different than asking why
someone did not like something. Requesting explanations
beyond the facts can seem defensive and often end up in an
argument. As a result the giver backs off and is discouraged
from giving feedback in the future. However, the giver is not
discouraged from seeing negative behavior or assessing your
performance; the person simply becomes unwilling to
provide the feedback. Focus on understanding the behavior
and its impact.
6. Assume the sender wants to help.
Related to the point above, assume that the person giving the
feedback is helping you improve. It should not be seen as a
way to be more powerful than you or to make you feel bad.
Everyone can improve; it is a benefit to have someone reflect
how your behavior appears to him/her.
7. Be appreciative and thank the observer.
Express your gratitude in a sincere way, such as “Thanks. I
am sure I will be clearer if I pay attention to your points.”
8. Share your improvement plan.
Tell the giver what you intend to do in the future. Example:
“I think I will try your idea of putting talking points on the
flip chart in pencil. That should help me get rid of the notes
that are distracting to me.”
Remember that feedback is based on one person’s
perception of another person’s behavior, not universal
truth. You are receiving one person’s perceptions. Having
this in mind should make you less defensive. If you do not
agree with the feedback, you might check out the
perceptions with others. For example, you might ask
someone else to watch you for the specific behaviors you
received feedback on.
Everyone sees things differently — knowledge often lies in
the eye of the beholder. To reframe means to change the
conceptual and/or emotional setting or viewpoint in relation
to which a situation is experienced and to place it in another
frame which fits the ”facts” of the same concrete situation
equally well or even better, and thereby changes its entire
meaning. (Watzlawick et al.)
The reframing matrix enables different perspectives to be
generated and used in coaching and management processes.
It expands the number of options for solving a problem.
“Wise people,” wrote M. Scott Peck, “learn not to dread but
actually to welcome problems.” You know why that’s wise?
Because you’re going to get problems. If you welcome them
and embrace the challenge, you will be better at solving
them. And you will be less upset or depressed by problems
when they come along (which they will).
We can learn to welcome problems by getting in the habit of
framing problems as "opportunities in disguise." We can
learn to welcome problems by deliberately trying to see
what’s good about the problem — by deciding right up front,
“This is good,” and then working to make it so.
Perspective is a mental view, an ingrained way of perceiving
the world. Different people have different experiences and
see in different ways: understanding how they do expands
the range of solutions that one might devise to address a
question or problem.
The reframing matrix is a simple technique that helps
examine problems from distinct viewpoints. In other words,
individuals or groups place themselves in the mindsets of
different people and imagine what solutions the latter might
come up with. The reframing matrix was devised by Michael
EXAMPLES OF REFRAMING
I am in a tunnel and I
can’t see a way out.
I am too anxious to
I know I will never be
When he/she looks at
me like that he/she
Beggars are criminals
and might kill me.
He/she is out at night
and that means that
he/she does not love
me any more.
He/she is so boring,
stays in all the time and
does not have a mind of
Every tunnel has an
entrance and exit.
You need to be anxious
enough to concentrate.
Being confident starts
with having insights
about our limits.
People cover up their
hurt by putting a scowl
on their faces.
No one deliberately
wants to fall on hard
Private time away can
help you to appreciate
each other much more.
Thoughtful people put
others first and are a
great port in a storm —
a great source of
The reframing matrix lays a question (or problem) in the middle of a
four-box grid. It is then examined from four typical business
• Program Perspective: Are there issues with the program (or product
or service) we are delivering?
• Planning Perspective: Is the business (or communications plan)
• Potential Perspective: Is the program replicable? Can it be scaled up?
• People Perspective: What do the people involved think?
The figure below offers one example of the so-called Four Ps Approach,
with illustrative questions aimed at a new program that is not raising
Then again, the four-box grid can be used to consider a question (or
problem) from the perspectives of different groups of stakeholders, e.g.,
staff, coachees, suppliers, and partners, or specialists, e.g., engineers,
lawyers, economists, or information technology specialists. The table
below shows how one might figure out the potential perspectives of
internal and external stakeholders in the context of a development
Even so, the problématique of independent evaluation is still more
complex.2 At the request of shareholders tasked with reporting to
political leadership, taxpayers, and citizens, feedback from evaluation
studies has often tended to support accountability (and hence provide
for control), not serve as an important foundation block of a learning
organization. Some now argue for a reinterpretation of the notion of
accountability. Others cite lack of utility; the perverse, unintended
consequences of evaluation for accountability, such as diversion of
resources; emphasis on justification rather than improvement;
distortion of program activities; incentive to lie, cheat, and distort; and
misplaced accent on control.3 Table 3 suggests that the two basic
objectives of evaluations—accountability and learning—are generally
This is not to say that evaluation units face an either-or situation. Both
accountability and learning are important goals for evaluation
feedback. One challenge is to make accountability accountable. In
essence, evaluation units are placing increased emphasis on results
orientation while maintaining traditional checks on use of inputs and
compliance with procedures. Lack of clarity on why evaluations for
accountability are carried out, and what purpose they are expected to
serve, contributes to their frequent lack of utility.
Moreover, if evaluations for accountability add only limited value,
resources devoted to documenting accountability can have a negative
effect, perversely enough. However, evaluation for learning is the area
where observers find the greatest need today and tomorrow, and
evaluation units should be retooled to meet it. Table 5 suggests how
work programs for evaluation might be reinterpreted to emphasize
Evaluation capacity development promises much to the learning
organization, and should be an activity in which centralized evaluation
units have a comparative advantage. Capacity is the ability of people,
organizations, and society as a whole to manage their affairs
successfully; and capacity to undertake effective monitoring and
evaluation is a determining factor of aid effectiveness. Evaluation
capacity development is the process of reinforcing or establishing the
skills, resources, structures, and commitment to conduct and use
monitoring and evaluation over time. Many key decisions must be made
when starting to develop evaluation capacity internally in a strategic
way.4 Among the most important are:
Architecture. Locating and structuring evaluation functions and
Strengthening evaluation demand. Ensuring that there is an
effective and well-managed demand for evaluations.
Strengthening evaluation supply. Making certain that the skills and
competencies are in place with appropriate organizational support.
Institutionalizing evaluations. Building evaluation into policy-
Why development agencies should want to develop in-house, self-
evaluation capacity is patently clear.
Stronger evaluation capacity will help them
Develop as a learning organization.
Take ownership of their visions for poverty reduction, if the
evaluation vision is aligned with that.
Profit more effectively from formal evaluations.
Make self-evaluations an important part of their activities.
Focus quality improvement efforts.
Increase the benefits and decrease the costs associated with their
Augment their ability to change programming midstream and
adapt in a dynamic, unpredictable environment.
Build evaluation equity, if they are then better able to conduct
more of their own self-evaluation, instead of hiring them out.
Shorten the learning cycle.
Figure 2 poses key questions concerning how an organization may
learn from evaluation, combining the two elements of learning by
involvement and learning by communication. It provides the context
within which to visualize continuing efforts to increase value added
from independent evaluation, and underscores the role in internal
evaluation capacity development. It also makes a strong case for more
research into how development agencies learn how to learn
The Reframing Matrix
A Reframing Matrix is a simple technique that helps you to look at
problems from a number of different viewpoints. It expands the range
of creative solutions that you can generate.
The approach relies on the fact that different people with different
experience approach problems in different ways. What this technique
helps you to do is to put yourself into the minds of different people and
imagine the solutions they would come up with.
We do this by putting the question to be asked in the middle of a grid.
We use boxes around the grid for the different perspectives. This is just
an easy way of laying the problem out - if it does not suit you, change it.
We will look at two different approaches to the reframing matrix. You
could, however, use this approach in many different ways.
The 4 Ps Approach
This relies on looking at a problem from different perspectives within a
business. The 4 Ps approach looks at problems from the following
1. Product perspective: is there something wrong with the product?
2. Planning perspective: are our business or marketing plans at fault?
3. Potential perspective: if we were to seriously increase our targets,
how would we achieve these increases?
4. People perspective: why do people choose one product over another?
The 'Professions Approach'
Another approach to using a reframing matrix is to look at the problem
from the viewpoints of different specialists. The way, for example, that
a doctor looks at a problem would be different from the approach a civil
engineer would use. This would be different from a sales manager's
Here is an example of both approaches:
Asian Development Bank- Metro Manila, Philippines -
email@example.com - www.adb.org/knowledgesolutions
Olivier Serrat, Head of the Knowledge Management Center, Asian
Development Bank (firstname.lastname@example.org).
3.7 REALITY CHECK
When people come for personal life coaching, they usually feel stuck.
They desperately want to change something, but they report they don’t
know how to make their lives different. As they discuss the scenario, I
typically note a common denominator that keeps them stuck in their
Most people who want to change are caught up in a state of “denial”. As
you read this, you might be saying to yourself that you don’t fall into
that state because you clearly know what is wrong in your life and what
you want to change. I assure you, denial is almost always part of the
The classic example of denial is the coachee who lives with an alcoholic
and does not see the behavior as being as serious as it is. She might say,
“He wasn’t as drunk as last weekend” or “Well, at least he didn’t drive”
or “He couldn’t have been that intoxicated because he was able to go to
When a coachee comes in and wants to start a new business they
typically have not researched the amount of hours they will need to
devote to changing their life so dramatically. They have not created the
financial support to sustain them during this transition. They are in
denial about the realities of this change. They want the outcome, but
they haven’t created the infrastructure to support the change.
My work with coachees who are stuck usually involves moving them
out of the state of denial by doing what I call a “reality check”. This is
done in two steps. The first step is after the coachee makes a statement,
I hit them with a dose of reality.
COACHEE: I want to lose ten pounds.
ME: What have you done to support the change?
COACHEE: I am doing a lot of thinking about it.
ME: (reality check) I haven’t heard you talk about the behaviors that
support the change.
The coachee is well-meaning, but they continue to avoid looking at the
real picture. They stay in that state of denial, pretending they know
what they need to do to improve their lives, when in essence their
situation continues to have major problems because they don’t have a
specific action plan that they are implementing or because they aren’t
seeing the situation for what it is.
I believe you will get healthier faster if you move out of the state of
denial and see the total picture. When a coachee says to me, “I have
been working on my spending” I do a reality check… “How much less
are you spending?” They typically answer, “Well, I don’t know the exact
numbers.” By not knowing the exact numbers they don’t have to change
their behavior drastically.
It’s a very scary thing to alter your life to support the goals you really
want. It takes a lot of courage and self-determination to stop enabling
others or yourself. It almost always means that you will have to let go of
some familiar behavior that has not been working for you. If you want
to save money, you can’t buy that new dress or that new technological
toy. If you want to lose weight, you won’t be able to have that second
helping. If you want to be less affected by your spouse, you will need to
walk away from them temporarily and create your own life.
Are you in denial about something important? To live the life you were
meant to live, you must give 100% to it.
3.8.1 SCALING OF PROBLEMS
Think about something you want to achieve, or even some (minor)
problem that you are currently facing. How would you rate where you
are in relation to this issue on a scale of 0-10 - where 0 is the worst it's
ever been, and 10 is how it's going to be when it's exactly how you want
This seemingly simple question does a number of useful things and
opens the door to even more. Let's have a look in more detail at how it
Unless the rating is zero, it helps you realise that not everything is
bad in the current situation. When we focus on solving a problem,
that tends to expand to fill our awareness until all we see is the
problem. Rating the problem on a scale helps us to realise that some
things are already working, and some components of the solution
are already happening.
Having a scale implies that it's possible to move. If we view the
current situation as 'the problem', and contrast that with our ideal
solution, it can seem like there's no bridge between the two -
particularly if we are prone to black and white, either/or thinking.
The scale builds a bridge between 'problem' and solution - and
obviously implies that we can move along it to get closer to the
Do you ever give yourself a hard time about not achieving enough?
As you know, that will most likely demotivate you. Instead, you can
use scaling to remind you of what you have already achieved with
this supplementary question:
(given that you are at n on the scale now) How have you got there from
Or: How do you stop yourself sliding back to n-1?
Notice how these questions acknowledge and validate what you have
already been doing to make the solution happen, and provide
behavioural reinforcement to your unconscious mind, encouraging it to
do more in that direction.
You can use scaling to begin to move towards your ideal solution,
(given that you are at n on the scale now) What will be different when
you are at n+1?
Notice that the question is not asking 'How are you going to get there?' -
just 'What will be different?'. This begins to build an image in your mind
of how things will be when they are just a bit closer to how you want
them, and what you will be doing differently - a form of mental
rehearsal which makes it more likely that you will take action.
Of course, if you are using scaling to coach someone else, you can
equally well use these questions to assist them in moving towards their
solution. You can also ask, for any action that they tell you they are
going to take: 'On a scale of 0-10, how committed are you?' For
anything they expect to happen: 'On a scale of 0-10, how confident are
you that this will happen?'
Normally I give sources for any research that I quote. Here's an
additional snippet I recall reading somewhere, but the source escapes
me - so it's up to you if you believe it or not: when we assign a
numerical rating to a problem, this engages the left hemisphere of the
brain, which is associated with more positive emotions. So just by
scaling a problem, we may start to feel better about it. If anyone is
aware of the research which backs this up, do let me know!
solution-focus-2-scaling.html (Andy Smith)
The Solutions Focus: Making Coaching and Change SIMPLE - by Paul Z
Jackson and Mark McKergow
3.8.2. Scaling Techniques For Assessing Progress
Using scaling techniques in coaching can be a really useful way of
helping a coachee assess their progress or their state of satisfaction in
relation to their desired outcomes, or clarify their commitment to a way
For example (in the simplest form):
On a scale of 1 -10…
…to what extent have you made progress towards this goal?
…how content are you in this area?
…how committed are you to taking this action.
This then allows the coachee to assess their position and gives a
foundation on which to move forward.
The use of scaling techniques in coaching forms part of the ‘Solutions
focus’ approach (see further reading) and there are numerous
techniques you can employ to use scaling effectively. (There are even
whole day courses you can spend to improve your skills in this area!)
One powerful benefit of scaling is to help your coachee to asess their
position in relation to their ideal outcome (their 10/10). So, when you
ask a scaling question remember to give a brief description of what
their 10/10 might be and a brief description of their 1/10, ensuring
that what you describe for the latter is well below what you know their
e.g. ‘On a scale of 1 – 10 where 10/10 is your perfect scenario where
you are totally organised, you know what you have to do and you
achieve everything you want to achieve in a day and more, and as a
result you feel great… and 1/1 is where you are so disorganised that
you achieve absolutely nothing in a day, you don’t know what you want
to achieve and you don’t even know how to start being
organised….where are you on this scale?’
In this scenario your coachee will most likely to be able to identify some
midpoint between the two extremes on which you can then build with a
further question such as:
‘so what do you know you are doing well which is giving you the score
of 4?’ which then leads to further positive exploration.
Remember, always use 1 rather than zero as your lower end of the scale
as zero cannot be built upon should your coachee choose the lowest
Once you have established your coachee’s current position you can then
ask questions to help move them forward:
e.g. so, if you are now at a 6 what things can you now do to move
yourself to a 7?’
Using scaling techniques in coaching is also a great way to assess your
coachee’s commitment to an action. Simply asking ‘are you committed’
is a closed question and will more likely prompt a ‘yes’ rather than a
‘no’ whatever their commitment is, whilst asking ‘how committed are
you’ might elicit a vague ‘very committed’ response which could mean
many things. By asking a scaling question you are helping your coachee
put some measure on it which you can then explore further and prompt
you to ask ‘so what would bring your commitment to a 10/10?’
From experience coachees with a commitment of less than 8/10 usually
require further exploration to establish underlying issues affecting
their motivation and to establish what action they will be more
3.9 EXTERNALISING OF PROBLEMS
Externalising language is used in coaching to separate the problem
from the person. For example, a person may say “I am a sad person”.
This implies that the person has a sad quality or characteristic of
sadness rather than it just being something that affects the person from
time to time.
Coaches working from a narrative perspective are attuned to the
language they use to represent an issue or problem in their coachees’
lives. They assume that the issue or problem is “having an effect on the
person” rather than the issue or problem being an intrinsic part of who
the person is.
Rather than saying “you are lacking in motivation”, a coach working
from a narrative perspective may ask “when did motivation leave you?”
OR rather than say, “you are stressed” the coach may enquire, “when
did stress get a hold of you?”
Consider the difference between saying ‘I’m a perfectionist’ as
opposed to saying ‘Perfectionism is giving me a hard time today.’ In the
latter case, you are, in language at least, separating you – the person –
from the problem. The separation opens up different ways of talking
about the problem and helps bring to the surface different options for
responding to it.
Of course, you can think of impediments to productivity as a
manifestation of your basic essence, your basic nature. The
impediments may be your intrinsic laziness, slow-wittedness, or
clumsiness showing through. On the other hand, you can externalise
these impediments, think of them as objects or agents that are distinct
from you and with which you have a (sometimes troubled) relationship.
When problems are externalised, it’s much more natural to think of
them as coming and going, sometimes being strong, sometimes weak. It
is much more natural to ask when they arrived on the scene, to ask
whether they might leave, and to ask whether and how you might
change your relationship with them.
If something is holding you back, you can seek to find a name or
other means of referring to the problem, a means that makes it separate
from you. Sometimes just putting a ‘the’ in front of it will work, e.g.
‘The Perfectionism’ or ‘The Block’. There are no right answers here.
The point of the technique is to find a name that means something to
you. And if your first couple of tries for a name don’t feel right, you
can always try others.
Names people have shared with me for problems that have interfered
with achieving their goals in a sustainable way include: ‘The Critic’,
‘Perfecto Man’, ‘The Pressure Cooker’, ‘The Boulder’ and so on. Having a
name for your particular problem, one that means something to you,
helps create the separation between you and the problem. For some
people, the business of naming a problem can seem daft. And for very
many people naming a problem can be both fun and a helpful first step
in loosening its grip.
Finding out more about a problem
Once you have a name for your problem – and even if you do not –
you can find out more about it. How does it like to operate? When is
it most active? Does it have a gender? Does it have a colour and a
When is the problem in charge and when are you in charge? What
aspirations does the problem have for you in the short and in the long
term? What do you like about it and what do you dislike?
What positive intentions does the problem have (even if, overall, it does
not play a positive role for you)? What consequences does the
problem tend to bring about?
Exceptions and unique outcomes
Problems and the problem-talk that they promote, often like to
generalise recklessly. They are very fond of words such as ‘always’,
‘never’, ‘not once’, ‘every time’ and so on, e.g. ‘Every time I start to write
I get blocked. I will never finish this report.‘ If this is your experience,
it’s worth gently probing your history to see whether such statements
really stand up to scrutiny.
You might, for example, get curious as to whether there are any
occasions where the problem has not got its way. What was different on
such an occasion? Can you find a common thread that links together a
series of occasions where the problem did not interfere in a way that
you would rather it had not?
This line of inquiry is not about denying the power of the problem. It’s
not about pretending that it is not an issue. Rather, it’s about opening
up some space for another story thread. If, as can sometimes happen,
the dominant story thread is one of being stuck – ‘I have terminal
writer’s block, I’ll never get finished‘ – then this can sometimes drive
out exceptions. Learning more about the exceptions, especially if you
get stuck a lot, can be a route to renegotiating your relationship with
At the same time, adopting different and richer ways of describing your
relationship to a problem, can help prepare the path for changing the
manner of that relationship, e.g. ‘On Tuesday morning, The Block
started to work on me just as I was making coffee and didn’t let go for
the rest of the day. But on Friday, after lunch with Emily, The Block was
just absent. I didn’t even think about its presence or absence until now.’
You are not the problem, the problem is the problem
Externalising emphasises that you are not the problem. Rather, the
problem is the problem. Getting some distance from the problem can
help you see your abilities and competencies, can help you see the
differences between what you want for yourself and what the problem
wants for you. Having this space can often help you renegotiate terms
with the problem or, in some cases, break off relations with the
Externalising has it origins as a subtle technique that is used by
narrative therapists. For the best DIY results, read up more about it and
work with another person who has also read up. If what you try works,
keep on with it. If it doesn’t, stop and try something else.
Origins and understandings
Narrative therapy, and the technique of externalising, was developed
by Michael White and David Epston.
Generalising recklessly is a topic addressed within Transactional
Analysis therapy in relation to the concepts of ‘discounting’ and
What is Narrative Therapy?: An Introduction. Extracts of the book
are available at www.dulwichcentre.com.au site,
o What is Narrative Therapy?: An Easy to Read Introduction
Brief Counselling: Narratives and Solutions. The authors’ have a
great slogan – ‘if it works do more of it, if it doesn’t do something
o Brief Counselling: Narratives and Solutions
Source: http://obliquely.org.uk/blog/externalising/ (Matthew Elton)
3.10 CREATING RAPPORT
A coach gives his coachee his full attention. By doing so, you make it
easier for the coachee to tell his story and enables him to look at he
could handle his problem better or even solve it. Giving attention you
also do by listening actively, by being genuine and by showing respect,
in other words by totally being there for the coachee.
As coach you tune into your coachee. You tune into his use of language,
words, intonation, attitude, movements and emotions. Do this
unobtrusively. If you tune into your coachee, it will become easier for
you to imagine what it would be like being him and having his problem.
Your coachee will also feel more at ease with you. This can be called
Coaching is a very special learning and development relationship.
Rapport is one of the active ingredients of coaching that makes it work.
More rapport between the coach and coachee will typically make the
coaching go more quickly. Less rapport will make it less effective. What
this means is that more time spent by the coach and their coachee up
front will lead to less effort later to produce results. Less effort up front
to create rapport will mean more effort is needed later to stimulate the
coachee to right action.
If you have a coaching role and you have a new coachee, who will be a
challenge, taking the time to establish rapport will make the coaching
more successful. In extreme circumstances the rapport building might
need to be 99% of the coaching relationship.
So what is rapport. The dictionary definition speaks of mutual trust. My
favourite definition of trust is ‘an absence of vulnerability.’ So rapport
could be considered a ‘mutual absence of vulnerability.’
How is that developed from the coach’s side of the relationship. Here
are five ideas.
1. Be curious.
Ask a lot of questions. People trust people who are interested in them.
The reason for this is that people tend to feel isolated as life gets more
complicated. And when someone pays attention to us we feel safer and
Think of the car buying situation with the car salesperson as the coach.
The salesperson who focuses on finding out the customer’s needs
before trying to close the sale will do much better than the salesperson
who focuses on the product. When someone tries to sell us something,
whether a car or an idea, if we feel they know us, we will feel safer and
be more open to what they have to say.
As a coach the more you use curious information gathering to build
rapport the more likely it is that your coachee will trust you and be
2. Be an open space listener.
When you ask a question deliberately pause to let the person you’re
asking answer. This is a sign of respect, which builds feelings of safety
Imagine if you had an audience with the Pope. Would you ask a
question and then jump in while he was answering. No, not at all. You
would respectfully wait for the answer.
It is the same in building rapport. To build trust you must patiently
provide an empty space for the answer to fill. Patient open space
listening produces respect, an absence of vulnerability and rapport.
3. Be a flexible mirror.
To make someone you’re talking to feel comfortable it is helpful to
mirror their demeanour. If they are slow and deliberate they will feel
most comfortable if you are the same way. If you’re in a hurry they will
feel uncomfortable and less safe.
When trying to mirror someone look for their language pattern. Is it
deliberate or fast? Try to measure their breathing pattern in the same
way. Is it fast or slow? Reflect it. Watch out for their body language. If
they are relaxed, don’t lean in aggressively.
Being flexible in how you act around your coaching coachees will help
you to be a better coach. It will help you build rapport, their feelings of
safety and their receptiveness to your coaching.
4. Be charismatic.
When coaching act as if your coachee is your whole world. Focusing
intently on them will build rapport. It will make them feel important
and make it easier for them to trust you and this trust will make them
more sympathetic to your coaching.
In order to focus intently on them get into a quiet space to coach. This
should be away from distractions. Make it easy on yourself to focus. For
example, don’t coach somewhere where there is a lot of action going on
behind your coachee. If necessary, face a wall with your coachee in
front of you to make it easy on yourself.
If you are distracted during the coaching session it is like saying your
coachee is of less importance than what is distracting. What does it say
to answer a phone while listening to another person?
5. Be understanding.
One other way to build rapport is let your coachee know that you
understand where they are coming from. When you acknowledge them,
that is you say and demonstrate that you understand, it doesn’t mean
you agree it just means that you have heard them.
This creates an absence of vulnerability because people want to know
that they have been heard. That makes them feel important and makes
it easier to trust.
To demonstrate that you understand let them know that their words
make sense to you and, when possible, that you have had similar
experiences and thoughts. This might be done by telling them about a
personal experience that is like theirs. If that is not possible say that
you understand or ask them to explain further in a way that lets them
know you are interested in their experience. Being heard is a building
block of trusting.
So building rapport is taking steps to create trust by creating an
absence of vulnerability. This is done by helping the coachee to feel
safe. Steps to take include being curious, creating an open space for
answers to questions, mirroring the demeanour of the coachee, giving
the coachee your total attention and acknowledging that they are being
heard. It’s all about being an excellent listener.
Rapport is the ultimate tool for producing results with other people and
thus it is so vital for effective communications.
Whether you know the person or not, there are 6 main steps to
establishing rapport with anyone.
When you bear in mind that 93% of all communication is down to the
tonality of your voice and your body language, building rapport is far
more than just talking about common experiences.
It's an important point to remember but people like people when they
are like themselves and when they are not it so much more difficult to
have any sort of relationship with that person never mind an effective
Have you ever had times in your past when building rapport was so
I bet you've also had times when you thought, "Oh, what am I going to
do and say next?"
We have all been there!
We have also all been there when you've wanted to be quiet and
relaxed when all of a sudden a friend or colleague comes jumping in
and full of energy, wanting to talk your head off? How did you feel?
I bet there have also been times when you've been full of energy and
the other person wants to relax! You go arrggghhhhh!
Ok, so let's get to the 6 things you need to do to build rapport.
1. Match the persons sensory modality
What I mean here is to match and mirror the way that they think and
Remember when we were talking about visual, auditory and kinesthetic
Well, this is about putting it into practice.
Listen for the indicator words that the person is using and use
words/phrases from the same modality.
Also, look out for eye movements to spot thinking patterns.
2. Mirror the persons Physiology
By copying the persons posture, facial expressions, hand gestures,
movements and even their eye blinking, will cause their body to say
unconsciously to their mind that this person is like me!
3. Match their voice
You should match the tone, tempo, timbre and the volume of the
You should also make use of matching the key words that they use a lot.
Examples of this may be: "Alright", "Actually", "You know what I mean"
4. Match their breathing
You should match the persons breathing to the same pace. Matching the
in and out breath.
5. Match how they deal with information
You should match persons CHUNK SIZE of how they deal with
For example are they detailed or do they talk and think in big pictures.
If you get this wrong you will find it very difficult indeed to build
rapport as the detailed person will be yearning for more information
and the big picture person will soon be yawning!
6. Match common experiences
After all, what are you going to talk about!
This is all about finding some commonality to talk about. Matching
experiences, interests, backgrounds, values and beliefs.
One point to bare in mind is that you need to be subtle when you are
matching and mirroring. Don't go over the top!
Typically however, the other person will be focussing so much on what
they have to say that they will not even notice.
Calibration is one way of determining whether you are in rapport with
This basically means that you need to develop your ability to notice to
such an extent that you can begin to see people's reactions to
If the person seems to be comfortable with what you are doing, more
than likely you are building rapport.
Look at for their eye movement, the muscles around the eyes, their lip
movement, and twitches or changes in breathing.
Some extra tips that may come in very useful:
I know that this one’s obvious, but we’re much more approachable
when we smile. Alternatively, a greeting without a smile lacks warmth
and makes it difficult for us to connect with others.
A solid handshake
A good handshake isn’t very memorable, but a bad one is. Make sure
that your handshake is firm (without breaking fingers) and doesn’t go
on for too long.
Hanging your hand out like a dead fish comes across as insipid and
lacking in confidence, a bad start to any relationship and to be avoided.
Whilst you may have used the same handshake for your whole life so
far, it’s never too late to change, so if you’re conscious that you
sometimes don’t come across well in this area, start practicing.
Get, and use, their name
To assist you to build rapport with others, getting their name early in
the interaction is crucial. It’s just as important to use it a few times,
making the conversation more personal and increasing the likelihood
that you’ll remember it the next time you meet them.
Be conscious of your body language
When meeting people for the first time, it’s obviously important that
you appear relaxed and open in your stance and that you make good
eye contact. As the conversation goes on, it can also help to mirror the
body language of the person you’re speaking to, not in an obvious way,
but in a way that gives the impression that you’re “in synch” with each
other. Make sure as well that you’re focused on the person that you’re
talking to, not looking around the room, which can give the impression
that you’re looking for someone more interesting to talk to.
Find common interests, but keep it about them
People like people who share interests with them, so asking questions
about their family, work, background, even favourite sporting teams
can assist you to find common ground with the other person. However,
when you’ve found one or two points of affiliation, don’t take that as
permission to talk too much yourself. Ask questions to get the other
person talking, enabling them to feel more comfortable and confident
Increasing levels of rapport
Matching the persons physiology
Matching their voice
Matching their breathing patterns
Matching how they deal with information
Matching common experiences
MEGA RAPPORT LEVELS!!!!!!!!
The Coaching Clinic: Jerome Shore - tel 416-787-5555 or
Darren Poke, is a husband and father of three from Melbourne,
Australia. He is also an accredited and experienced Life Coach
who currently works as a Network Pastor at CityLife Church
3.11. COLLABORATION BUILDING
How to develop collaboration building
1 : Prepare to compromise. When working with a team, it is impossible
for everyone to get their way, so compromise is imperative. Don't
consider it a blow to your ego, simply a necessity when you develop
collaboration skills and put them to use.
2 : Avoid taking it personally. When collaborating with a group, there is
always a chance of getting your feelings hurt by insensitive team
members or group decisions. Remember that decision-making should
not be personal, it is just a natural part of the process.
3 : Focus on the well-being of the project. In order to fully develop
collaboration skills, it is important to keep your eye on the task at hand.
Focusing your efforts on the success of a project removes the urge to
get your own way and helps a group stay on task.
4 : Communicate effectively. Without communication all sorts of
problems are likely to pop up. By communicating in thoughtful ways
and remaining mindful of others' feelings and motivations, you will be
more likely to collaborate successfully.
5 : Identify challenges. If you have trouble developing collaboration
skills, take some time to reflect on your difficulties. By pinpointing the
hurdles in your way and the causes of your discomfort, you can map out
ways to overcome them.
6 : Participate in team building activities. There are a number of team
building workshops and activities that are easily accessible online or in
person. Take the time to participate in team building activities as a way
to quickly and efficiently develop collaboration skills.
Read more: How to Develop Collaboration Skills | eHow.com
A-to-Z strategies for building collaboration
Most people agree that effective collaboration is more important than
ever in today’s turbulent environment. In a “do-more-with-less” reality,
it takes ongoing teamwork to produce innovative, cost-effective,
efficient and targeted solutions. In fact, the ultimate success of the
coaching process may depend on how well coach and coachee can
combine their potential and the quality of the information they possess
with their ability (and willingness) to share that knowledge .
So, what’s to be done? Here, from A to Z, are the most successful
strategies to tear down fences, reduce conflicts and increase
A. Find ways to ACKNOWLEDGE collaborative contributors. Recognize
and promote people who learn, teach and share. And, penalize those
who do not. In all best-practices companies, those hoarding knowledge
and failing to build on ideas of others face visible and serious career
consequences. In those top companies, employees who share
knowledge, teach, mentor, and work across departmental boundaries
are recognized and rewarded.
B. Watch your BODY LANGUAGE. All leaders express enthusiasm,
warmth and confidence – as well as arrogance, indifference and
displeasure through their facial expressions, gestures, touch and use of
space. If leaders want to be perceived as credible and collaborative,
they need to make sure that their verbal messages are supported (not
sabotaged) by their nonverbal signals.
C. Focus on the CUSTOMER. Nothing is more important in an
organization – whether it’s a for-profit company or a non-profit group –
than staying close to the end-user of the service or product you offer.
When you build collaborative relationships with your customers, you
give them power and co-ownership of your organization’s success.
D. DIVERSITY is crucial to harnessing the full power of collaboration.
Experiments at the University of Michigan found that, when challenged
with a difficult problem, groups composed of highly adept members
performed worse than groups whose members had varying levels of
skill and knowledge. The reason for this seemingly odd outcome has to
do with the power of diverse thinking. Group members who think alike
or are trained in similar disciplines with similar knowledge bases run
the risk of becoming insular in their ideas. Instead of exploring
alternatives, a confirmation bias takes over and members tend to
reinforce one another’s predisposition. Diversity causes people to
consider perspectives and possibilities that would otherwise be
E. ELIMINATE the barriers to a free flow of ideas. Everyone has
knowledge that is important to someone else, and you never know
whose input is going to become an essential part of the solution. When
insights and opinions are ridiculed, criticized or ignored, people feel
threatened and “punished” for contributing. They typically react by
withdrawing from the conversation. Conversely, when people are free
to ask “dumb” questions, challenge the status quo and offer novel –
even bizarre – suggestions, then sharing knowledge becomes a
collaborative process of blending diverse opinion, expertise and
F. To enhance collaboration, analyze and learn from FAILURE. The goal
is not to eliminate all errors, but to analyze mistakes in order to create
systems that more quickly detect and correct mistakes before they
G. Collaboration takes GUIDANCE by managers who know how to
harness the energies and talents of others while keeping their own egos
in check. Successful organizations require leaders at all levels who
manage by influence and inclusion rather than by position.
H. Eliminate HOARDING by challenging the “knowledge is power”
attitude. Knowledge is no longer a commodity like gold, which holds (or
increases) its worth over time. It’s more like milk – fluid, evolving and
stamped with an expiration date. And, by the way, there is nothing less
powerful than hanging on to knowledge whose time has expired.
I. Focus on INNOVATION. Creativity is triggered by a cross-pollination
of ideas. It is in the combination and collision of ideas that creative
breakthroughs most often occur. When an organization focuses on
innovation, it does so by bringing together people with different
backgrounds, perspectives and expertise – breaking down barriers and
silos in the process.
J. JOIN the social media revolution and utilize Web 2.0 technologies –
tools and processes that allow people to share opinions, insights,
experiences and perspectives in order to collaborate and to self
K. Realize that there are two kinds of KNOWLEDGE in your
organization: Explicit knowledge can be transferred in a document or
entered in a database. Tacit knowledge needs a conversation, a story, a
relationship. Make sure you are developing strategies to capture both.
L. LEADERS at all levels of an organization can nurture collaboration
within their own work group or staff. And the most successful of these
leaders do so by taking the time and effort necessary to make people
feel safe and valued. They emphasize people’s strengths while
encouraging the sharing of mistakes and lessons learned. They set clear
expectations for outcomes and clarify individual roles. They help all
members recognize what each of them brings to the team. They model
openness, vulnerability and honesty. They tell stories of group
successes and personal challenges. And most of all, they encourage and
respect everyone’s contribution.
M. MIX it up by rotating personnel in various jobs and departments
around the organization, by creating cross-functional teams, and by
inviting managers from other areas of the organization to attend (or
lead) your team meetings.
N. Employees with multiple NETWORKS throughout the organization
facilitate collaboration. You can accelerate the flow of knowledge and
information across boundaries by encouraging workplace relationships
and communities. Use a tool like Social Network Analysis (SNA) to
create a visual model of current networks so you can reinforce the
connections and help fill the gaps.
O. Insist on OPEN and transparent communication. In an organization,
the way information is handled determines whether it becomes an
obstacle to or an enabler of collaboration. Employees today need access
to information at any time from any place.
P. Collaboration is a PARTNERSHIP. As one savvy leader put it, “To
make collaboration work, you’ve got to treat people the way you want
to be treated. It’s pretty simple, really. Treat all employees as your
partners. Because they are.”
Q. Ask the right QUESTIONS. At the beginning of a project, ask: What
information/knowledge do we need? Who are the experts? Who in the
organization has done this before? Do we have this on a database? Who
else will need to know what we learn? How do we plan to share/hand
off what we learn?
R. The success of any organization or team – its creativity, productivity
and effectiveness – hinges on the strength of the RELATIONSHIPS of its
members. Collaboration is enhanced when employees get to know one
another as individuals. So, when you hold offsite retreats, organization-
wide celebrations or workplace events with “social” time built in, be
sure to provide opportunities for personal relationships to develop.
Taking time to build this “social capital” at the beginning of a project
increases the effectiveness of a team later on.
S. Collaboration is communicated best through STORIES – of successes,
failures, opportunities, challenges, and knowledge accumulated
through experience. Find those stories throughout your organization.
Record them. Share them.
T. TRUST is the foundation for collaboration. It is the conduit through
which knowledge flows. Without trust, an organization loses its
emotional “glue.” In a culture of suspicion people withhold information,
hide behind psychological walls, withdraw from participation. If you
want to create a networked organization, the first and most crucial step
is to build a culture of trust.
U. Combating silo mentality requires UNIFYING goals. Business unit
leaders must understand the overarching goals of the total organization
and the importance of working in concert with other areas to achieve
those crucial strategic objectives.
V. The incentive to collaborate is the VALUE of the exchange to both
the organization and the individual. When the assets and benefits of
productive collaboration are made visible, silos melt away.
W. Your WORKPLACE layout encourages or impedes the way the
organization communicates. To facilitate knowledge sharing, you need
to create environments that stimulate both arranged and chance
encounters. Attractive break-out areas, coffee bars, comfortable
cafeteria chairs, even wide landings on staircases – all of these increase
the likelihood that employees will meet and linger to talk.
X. Take a tip from XEROX. It discovered that real learning doesn’t take
place in the classroom – or in any formal setting. In fact, people were
found to learn more from comparing experiences in the hallways than
from reading the company’s official manuals, going online to a
knowledge repository or attending training sessions.
Y. Collaboration is crucial for YOUR success. We’ve witnessing the death
of “The Lone Ranger” leadership model, where one person comes in
with all the answers to save the day. We now know that no leader,
regardless of how brilliant and talented, is smarter than the collective
genius of the workforce.
Z. Forget about reaching the ZENITH. Collaborative cultures are
learning cultures – and knowledge sharing is an ongoing process, not
an end point.
Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D., is a keynote speaker and author of 10
business books. Her latest is “The Nonverbal Advantage: Secrets and
Science of Body Language at Work”.
Practical collaboration building
'It's amazing how much can be done when it doesn't matter who gets
the credit'. (attributed to George C. Marshal)
This page contains principles that when put into practice will produce
Principles, Philosophy and Practice
Start with a unifying purpose
* The purpose may need to be broad enough to bring in enough
people with energy, imagination, commitment, resources, and
creativity, to generate success. (For example, a community
council interested in family and children issues or a business
opening a new market.)
* Sometimes the purpose may also be very specific and narrow
when the energy, imagination, commitment, and creativity, are
sufficient. Start with two or three or a small group of people who
have passion for the purpose. (For example, drug prevention.)
* This apparent conflict between broad and specific or narrow
collaborations can sometimes be resolved by creating an
umbrella committee with a more broad purpose and mission and
subcommittees with more narrow and specific missions and
purposes. (For example, a community council supporting family
and children issues and a subcommittee dealing specifically with
drug prevention or a committee working on absentee issues and a
subcommittee dealing specific with drug prevention and/or
treatment or even a business trying to recreate itself with a
number of subcommittees.)
* Start with the End in Mind
Create, maintain, and update, simple and practical Mission and
* Create short and concise Mission and Vision Statements, and
possibly a strategic plan.
* Be willing to update and change as the need arises.
* Keep the Mission and Vision statements in full view of all of the
participants at every meeting. Some organizations place their
mission and vision statement at the top of each agenda.
* Stick with it........however,
* If it doesn't fit any more, change it.
* Do it by consensus (unless a specific and different level of
authority has been clearly communicated.
* Sometimes it can be helpful to create by-laws. Be careful that you
do not get caught in the minutia and loose track of the prize
* Consider creating and displaying a value statement.
Set goals and objectives.
Goals are where you want to go. Objectives are how you are going
to get there.
* Goals should be measurable and observable. They should have
specific achievable steps (objectives) with built in accountability
* Goals should be built upon a consensus and can develop and adapt
as the process matures.
* Some goals should be met quickly and easily, others should stretch
you and the organization.
* Celebrate and advertise success.
* Emphasize both process and product.
* Document baselines to which you can compare.
* Evaluate how your results compare with the results of others
working on similar goals. Be willing to learn from the success of
* Always strive for improvement, evaluate, solicit feedback, and
adjust your course as needed.
Believe in what you are doing and the people who are doing it.
"If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're
right." (Henry Ford)
* Radiate and speak Optimism.
* Expect Success
* Expect the best from people that you are working with.
"What you are thunders so loudly in my ears that I cannot hear
what you say." (Emerson )
* Someone needs to be responsible for facilitating, moderating, and
managing the meeting and discussion.
* Value-based dedicated leadership is essential for anything lasting,
significant, and positive, to be accomplished.
* Be supportive, consistent, and dependable.
* Set high standards of excellence.
* True collaboration requires shared leadership. Cultivate
leadership in others.
* Leadership must value an inclusive, collaborative, process.
Coordinate - Organize
* Seating can be very important. Sitting behind tables can have the
advantage of giving people a place to write and providing
emotional protection. It also creates an atmosphere conducive to
getting down to business and working. Preferably, tables should
allow everyone to see each other (circle, semicircle, rectangle, or
square). Very small groups can often do well sitting on something
comfortable such as two or three couches and/or other
comfortable chairs that face each other. Very large groups can sit
in a circle or semicircle. These formats will increase
communication. Avoid rows of people. This cuts down on
interaction and communication.
* Hold regular, consistent (same place and same time), mutually
beneficial, constructive, profitable, informative, and brief
* Take notes from the meeting and provide them to everyone in the
collaboration. When there is a discussion, write down what is
said. Writing on a board or flip chart where everyone can see is
often preferred. (In some settings, writing on a board or flip chart
can seem pretentious.) Accurately write what people say.
* Always have an agenda. In most cases it is better to send it to
everyone ahead of time. Stick to the schedule. Respect
* When someone brings something up that is not on the agenda,
write it down where they can see it. Be sure and address it at a
later time, such as at the end of the meeting, after the meeting, or
during another meeting. Let everyone know ahead of time what
the process will be for addressing items brought up during the
meeting, but not on the agenda. Occasionally in some urgent
situations, items will need to be addressed immediately, this
should be rare.
* Stick to your mission statement.
* For community collaboration regularly nominate and vote for
officers or set a system for rotation. Even when this is a
committee, within a single organization, this can have value.
* Small subcommittees or groups can often accomplish specific
technical work or complete projects more quickly than a larger
group, committee, or collaboration. These smaller groups can
receive direction or report to the larger group. Remember to
keep Levels of Authority clear.
Show Respect for People and Time.
* Ask for help. Say please and thank you. Demonstrate common
courtesy. Apologize when warranted (know when it's warranted,
be humble enough to appologize, at times, even when it's not.)
* 8 a.m. is often a good time for meeting with participants from
Agencies and Schools. Lunch time can also be a good time.
Evenings and weekends are usually best for Church, Family,
Neighborhood, and General Community Meetings. I am aware of
one community coalition which meets at 4:30 P.M., to make it
easier for teachers to attend. If your goal is to involve youth, be
sure to meet at a time and place convenient to youth.
* When there is a meeting for a work group with different
organizations/agencies who have a mandate for the
collaboration, the time is usually more flexible.
* Always start and end on time.
* Be consistent.
Consider logistical needs of others
* Consider parking, transportation, acoustics, and child care, when
* Access and comfort should also be considered. Accommodate
needs of individuals with disabilities.
* Be sure there are adequate restrooms, water, et. etc.
Be Open-minded * Share Ownership. *
Empower others * Share Leadership.
* Be willing to accommodate others, when possible and appropriate.
* Concentrate on the areas that you have in common with others
who are involved. A lifetime of good may be accomplished in the
areas that you agree. Sometimes working together towards
positive goals can be more important than your specific agenda.
As you work together and develop relationships you will likely
come to a greater unity of purpose.
* Encourage and help your organization to grow and change as the
* When others feel ownership and empowerment in the
organization, they become more committed, creative, and loyal.
* For many people the process is as important, and sometimes even
more important, than the results. Everyone needs to be heard.
* Manage/Lead the process, don't control it. (The process does not
belong to any one individual, and usually does not belong to any
one organization, or agency).
* Allow for conflict and disagreement. Create a healthy atmosphere
for disagreement and discussion. As much as possible, resolve
conflict and support the solution.
* Members/Participants need to clearly understand and respect
each other's values, knowledge, and skills.
* Knowledge needs to be shared in order to increase the capacity of
all the members, which in turn extends the capacity of the
organization/collaboration. Knowledge shared is more powerful
than knowledge kept.
* Enthusiastically support other people's successive or intermittent
approximations of the goal. (As much as possible, let it be
someone else's idea.) If their bandwagon is headed in the general
direction of where you want to go, jump in and cheer it on.
* Use genuine compliments and recognition. At times it is wise to
put it in writing and make it public. At times it is wise to make it
private. Be specific about the behavior that you are
* When appropriate encourage volunteers.
* Provide everyone who wants it, something meaningful to do.
Remember that what is meaningful to you may not be meaningful
to another. When ever possible, encourage and support others in
* Share and rotate leadership responsibilities. Support and
encourage leadership in others whenever possible.
* Learn and practice critical thinking skills...without being critical.
* Allow time before and after meetings for visiting. This can often
be as important as the meeting itself. Take time to build
friendships with members of the organization outside of the
* Serving light refreshments or snacks can help to build
relationships and ease conversation.
* Occasionally you may want to send a simple greeting card or thank
you note to participants. This can help to build relationships.
Sometimes a hand written note is greatly appreciated.
* Get to know and as much as possible understand the needs, issues,
and passions of all the members of the coalition and stake holders
in and out of the coalition.
* You are more likely to have positive influences over a friend, than
* Emphasize both process and product.
* For many people the process is as important, and sometimes even
more important, than the results. Everyone needs to be heard.
* Serving refreshments or light snacks can open help to relax people
and open communication.
* Use common language. One of the most important building blocks
of collaboration and consensus is communication. Sometimes our
differences are magnified in the words we choose when we come
together. At times this is because we get used to using certain
words, phrases, or acronyms (words formed from the first letter of
each word in a phrase such as USA), with our peers, because these
words save time and helps us feel like we fit into a group. When
we come together with other people from different backgrounds,
we sometimes forget that others may not understand some of the
language that we use. Sometimes, some people may use words,
phrases, or acronyms, that others may not understand on purpose.
This can be a way to appear superior to others or to hide behind
language as a way of self-protection.
It is important to understand that we all have fears and concerns
and that part of the purpose of this process is to overcome and
move beyond fears and concerns together.
When meeting together, use words, and phrases that all will
understand. Avoid acronyms. (Common language can include
words, phrases, examples, and stories, which are familiar.)
* Sometimes people don't feel comfortable sharing ideas in a group.
Take time to solicit opinions and ideas one on one. Use surveys.
Break into smaller groups to increase participation. Go around
the group asking each person for an idea or their opinion. As
people become more comfortable and feel safer with each other,
participation will likely increase. Let everyone know that their
opinion and contribution is valuable. Promote and encourage
* Remember that language is more than just the spoken or written
word. It is also the way words are spoken, timing, body language,
and the way silence is used.
* Use the media and other communication tools to communicate
with stake holders outside of the collaboration. Some times
members of the media are great additions to the
* Send letters, e-mails, agendas, notes, flyers, et. Etc. to other
members of the coalition on a regular basis. Make phone calls
and when possible personal visits to other members of the
coalition to build relationships, keep people involved, and
* Maintain strong and consistent communication with stake holders
outside of the coalition/collaboration.
"Real listening shows respect. It creates trust. As we listen, we not
only gain understanding, we also create the environment to be
understood. And when both people understand both perspectives,
instead of being on opposite sides of the table looking across at each
other, we find ourselves on the same side looking at solutions
together". (Stephen R. Covey)
* Find the commonalities and common passions.
* Find out what motivates the members of the
coalition/collaboration and the stake holders. Remember that
what motivates you, may not motivate them. Appreciate and
respect the differences.
Understanding each other's Love Languages may be helpful.
Take responsibility and give credit.
* Give credit for success to everyone else involved with that
success. Take responsibility for mistakes, and when they occur,
failures that you have any part in.
* Find and take opportunities to compliment and celebrate the
success of others.
* As collaboration matures, both responsibility and success will be
shared more evenly.
Stick with it...Persevere..Work.
"The only place you'll find success before work is in the dictionary".
Mary B. Smith
"That which we persist in doing becomes easy to do. Not that the
nature of the thing has changed, but the power to do had
increased". Heber J. Grant
* Building Collaboration requires substantial and sustained effort,
often without recognition or equal distribution of responsibility.
* Keep your passion alive.
* Help others to find and harness their own passions.
* Complete and encourage the completion of assignments, provide
Let Go, Forgive.
* Be willing to "let go," forgive, and look past the shortcomings in
others. When you do this, they will be more likely to do it for you.
Sometimes you have to hear before you will be heard. (This does
not mean that you allow yourself or anyone else to be abused.)
* Everyone must be treated with dignity and respect.
* Allow for mistakes and even failure. Look for feedback from
* Don't worry too much about perfection. Participation is
sometimes more important then perfection.
* Let go of preconceptions.
Continuity – Consistency - Dependability
* Even though the organization or collaboration may evolve over
time, it is important to demonstrate consistency and
dependability in values and character.
* There should be a continuity in programs and message. Changes
in direction should be openly discussed, understood, and
* Be honest and trustworthy. Your influence will be greatly
dependent upon how dependable and trustworthy you and the
organization are over time.
Evaluate - Feedback
* Develop ongoing evaluations, feedback, and course correction, for
continuous quality improvement.
* Collect and present data which is accurate, relevant, and easily
* Find the feedback in failure when it occurs.
Eliminate (or at least decrease) Financial Dependancy
* Stable resources are essential for anything enduring.
* Consider creating an endowment fund.
* Sometimes extraordinary results can be accomplished through
volunteer efforts and limited funds.
* Keep good, clear, financial records.
* Create sustainability.
* Look for success.
* Learn to recognize success.
* Celebrate small successes.
* Celebrate big successes.
* Celebrate publicly and privately.
* Acknowledge and reward success.
* Don't go overboard, find out what people really appreciate, make
* Remember that there are often exceptions.
* Show gratitude for gifts of every kind.
One last piece of information for this page. There are times when a
more formal process can be helpful and times when it can be an
encumbrance and times in-between when some formality might help.
When some or a lot of formality might be helpful you may want to
consider incorporating all or some of Robert's Rules of Order.
Underlying these rules, always remember three fundamental principals.
1. Everyone needs to be treated with dignity and respect.
2. Everyone needs to be heard.
3. All of the information needs to be clear for everyone.
3.12. SAYING “NO”
Do you have difficulty saying “no”? Are you always trying to be nice to
others at the expense of yourself?
Well, you’re not alone. Lots op people are not good at saying “no”,
because they do not want to hurt the other person’s feelings.
Whenever they get requests for help, they attend to them even though
they have important work to do. Sometimes, at the end of the day,
forcing them to forgo sleep to catch up on their work.
Mostly, they realize that all these times of not saying “no” (when they
should) are not helping them at all. They are spending a lot of time and
energy for other people and not spending nearly as much time for
themselves. This is so frustrating, especially since they bring it upon
Realities of NOT Saying No
While saying yes seems like an easy answer for the reasons above, it’s
not necessary the best answer all the time.
Just like saying no has its implications, NOT saying no *has*
implications too. Every time we say yes to something, we’re actually
saying no to something else. Think about it:
When you say yes to something you don’t enjoy, you say no to
things that you love
When you say yes to a job you don’t love, you say no to your dreams
When you say yes to someone you don’t like, you say no to a
When you say yes to working overtime, you say no to your social life
When you say yes to Quadrant 3/4 tasks, you say no to your
Quadrant 2, high value activities
To learn to say “No”, we have to first understand what’s resisting us
about it. Below are common reasons why people find it hard to say no:
1. You want to help. You are a kind soul at heart. You don’t want to
turn the person away and you want to help where possible, even if it
may eat into your time.
2. Afraid of being rude. I was brought up under the notion that saying
“No”, especially to people who are more senior, is rude. This
thinking is common in Asia culture, where face-saving is important.
Face-saving means not making others look bad (a.k.a losing face).
3. Wanting to be agreeable. You don’t want to alienate yourself from
the group because you’re not in agreement. So you confirm to
4. Fear of conflict. You are afraid the person might be angry if you
reject him/her. This might lead to an ugly confrontation. Even if
there isn’t, there might be dissent created which might lead to
negative consequences in the future.
5. Fear of lost opportunities. Perhaps you are worried saying no
means closing doors. For example, one of my clients’ wife was asked
to transfer to another department in her company. Since she liked
her team, she didn’t want to shift. However, she didn’t want to say
no as she felt it would affect her promotion opportunities in the
6. Not burning bridges. Some people take “no” as a sign of rejection. It
might lead to bridges being burned and relationships severed.
If you nodded to any of the reasons, I’m with you. They applied to me at
one point or another. However, in my experience dealing with people at
work and in life, I realized these reasons are more misconceptions than
anything. Saying “No” doesn’t mean you are being rude; neither does it
mean you are being disagreeable. Saying “No” doesn’t mean there will
be conflict nor that you’ll lose opportunities in the future. And saying no
most definitely doesn’t mean you’re burning bridges. These are all false
beliefs in our mind.
At the end of the day, it’s about how you say “no”, rather than the fact
you’re saying no, that affects the outcome. After all, you have your own
priorities and needs, just like everyone has his/her own needs. Saying
no is about respecting and valuing your time and space. Say no is your
7 Simple Ways To Say “No”
Rather than avoid it altogether, it’s all about learning the right way to
say no. After I began to say no to others, I realized it’s really not as bad
as I thought. The other people were very understanding and didn’t put
up any resistance. Really, the fears of saying no are just in our mind.
If you are not sure how to do so, here are 7 simple ways for you to say
no. Use the method that best meets your needs in the situation.
1. “I can’t commit to this as I have other priorities at the moment.”
If you are too busy to engage in the request/offer, this will be
applicable. This lets the person know your plate is full at the moment,
so he/she should hold off on this as well as future requests. If it makes
it easier, you can also share what you’re working on so the person can
understand better. I use this when I have too many commitments to
2. “Now’s not a good time as I’m in the middle of something. How about
we reconnect at X time?”
It’s common to get sudden requests for help when you are in the middle
of something. Sometimes I get phone calls from friends or associates
when I’m in a meeting or doing important work. This method is a great
way to (temporarily) hold off the request. First, you let the person
know it’s not a good time as you are doing something. Secondly, you
make known your desire to help by suggesting another time (at your
convenience). This way, the person doesn’t feel blown off.
3. “I’d love to do this, but …”
I often use this as it’s a gentle way of breaking no to the other party. It’s
encouraging as it lets the person know you like the idea (of course, only
say this if you do like it) and there’s nothing wrong about it. I often get
collaboration proposals from fellow bloggers and business associates
which I can’t participate in and I use this method to gently say no. Their
ideas are absolutely great, but I can’t take part due to other reasons
such as prior commitments (#1) or different needs (#5).
4. “Let me think about it first and I’ll get back to you.”
This is more like a “Maybe” than a straight out “No”. If you are
interested but you don’t want to say ‘yes’ just yet, use this. Sometimes
I’m pitched a great idea which meets my needs, but I want to hold off on
committing as I want some time to think first. There are times when
new considerations pop in and I want to be certain of the decision
before committing myself. If the person is sincere about the request,
he/she will be more than happy to wait a short while. Specify a date /
time-range (say, in 1-2 weeks) where the person can expect a reply.
If you’re not interested in what the person has to offer at all, don’t lead
him/her on. Use methods #5, #6 or #7 which are definitive.
5. “This doesn’t meet my needs now but I’ll be sure to keep you in
If someone is pitching a deal/opportunity which isn’t what you are
looking for, let him/her know straight-out that it doesn’t meet your
needs. Otherwise, the discussion can drag on longer than it should. It
helps as the person know it’s nothing wrong about what he/she is
offering, but that you are looking for something else. At the same time,
by saying you’ll keep him/her in mind, it signals you are open to future
6. “I’m not the best person to help on this. Why don’t you try X?”
If you are being asked for help in something which you (i) can’t
contribute much to (ii) don’t have resources to help, let it be known
they are looking at the wrong person. If possible, refer them to a lead
they can follow-up on – whether it’s someone you know, someone who
might know someone else, or even a department. I always make it a
point to offer an alternate contact so the person doesn’t end up in a
dead end. This way you help steer the person in the right place.
7. “No, I can’t.”
The simplest and most direct way to say no. We build up too many
barriers in our mind to saying no. As I shared earlier in this article,
these barriers are self-created and they are not true at all. Don’t think
so much about saying no and just say it outright. You’ll be surprised
when the reception isn’t half as bad as what you imagined it to be.
Learn to say no to requests that don’t meet your needs, and once you do
that you’ll find how easy it actually is. You’ll get more time for yourself,
your work and things that are most important to you. I know I do and
I’m happy I started doing that.
1. Be firm -- not defensive or overly apologetic -- and polite. This gives
the signal that you are sympathetic, but will not easily change your
mind if pressured.
2. If you decide to tell the person you’ll get back to them, be matter-of-
fact and not too promising. If you lead people to believe you’ll likely
say "yes" later, they’ll be more disappointed with a later "no."
3. If asked for an explanation, remember that you really don’t owe
anyone one. “It doesn’t fit with my schedule,” is perfectly acceptable.
4. Remember that there are only so many hours in the day. This means
that whatever you choose to take on limits your ability to do other
things. So even if you somehow can fit a new commitment into your
schedule, if it’s not more important than what you would have to
give up to do it (including time for relaxation and self care), you
really don’t have the time in your schedule.
Celes Chua, The Personal Excellence Blog
Get her free ebook “101 Things To Do Before You Die” at
Elizabeth Scott, M.S.,
Now, do you know how to say NO?
Of course you do. It’s a simple word. But do you have trouble saying NO
to the numerous requests that come your way and take your time?
Then at the end of a well-planned week you find you have said “YES” so
often to the needs of others and have done very little of what you really
wanted to get done for yourself. Time to learn some good Ways to say
In all types of Coaching Jobs and situations from personal life coaching
to business and executive coaching, being able to educate clients on the
importance of being able to say NO is paramount.
So lets' discuss some ways of how to say NO to yourself (yes yourself)
and others, avoid overwhelm and up your refusal skills.
There are ways of saying NO that can put the 'asker' offside. Or and
there are ways of saying NO so elegantly to requests, that the requester
doesn’t even realize they have been refused.
If you have a favorite that I haven't mentioned or an experience to
share, I'd love you to contribute using the invitation at the foot of this
Take your time in answering a request:
If the response “YES” to a request is
automatic for you, practice
substituting it with something like
“I’m not sure if that will work, can I
get back to you in a couple of
Be careful not to give the impression
that your answer will be most likely
be favorable so the person asking goes away feeling it is more or less a
They will then feel more let down and maybe annoyed if it turns out to
be NO. Keep your tone neutral or even veer on the side of a refusal.
This “get back to you” time will allow you to ponder on the following
and make a wise decision:
What is the real benefit I will get personally/professionally if I agree
to do this (especially if it is a voluntary project)?
How will doing this extra task affect my focus on doing the really
important things I need to do in around Setting and Achieving Goals
If I agree to this, will I be giving up precious time that could be spent
on my goals, with my family or on leisure activities and renewing
This set of questions is about making it OK to make your needs and
what you want to do, at least as important as the needs and requests of
Ways How to Say NO!
So you've come to the conclusion that saying YES to the request is not
the way to go. It’s time to practice how to say NO graciously and
without giving offense.
Try these generally successful strategies:
'I'd love to help you and I’m really busy": Tell me about the project
and if I think of something or someone who can help, I’ll get back
'It just doesn’t work for me to do that just now, but can I suggest…’:
(and come up with someone else who may be able to help).
If asked why it doesn’t work, avoid getting drawn into a long
explanation which could lead to counter arguments and your
giving in and saying YES. Keep repeating “It really just doesn’t
work for me right now”
I’d love to help but I have a lot on at the moment:I really couldn’t
do justice to what you need.
Overloaded at work?
It can seem almost impossible to know how to Say NO in a work
situation, especially if you are really good at juggling multiple tasks.
These strategies may help you say NO and avoid overwhelm and
Say something like, "I can’t see how I
can fit this in addition to what you have
already requested. Where would you
prefer I direct my attention?"
Delegate responsibility: If you are
working for more than one person, and
they all want to be your priority, throw
the requests back to them to sort out
the priorities or delegate to someone
You might even want to master the The
Art of Delegation yourself.
I once worked in a PR company as a secretary to two of the busiest
consultants who always wanted everything in a hurry.
There were other consultants not nearly as busy and their secretaries
would often sit reading and knitting whilst I was in overwhelm often
working through my lunch hour.
Yes, the other secretaries could have offered to help, but they didn't,
and in those days, I didn't have the skills or the confidence to stand up
for myself and say NO elegantly or insist I got some help.
When You Really Want to Say Yes - But Not Overcommit: Sometimes
you are asked to do something you would really like to get involved
with but don’t have the time. When this happens, suggest or ask how
you can contribute in a way that works for you time-wise. This will
keep you involved but on your terms.
Be sympathetic but firm: In all your newly acquired ways of how to
say NO, be sympathetic but firm. Don’t over apologize for your NO.
Show empathy for their situation but in a way that lets them know your
mind will not be changed.
The bottom line is that learning to say NO confidently can move you
forward towards having work life balance and achieving your goals
faster than saying YES to everything.
How to say no is just one of the strategies in my book Ready Set Goal! to
help you and your coaching clients achieve their goals faster and with
Finally, if you find the idea of saying NO to someone in a particular
work or relationship situation sends you into a tizz and makes you
anxious, then it could be time to assess whether this is an environment
or relationship that really works for you to stay in.
Source: Wendy Buckingham: http://www.all-about-becoming-a-life-
You can make a huge difference in your self-esteem as you learn to use
assertive “I” messages instead of hurtful “you” messages. It may be hard
to re-train yourself to speak in self empowering “I” messages instead of
negative “you” messages, but the effort is ever-so worth it.
“You” messages are often heard as blaming, hurtful communications
that tend to put people on the defensive, and make them want to attack
or withdraw. “I’ messages are more easily heard by others. This
increases the chance that we can work with others to get what we need.
Examples of “You” Messages:
“Turn the TV down. You’re so inconsiderate.”
“You just wear me out. Now you’ve really made me mad.”
“You better call the doctor right now.”
Example of an “I” Message.
Using the example above, “You better call the doctor right now” we can
see that an “I” message would be easier to hear and more likely to
result in the hearer taking the desired
“When I see you having trouble breathing I feel so scared because I
think you may not call the doctor and you may die and leave me.”
HOW TO CONSTRUCT AN “I” MESSAGE
Write out a sentence using the 4 steps below. As you become more
familiar with the process, you can just think it out before speaking.
1. Describe the behavior that is troubling you – specifically, without
blaming or sounding judgmental. Limit the area of behavior that
concerns you (instead of globalizing) by starting with “When”: “When I
see you having trouble breathing…”
2. State your feelings about the possible consequences of the behavior:
“I feel so scared…”
3. State the consequences of the behavior: “… beause I think you may
not call the doctor and you may die and leave me.”
4. Explain what you would like to happen instead: “so please, make an
appointment with the doctor!”
The order in which the 4 parts are expressed is usually not important.
1. I feel _________________ (express your feeling)
2. when you _____________ (describe the action that affects you or relates
to the feeling)
3. because _______________ (explain how the action affects you or relates
to the feeling)
4. that’s why I would like you to _______ (state your preference for what
you would like to take place instead.)
HOW TO DECODE A “YOU” MESSAGE
What a difference it would have made in your self esteem if your
parents used this principle. What if you had heard “I don’t want to
hurt you” instead of “You’re too sensitive.” But it’s not too late. You can
translate hurtful “you” messages back to “I” messages.
1. Start with writing something painful that your parents or another has
said to you about you.
2. Remember how you felt when you heard it? How did it affect your
3. What did you want to do when you heard it?
4. Now translate the parent’s or other’s message into an “I” message
5. How do you feel when think of the “I” message?
6. What do you feel like doing when you think of it?
As you can see, the end result of consciously speaking with assertive “I”
messages about your own feelings, thoughts, and desires is much more
effective than talking about the other person. More self empowerment
THERE ARE FOUR BASIC TYPES OF I-MESSAGES
1. DECLARATIVE I-MESSAGES
The declarative I-message is used when we simply want to express a
need, desire, opinion or inner reality. We are not necessarily in conflict
with someone, but are simply letting our feelings and needs be known
by the others. Doing this wards off many potentially unpleasant
situations in which we do not express our feelings and thoughts, and
then feel others do not take us into consideration. Learning to make
declarative messages makes a relationship much more equal and alive.
Suppressing our needs and emotions leads to feelings of resentment,
abandonment and neglect. When our negative feelings accumulate, we
are likely to lose our temper about some small insignificant event. Let
us avoid these two extremes of suppression and aggression, and learn
to be assertive about our needs, desires and opinions.
2. RESPONSIVE I-MESSAGES
When we are asked to do something with or for someone else, it is time
for a responsive I-message. We must first decide very clearly whether
we actually want to respond to what is being asked of us or not. It may
be to lend something, to help someone, to go to dinner, to talk to
someone for some time on the telephone, to take a position in an
organization, or to donate money. We must decide whether we want to
do what we are being asked, and why we do or do not want to do it.
Then we must express our decision and why we have come to that
decision. Some examples might be
«I thank you for your invitation to dinner, but I am extremely tired and
prefer to get to bed early.»
«I am sorry, but I have decided that I cannot help you on Saturday
because I feel my children and family need me more.»
«You know I really do not enjoy social activities very much anymore, so
I don't think I will come this evening. Perhaps we can get together just
the two of us some other time and have a deeper communication.»
«Yes, I would be glad to help you this weekend because I really love you
very much and would like to express that love through my actions.»
Thus, the first step in making a responsive I-message is to clearly
understand what we want to do and then to honestly express it. It may
be possible that we will have mixed feelings. An example might be:
«I find myself in a dilemma because, on the one hand, I love you and
would like to sit and listen to your problem right now, but on the other,
I am exhausted and quite tense myself. Let me rest for a few hours and I
will call you back.»
We have learned to avoid saying "no" at all costs; for fear the other will
stop loving us or reject us. When we do something with or for someone
out of fear of rejection, it is of no real value. It is better to offer less but
with love rather than do something out of fear or a sense of obligation
and build up feelings of resentment. Being able to say "yes" because we
love is a higher human quality and can be developed in three basic
a. Diminishing our own personal needs as much as possible so they do
not require much time, energy or thought.
b. Keeping our energy level up through exercises, breathing techniques,
relaxation, meditation and proper dietary habits.
c. Developing a feeling of love and compassion for others.
Of course, this yes must be used with discrimination.
a. We should avoid doing for others what they can actually do for
themselves. (Unless there are important reasons, why at this time we
should do this for them.) By taking on the others' responsibilities, we
might hold them back in their growth process. As long as they depend
on others, they will not develop the inner self-confidence, strength and
responsibility necessary for their natural maturity as human beings.
b. We will also need to say not when what is requested from us is in
conflict with our sense of morality, such as telling a lie.
c. And, of course, we will have to say no when we are asked to do
something that is harmful to ourselves or others.
3. PREVENTIVE I- MESSAGES
When we have observed that a problem has developed in the past and
we want to avoid the same or worse happening in the future, it is time
for a preventive I-message. We hope to prevent a more serious conflict
by expressing what is happening within us or what we need or will
need, do or will do. The steps are:
a. We take responsibility for what we are feeling inside us, which is a
result of our programming.
b. We identify what emotions and sensations we are feeling.
c. We identify what programs, needs, desires or beliefs are creating
d. We identify the behavior of the other person that stimulates this
program and the consequent unpleasant and separating feelings.
« I have a childhood conditioning that one shouldn't eat in front of
others without offering them a portion. When you eat in front of me and
do not offer me any, I feel disrespected and unloved. I realize that it is
my problem, but I thought I should explain it to you because sometimes
it affects my behavior toward you.»
Now it is time for active listening to see how the other feels. The other
may have been completely unaware of the problem, or he she may have
sensed it but have feared being rejected if he offered the food.
«Dear, you know I am beginning to have negative feelings toward you
lately, and I would like to discuss the problem. As you have probably
realized, I have a need to be reassured of your love though affection and
attention. Lately, it seems that you have been very tired or preoccupied
with other things, and haven't been paying very much attention to me.
Sometimes I talk to you and you do not even answer. When this
happens, I feel rejected, unloved, bitter and angry toward you. I
sometimes also fear that you have found someone else.
"I am trying to think positively and find strength within myself, but I do
still need some more affection and attention from you. Can we discuss
this? I would be very interested in what has been going on inside you all
this time. I think our relationship needs this communication.»
And then we switch to active listening to understand what the other is
feeling. No one has been blamed or accused of being unloving or
insensitive. No feelings have been suppressed. We have a deep open
communication between two responsible adults.
4. CONFRONTIVE I- MESSAGES
When a situation is causing us strong negative emotions and we have
made some attempts to create understanding and cooperation without
response, we may need to make a confrontive I-message. In addition to
all the aspects of the preventive message previously mentioned, we
might assertively add that we are determined to have our needs met in
this situation. In some cases, when repeated communication has
brought about little attention or cooperation from the other party, we
may have to inform him of what we plan to do if the behavior is not
changed. For example, in the previous situation, the communication
may end with this message:
«And after considering all the possibilities and all of our previous
attempts to solve this problem, I have come to the decision that if we
cannot find a solution now and you cannot understand my needs, I have
decided to leave the relationship for the time being and try living on my
Dr. Jane Bolton, a marriage and family therapist, master results coach
and contemporary psychoanalyst is dedicated to supporting people in
the fullest self expression of their Authentic Selves. This includes
Discovery, Understanding, Acceptance, Expression, and Self Esteem.
Call 310.838.6363 or visit www.Dr-Jane-Bolton.com .
Read more: http://www.articlesnatch.com/Article/Improve-Your-
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution No Derivatives
Robert Elias Najemy : Robert E. Najemy, life coach and author of 25
books has trained over 300 life coaches and now does so over the
Internet. Become a life coach. There are over 600 free article and
lectures at http://www.HolisticHarmony.com/ - new site:
Coaching is a professional service that attracts clients who want to
make big changes in their lives or overcome obstacles. Many clients
assume that they are going to work with someone who can give
answers or solutions.
Persons who seek help in improving their life or business might then
believe that they will be receiving advice from a professional. When we
begin to have coaching conversations with prospective clients or
contracted clients, we as trained professional Life Coaches (aka
personal and professional coaches) must really be clear that giving
advice is not really part of the coaching paradigm.
Advising (the act of giving advice) according to the Webster's collegiate
dictionary is "to make a recommendation regarding a decision or
course of conduct," and it "implies real or presumed knowledge and
experience" . Coaching is to empower, to motivate, to enrich, to co
create with our clients. In fact, I believe that effective coaching is even
more than problem solving or being solution focused. Coaching is about
the creative process of designing one's life to be more like they really
want it to be. That is creation — bringing into being what does not now
exist. Problem solving is about symptoms and fixing, not creating.
"The trouble with advice is that you cannot tell if it is good or bad until
you've taken it."
— Frank Tyger
Advising then, should be omitted from the coaching conversation and
as coaches, we also need to "train" our clients to not expect advice, even
though we might be capable of some very good advice.
Many of us as coaches would also qualify as advisors or consultants,
which are focused more on giving direction and recommended action.
Part of the joy I experience as a coach is that I do not have to wear the
"expert" hat — my job is to evoke the brilliance of each of my clients
and the creativity that comes from a conversation that if it had not
occurred would not have lead to the same result. Coaching is creativity.
My friend and mentor, and outstanding author, Dave Ellis has created a
Coaching Continuum in which he outlines the role of the coach from
least intrusive to the most intrusive coaching response. In this
continuum, as printed below, the dotted line indicates the boundary
between classic coaching and advising. It is a line for all coaches to be
Listen fully and affirm
Listen fully and feed back the problem (or desire)
Ask the client to generate a few new possibilities
Ask the client to generate many possibilities
Add to the client's list of possibilities
Present at least 10 possibilities ( some contradictory)
Present at least three possibilities
Teach a new technique
Offer an option
Give advice by sharing or questioning
Give the answer
Listen to your coaching, maybe even tape record your conversations for
awhile to see if you slip into the realm of advising. We all do it so
naturally, but as coaches we need to be intentional to eschew advice
giving. (The reader can find this explained in detail in Ellis's book Life
Coaching which can be ordered at www.lifecoachbook.com .)
I believe that the beginning of the coaching continuum is most useful
early in the coaching relationship. Even though I am very much a
"possibility thinker" with my clients, I never offer my possibilities until
I have drawn out my clients creative thinking first. And sometimes, the
powerful questioning we utilize from our coaches toolbox, can be
disguised advice if we are not careful. There is a difference in the kind
of questions you ask and why you ask them. Powerful questions should
deep trust in the process of coaching, to believe that it is worth taking a
bit more time and to make the space for the coachee to be creative.
Recently I learned a very simple and helpful process that simplifies my
job in supporting my coachees to come up with their own answers so
that I don’t have to give them advice. Here’s how it works:
Let’s say my coachee asks me something like this: “How can I … ? or
“What can I do to …? My coachee is seeking an answer to some question
or problem he is facing. My options in that moment are to:
1) Give an answer,
2) Ask another question that helps him think further about what the
answer might be, or
3) Suggest that we brainstorm possible solutions together.
Obviously Option 1 is giving advice and not recommended.
In the past I have often used Option 2 and asked my coachee something
like “What do you think you could do?” There’s nothing really wrong
with this question, but asking a question like this does have some risks.
If my thinking is not clear enough, I might frame the question too
tightly and restrict the coachee’s responses. For example I might say
“What do you think you could do to discover the root causes of this
problem?” when in his mind there are no answers in the root causes
and this is simply a distraction from the real question. Also, there is an
implication that there is one ‘right’ answer, and this limits creativity.
Another risk with following Option 2 is that it may seem like I am
throwing the difficult question back to him and withholding my own
experience, wisdom and support.
Option 3 has some clear advantages. I could start by saying, “How about
if we brainstorm some possible solutions together?” Immediately I am
asking permission from the coachee to follow this next step. It is a way
of checking the importance of the question and keeping the coachee in
control of the process. I am open to the coachee saying, “Actually, I
know what I need to do.” !! But often the coachee will agree and I will
say, “How about if you come up with two possible solutions, then I’ll
add two, and we’ll carry on until we have a whole bunch?” Depending
on the confidence of the coachee in this problem, I could also ask him to
come up with a whole bunch of possibilities and then I’ll add some
A coachee is often not aware that there are any possible solutions to his
problem, so he will find it encouraging to think that together we will
find many. It is up to the coach to provide this confidence: essentially
the trust that coaching will work and that there are always possibilities
and choices in any situation.
Here are some of the other advantages of this approach:
By focusing on creating possible solutions rather than solving the
problem, you temporarily stop the judgment and critical thinking that
often blocks creativity. Your goal is to collect all the solutions first, and
then evaluate them later. Doing this unleashes creativity and in itself
will help the coachee think of things they haven’t thought of before.
Coachees often mistakenly believe that the solutions coming from the
coach are more valuable than those they generate themselves. You can
counteract this assumption by collecting the ideas together so that they
have more equal weight. It’s also possible to generate contradictory
ideas to make it clear that the coachee has to choose based on his own
evaluation of what will work best for him.
Sometimes this process works so well that the coachee immediately
comes up with an excellent solution that he knows is perfect for him
and that he is excited to implement. Other times we generate a long list
and feel safe with an abundance of choices for actions to take. This is
what coaching is all about: creating new ways of thinking that change
Most people are not very experienced at being coached. This fact makes
it even more important that coaches trust the coaching process and let
the power of coaching reveal itself to coachees. The ‘aha’ moments that
they experience as a result will let them realize the true power of
But nothing is ever completely black or white in life.
Here is what Thomas Leonard has to say about this issue :
"Many of the newer clients hiring coaches are hiring that coach not only
for their coaching skills set but also for the coach's situational
knowledge and solutions set. Traditional/purist coaching will be
around for a long time, but the market is asking for coaches with
solutions, not just coaches who are good at evoking or supporting. Both
are important. The definition of coaching is expanding because the
marketplace is demanding it."
So here are some Tips for Giving Advice in a Coaching Relationship
Posted on October 13, 2009 at 11:10 am by Stephan Wiedner
Have you ever tried giving advice to a teenager? If you haven’t, you can
imagine that everything you say is going to go in one ear and out the
other. Of course rebellious teenagers are an extreme case but most
people don’t respond to unsolicited advice. It’s a waste of good
In order to save you some effort, here are 3 tips for giving advice when
you are coaching someone.
Just to be clear, at a fundamental level, coaching is not about giving
advice. It is about asking questions and engaging the coachee in
discovering their own solutions. But coaching doesn’t always work that
way. Every now and again, you will have a nugget of information that
can really help a client and here are some helpful tips to get your
Tip 1: Switch between a coaching “hat” and an advisor “hat”
As previously mentioned,
coaching is primarily focused on
asking questions and wearing
your coaching “hat”. When the
conversations leads to a great
opportunity for you to share
advice, it helps to be clear that you
are going to switch to an advice-
giving “hat”. Make sure you know
When you switch to an advice-giving hat, the coachee may no longer be
using their active thinking and will zone out. Look for signs that the
coachee is not really listening or paying attention. If they are not
engaged in what you are saying, it will be a waste.
Tip 2: Be transparent when you are switching “hats”
If you are going to be switching “hats” and giving advice, it never hurts
to be completely transparent with the coachee. Say things like “I am
going to take off my coaching hat for a minute. I want to share a
personal experience with you.” Being transparent like this gives the
coachee the ability to ready themselves for your story or advice.
For fun, you can actually switch hats, for real. You may have a sun hat
that is perfect for coaching and a scholarly hat for giving advice.
Whatever hats work for you. Have fun with it.
Tip 3: Give advice from your own experience
Nobody likes a know-it-all. If you are going to give advice, try to limit
your advice to your personal experiences, good or bad. Avoid quoting a
$100 text book you barely read in University 15 years ago.
For example, consider saying things like “I haven’t done what you are
trying to do but I did try something similar and here’s what I
discovered” or “When I tried that, here’s what I learned”.
Bonus Tip: Notice when you are working too hard
If you are working really hard for the coachee to get your brilliant
advice and they just don’t get it, take off your advice-giving hat. Don’t
bother. Switch to your coaching hat and engage their active thinking
brain. Ask some simple questions like:
What do you want?
What do you think are the next steps? or
What are you learning?
Let the coachee do all the hard work. Surprisingly, they’ll get more
value from it.
3.15 CREATIVE THINKING
By: Vadim otelnikov
Inventor and Founder
Ten3 Business e-Coach
See the Big Picture
3 Pillars of Inspiration
"Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which
ones to keep." – Scott Adams
Creative Thinking Tips
Break out of self-imposed limitations.
Look for wider solutions, 'think outside the box’.
Think sideways; explore the least likely directions; abandon
step-by-step approach and thinking 'to one side' and master the
'lateral thinking' approach.
Sharpen your brain – communicate and exchange ideas with
other creative people as often as you can. This is useful not only
for stimulating idea generation but also for giving you an
opportunity to validate your ideas through professional
If you are thinking along a certain line and nothing happens,
stop. Step out of your Shoes, analyze the problem again and see if
you can come up with a new approach.
If you are working on a problem and getting nowhere, leave it for
a while and let your subconscious – your depth mind – to take
over. Soon, new ideas and facts will inspire new associations and
A "new" idea is often a combination of old elements. Being able to
devise new combinations depend on your ability to discern
relationships between seemingly disparate items.
"Creativity is the juxtaposition of ideas which were previously
thought to be unrelated.' It is your ability to combine ideas in a
unique way or to make useful associations among ideas.
"There is virtually no problem you cannot solve, no goal you cannot
achieve, no obstacle you cannot overcome if you know how to
apply the creative powers of your mind , like a laser beam, to cut
through every difficulty in your life and your work," says Brian
An Important Pre-Condition
Although creative people come from varied backgrounds, they all
seem to have one thing in common – they love what they are doing.
Practice Every Day
How often should you practice if you wish to win the World Tennis
Cup: once a month? once a week? every day?
How often should you exercise your right brain's creative muscles
if you wish to master your creative skills: once a month? once a
week? every day?
Take a Different View
Be different and make a difference!
It was by taking a different view of a traditional business that major
innovations were achieved. To find a better creative solution to the
current practice, force yourself to reframe the problem, to break
down its components and assemble them in a different way.
Ask Searching Questions
Creativity requires an inquisitive mind. Unless you ask lots of
"Why?" and "What If"? questions, you won't generate creative
insights. "To avoid this most common of creative errors, be sure to
peek under all carpets, including your own.
Don't take anything for granted. Especially success. Try looking at
the world through more inquisitive eyes; try getting ideas in
motion; try asking the all-important: "Why?" See what happens!"7
Why Should You Ask Searching Questions?
Searching questions can help you discover new opportunities,
uncover the roots of a problem, and find creative solutions to it.
Open your mind to what is possible.
Asking searching questions starts with challenging assumptions. If
you do not check assumptions you cannot be good at asking
searching questions. Don't ask one or two questions and then rush
straight towards a solution. With an incomplete understanding of
the problem it is very easy to jump to wrong conclusions.
Ask open-ended questions that elicit a wide rage of answers:
'Why' questions to discover the roots of the problem
'How' questions to discover different routes to significant
Boosting Your Creativity
Creativity requires an inquisitive mind. Unless you ask lots of
"Why?" and "What If"? questions, you won't generate creative
"To avoid this most common of creative errors, be sure to peek
under all carpets, including your own. Don't take anything for
granted. Especially success. Try looking at the world through more
inquisitive eyes; try getting ideas in motion; try asking the all-
important: "Why?" See what happens!" says Alexander Hiam, the
author of Creativity,
Triggering Great Ideas
A major stimulant to creative thinking for business problem solving
is focused questions. A well worded question often penetrates to
the heart of the matter and triggers new ideas and insights. To
trigger more and better ideas, you, first, must be be very clear
about exactly what it is that you are trying to do.
Write it down and describe it as if it were already achieved. And,
second, question your assumptions continually. What if there were
a better way? Be willing to try something completely different.
Case in point : GOOGLE
"We run the company by questions, not by answers," says Eric
Schmidt, the CEO of Google. "So in the strategy process we've so far
formulated 30 questions that we have to answer. I'll give you an
example: we have a lot of cash. What should we do with the cash?
Another example of a question that we are debating right now is:
we have this amazing product called AdSense for content, where
we're monetizing the Web. If you're a publisher we run our ads
against your content. It's phenomenal. How do we make that
product produce better content, not just lots of content? An
interesting question. How we do make sure that in the area of
video, that high-quality video is also monetized? What are the next
big breakthroughs in search? And the competitive questions: What
do we do about the various products Microsoft is allegedly
"You ask it as a question, rather than a pithy answer, and that
stimulates conversation. Out of the conversation comes innovation.
Innovation is not something that I just wake up one day and say 'I
want to innovate.' I think you get a better innovative culture if you
ask it as a question."...
Getting the most out of knowledge workers will be the key to
business success for the next quarter century. Here's how we do it
At Google, we think business guru Peter Drucker well understood
how to manage the new breed of "knowledge workers." After all,
Drucker invented the term in 1959. He says knowledge workers
believe they are paid to be effective, not to work 9 to 5, and that
smart businesses will "strip away everything that gets in their
knowledge workers' way." Those that succeed will attract the best
performers, securing "the single biggest factor for competitive
advantage in the next 25 years."
At Google, we seek that advantage. The ongoing debate about
whether big corporations are mismanaging knowledge workers is
one we take very seriously, because those who don't get it right will
be gone. We've drawn on good ideas we've seen elsewhere and
come up with a few of our own. What follows are ten key principles
we use to make knowledge workers most effective. As in most
technology companies, many of our employees are engineers, so we
will focus on that particular group, but many of the policies apply
to all sorts of knowledge workers.
1. Hire by committee. Virtually every person who interviews at
Google talks to at least half-a-dozen interviewers, drawn from
both management and potential colleagues. Everyone's opinion
counts, making the hiring process more fair and pushing
standards higher. Yes, it takes longer, but we think it's worth it. If
you hire great people and involve them intensively in the hiring
process, you'll get more great people. We started building this
positive feedback loop when the company was founded, and it
has had a huge payoff.
2. Cater to their every need. As Drucker says, the goal is to "strip
away everything that gets in their way." We provide a standard
package of fringe benefits, but on top of that are first-class dining
facilities, gyms, laundry rooms, massage rooms, haircuts,
carwashes, dry cleaning, commuting buses – just about anything
a hardworking engineer might want. Let's face it: programmers
want to program, they don't want to do their laundry. So we
make it easy for them to do both.
3. Pack them in. Almost every project: at Google is a team project,
and teams have to communicate. The best way to make
communication easy is to put team members within a few feet of
each other. The result is that virtually everyone at Google shares
an office. This way, when a programmer needs to confer with a
colleague, there is immediate access: no telephone tag, no e-mail
delay, no waiting for a reply. Of course, there are many
conference rooms that people can use for detailed discussion so
that they don't disturb their office mates. Even the CEO shared an
office at Google for several months after he arrived. Sitting next
to a knowledgeable employee was an incredibly effective
4. Make coordination easy. Because all members of a team are
within a few feet of one another, it is relatively easy to
coordinate projects. In addition to physical proximity, each
Googler e-mails a snippet once a week to his work group
describing what he has done in the last week. This gives
everyone an easy way to track what everyone else is up to,
making it much easier to monitor progress and synchronize
5. Eat your own dog food. Google workers use the company's tools
intensively. The most obvious tool is the Web, with an internal
Web page for virtually every project and every task. They are all
indexed and available to project participants on an as-needed
basis. We also make extensive use of other information-
management tools, some of which are eventually rolled out as
products. For example, one of the reasons for Gmail's success is
that it was beta tested within the company for many months. The
use of e-mail is critical within the organization, so Gmail had to
be tuned to satisfy the needs of some of our most demanding
customers – our knowledge workers.
6. Encourage creativity. Google engineers can spend up to 20
percent of their time on a project of their choice. There is, of
course, an approval process and some oversight, but basically we
want to allow creative people to be creative. One of our not-so-
secret weapons is our ideas mailing list: a companywide
suggestion box where people can post ideas ranging from
parking procedures to the next killer app. The software allows
for everyone to comment on and rate ideas, permitting the best
ideas to percolate to the top.
7. Strive to reach consensus. Modern corporate mythology has the
unique decision maker as hero. We adhere to the view that the
"many are smarter than the few," and solicit a broad base of
views before reaching any decision. At Google, the role of the
manager is that of an aggregator of viewpoints, not the dictator
of decisions. Building a consensus sometimes takes longer, but
always produces a more committed team and better decisions.
8. Don't be evil. Much has been written about Google's slogan, but
we really try to live by it, particularly in the ranks of
management. As in every organization, people are passionate
about their views. But nobody throws chairs at Google, unlike
management practices used at some other well-known
technology companies. We foster to create an atmosphere of
tolerance and respect, not a company full of yes men.
9. Data drive decisions. At Google, almost every decision is based
on quantitative analysis. We've built systems to manage
information, not only on the Internet at large, but also internally.
We have dozens of analysts who plow through the data, analyze
performance metrics and plot trends to keep us as up to date as
possible. We have a raft of online "dashboards" for every
business we work in that provide up-to-the-minute snapshots of
where we are.
10. Communicate effectively. Every Friday we have an all-hands
assembly with announcements, introductions and questions and
answers. (Oh, yes, and some food and drink.) This allows
management to stay in touch with what our knowledge workers
are thinking and vice versa. Google has remarkably broad
dissemination of information within the organization and
remarkably few serious leaks. Contrary to what some might
think, we believe it is the first fact that causes the second: a
trusted work force is a loyal work force.
Of course, we're not the only company that follows these practices.
Many of them are common around Silicon Valley. And we recognize
that our management techniques have to evolve as the company
grows. There are several problems that we (and other companies
like us) face.
One is "techno arrogance." Engineers are competitive by nature
and they have low tolerance for those who aren't as driven or as
knowledgeable as they are. But almost all engineering projects are
team projects; having a smart but inflexible person on a team can
be deadly. If we see a recommendation that says "smartest person
I've ever known" combined with "I wouldn't ever want to work
with them again," we decline to make them an offer. One reason for
extensive peer interviews is to make sure that teams are enthused
about the new team member. Many of our best people are terrific
role models in terms of team building, and we want to keep it that
A related problem is the not-invented-here syndrome. A good
engineer is always convinced that he can build a better system than
the existing ones, leading to the refrain "Don't buy it, build it." Well,
they may be right, but we have to focus on those projects with the
biggest payoff. Sometimes this means going outside the company
for products and services.
Another issue that we will face in the coming years is the
maturation of the company, the industry and our work force. We,
along with other firms in this industry, are in a rapid growth stage
now, but that won't go on forever. Some of our new workers are
fresh out of college; others have families and extensive job
experience. Their interests and needs are different. We need to
provide benefits and a work environment that will be attractive to
A final issue is making sure that as Google grows, communication
procedures keep pace with our increasing scale. The Friday
meetings are great for the Mountain View team, but Google is now a
We have focused on managing creativity and innovation, but that's
not the only thing that matters at Google. We also have to manage
day-to-day operations, and it's not an easy task. We are building
technology infrastructure that is dramatically larger, more complex
and more demanding than anything that has been built in history.
Those who plan, implement and maintain these systems, which are
growing to meet a constantly rising set of demands, have to have
strong incentives too. At Google, operations are not just an
afterthought: they are critical to the company's success, and we
want to have just as much effort and creativity in this domain as in
new product development.
Table 1: Stimulus to extend perspectives to approach a problem
List the elements that would bring on success.
List the elements that we visualise as failure.
Visualise success seen from the viewpoint of fifty years from now.
Visualise success seen from the perspective of one hundred years
Look for impossible and desirable ideas.
Create analogies with other things that have been successful.
Imagine and write down ideas that are wild, illegal, crazy, etc.
Insert the problem from its present scenario to a totally different
Return from the fantasy scenario to the present scenario and try to
associate the ideas generated in the fantasy scenario, with ideas that
might apply to the real problem.
Imagine what people we admire would say.
Search for pairs of ideas that are apparently unconnected and that
can be associated by a third.
Imagine that everything exists and all we have to do is find it.
Change the level on which the problem is approached.
Source: European Commission, Innovation Management Techniques in
Operation, European - Commission, DG XIII, Luxembourg, 1998.
Table 2: Osborn’s Checklist
PUT TO OTHER USES?
New ways to use as is? Other uses if modified?
What else is like this? What other idea does this suggest? Does
past offer parallel? What could I copy? Whom could I emulate?
New twist? Change meaning, colour, motion, sound, odour,
form, shape? Other changes?
What to add? More time? Greater frequency? Stronger? Higher?
Longer? Thicker? Extra value? Plus ingredient? Duplicate?
What to subtract? Smaller? Condensed? Miniature? Lower?
Shorter? Lighter? Omit? Streamline? Split up? Understate?
Who else instead? What else instead? Other ingredient? Other
Material? Other process? Other power? Other place? Other
approach? Other tone of voice?
Interchange components? Other pattern? Other layout? Transpose
cause and effect? Change sequence, pace or schedule?
Transpose positive and negative? How about opposites? Turn it
backward? Turn it upside down? Reverse role? Change shoes?
Turn tables? Turn other cheek?
How about a blend, an alloy, an assortment, an ensemble?
Combine units? Combine purposes? Combine appeals?
J.M. Higgins, “Innovate or evaporate: creative techniques for
strategists”, Long Range
Planning, Vol. 29, No 3, pp. 370-380, 1996 (reprinted from Alex Osborn,
Charles Scribner’s & Sons, Inc., New York).
How to Be More Creative ?
Having the ability to come up with creative ideas can help you each and
every day. Creativity is not the sole domain of the arts-whether it's
painting, theater, music, architecture, dancing, literature, and so on-but
is important in any field, from medicine to business, and from
engineering to economics.
Being creative can involve cooking a meal from scratch, creating a novel
marketing campaign, making up a bedtime story for your child, finding
ways to cut costs, or even developing a creative solution to a
negotiation impasse. Whatever you do, creativity helps you do it better.
Some people believe creativity to be the result of an abnormal
chromosome that causes a muse-like effect, or of a neurological quirk.
Others associate it with psychosis, temporal lobe seizures, or childhood
trauma. And then there are those who believe it's about winning the
genetic lottery: you're either born creative or you're not. However, as
most creativity experts hold - including Jack Foster, Roger von Oech,
Edward de Bono, and many others - creativity is a process that can be
learned, practiced, and perfected.
Being More Creative Will Help You with All of the Following:
Solve everyday problems more efficiently and effectively.
Turn problems into opportunities.
Create new products, processes, and services.
Make creative, innovative, and entrepreneurial thinking part of your
everyday work life.
Generate ideas for creative pursuits such as writing, drawing,
photography, and so on.
Find creative ways to generate more income.
Four Steps to Unleash Your Creativity
To be more creative, start by following these four steps, roughly
modeled after the five step technique set forth in the creativity classic,
"A Technique for Producing Ideas" by James Webb Young:
1. Gather Information on Your Subject Matter
2. Digest the Information and Apply Creativity Techniques
3. Take Time for Incubation
4. Refine the Idea and Make it Real
These four steps are described in more detail below.
Schedule a regular time to practice your craft --whether it's writing or
anything else -- and show up, even if you're not feeling creative.
Step One: Gather Information on Your Subject Matter
The first step in unleashing your creativity involves gathering
information about the topic at hand.
Read everything you can on your subject matter:
- Go to the library and check out books;
- Go to your neighborhood bookstore and browse through interesting
- Read magazine articles;
- Subscribe to a newsletter;
- Surf the internet for information;
- Subscribe to blogs dedicated to your topic.
You can also talk to people who have knowledge on the topic and ask
them lots of questions, go to a lecture, enroll in a seminar, and even
take an online class. The more you know about a topic, the more likely
you are to come up with creative ideas for that subject matter.
("Working it all out . . . ", courtesy of Lost in Scotland).
Play Baroque Music
Baroque music-such as Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons" and Pachbel's
"Canon"-has been shown to synchronize brain waves at about 60 cycles
per second, a frequency associated with increased alpha waves. In turn,
alpha is a frequency of mind associated with enhanced creativity.
Step Two. Digest the Information and Apply Creativity Techniques
The second step involves digesting and working with the raw material
that you gathered in the previous step.
There are many books on creativity which offer the reader different
creativity techniques to help in the generation of ideas, and at this point
you can begin applying these techniques to your problem. Basically,
there are creativity techniques that are expansive and "open" our mind,
and there are creativity techniques that force your mind to focus.
Creativity Techniques that Open Your Mind
Some creativity techniques are intended to "open your mind" and
encourage "free thinking", such as idea generation and brainstorming
sessions, guided imagery, and other expansive techniques. For example,
you can begin by releasing all of the preconceived ideas and
assumptions you have about the topic and disregard fixed lines of
thinking and rigid behavior patterns.
Creativity Techniques that Force Your Mind to Focus
Other techniques create constraints and force your mind to focus, such
as setting time deadlines and other methods that force you to converge
on a particular course of action. For example, in problem-solving
contexts, the random word creativity technique has been shown to
produce great results for those who apply it. Basically, a person
confronted with a problem is presented with a randomly generated
word and is told to make associations between the word and the
problem as a creativity goad. By combining expansive and constraining
creativity techniques you can come up with several different
alternatives to choose from for solving the problem at hand.
("Ball of Whacks", courtesy of kevmaguire).
Read one page of the dictionary every day and write down any words
that catch your attention in a notebook. When you need inspiration,
look through the words you have written down.
Step Three: Take Time for Incubation
The third stage is letting go. You just drop the subject entirely, go do
something else, and let the unconscious mind deal with the problem.
Incubation is needed to handle complexity - during this relaxing period,
people unconsciously and consciously combine ideas with a freedom
that denies linear and rational thought (Boden 1990).
After a period of intense concentration, Albert Einstein would take a
nap or find another way to detach from whatever he was working on.
He found that during these mental breaks his unconscious mind would
go on thinking about the challenge and surprise him with an insight
when he least expected it.
Isaac Asimov was quoted as saying that when he got stuck writing a
book he would simply put the project aside and start writing a
completely different book. When he returned to the original project he
would find that his unconscious mind had figured things out and the
ideas would just flow.
Seymour Cray, the legendary designer of high-speed computers, used to
divide his time between building the next generation super computer
and digging an underground tunnel below his Chippewa Falls house. He
would immerse himself in his work, and then he would walk away from
it and let the ideas percolate.
Thomas Edison, a man with over 1,000 patents to his credit, would go
down to the dock and fish.
Therefore, after a period of thinking hard about a problem, the next
step is to either work on something entirely different, or to relax:
practice deliberate frivolity, go to a museum, go to the movies, or go for
a twenty minute walk. Many people have reported "Eureka" moments
while taking time for incubation.
("Artist Under Bridge", courtesy of Randy Son Of Robert).
Step Four: Refine the Idea and Make it Real
The final stage is where you use trial and experimentation to test, edit,
refine and polish the idea. In addition, at this step you need to make
your idea real.
In her inspiring book, A Creative Companion: How to Free Your
Creative Spirit, Sark tells the story of an Australian artist named Ken
Done who created a painting he thought would look great on bed
sheets. He took the idea to a sheet company but they turned him down
because they just couldn't visualize bed sheets with his painting on
them. Ken then went home, took a white bed sheet, painted his painting
on it, and took it back to the sheet company. The bed sheet he painted
looked so fabulous that the sheet company immediately placed a large
It's not enough to come up with great ideas, you have to act to turn
those ideas into reality.
In this lens you will find more information on how to apply these steps
to become more creative.
What Does It Mean to Be More Creative?
A Definition of Creativity
Dr. Edward de Bono is a leading authority in the field of creative
thinking and is the originator of the term "lateral thinking". He explains
that creativity is a skill that everyone can learn. He adds that even if
some people may be better at being creative than others, like some
people are better at playing tennis than others, when specific
techniques are applied it becomes possible for anyone to generate new
ideas in any field.
While Dr. de Bono emphasizes creativity techniques, Rice Freeman-
Zachery, author of "Living the Creative Life: Ideas and Inspiration from
Working Artists", has this to say about how to be more creative:
"Instead of looking at the world as it is, look at everything as being full
of possibilities. Instead of seeing what is, look for what could be. If
you're an artist, you look at everything as a possibility and inspiration
because you know that ideas can come from anywhere."
Psychotherapist and creativity coach Dr. Eric Maisel, Ph.D. has been
working with creative and performing artists for over twenty years and
has written many books teaching others to be more creative, including
"Coaching the Artist Within", "Fearless Creating", "A Writer's Paris",
"The Van Gogh Blues", and others. He explains that everyone wishes to
create, but some people nurture and honor this desire, while for others
the urge to create is dimmed. Dr. Maisel encourages poets, filmmakers,
human resource specialists, biochemists, and everyone else to make
creativity their religion.
There are also those, such as Dr. Caroline Myss-a pioneer in the field of
energy medicine and human consciousness-who argue that creativity is
not just an artistic or intellectual inclination; instead, working with
your creative energy is as essential to your health and overall well-
being as breathing and eating. She has this to say about the creative
"Creative energy is a basic survival instinct; it motivates us to become
part of society, to become productive, bring things to life, and to
distinguish ourselves from others by what we make, the crafts we
pursue, the skills we develop in business or in cultivating friendships,
the entrepreneurial ideas we conceive, the problems we resolve, and
the children or communities we birth and nurture."
(This was taken from the introduction of my ebook, "How to Be More
Creative - A Handbook for Alchemists").
Write down the issue at the center of the paper. Now draw branches
leading out from the central issue which represent the main
associations that come from thinking of this issue, and smaller branches
leading out from these for sub-associations.
Use lots of colors & pictures.
Follow Pablo Picasso's lead: first learn the rules, and then break them.
Ask Yourself Lots of Questions
Increase Your Happiness With a Solution-Focused Mindset
Whenever you have a problem, there are two approaches that you can
take: You can focus on the proble...
Writing Tips: Stop Waiting for Your Muse and Get to Work
Be More Creative by Stealing, Re-conceptualizing, and Recombining
Ideas That Already Exist
How many times have you heard the following: ?There?s nothing new
under the sun.? It turns out that...
Go Back to Basics
Pick up a pen or pencil and paper. There's something about a good old-
fashioned pen and a stack of papers, or a brand new notebook, that gets
the creative juices flowing.
Return to Basics
"The simplicity of the typewriter is alluring to writers who may be
overwhelmed (or underwhelmed) by increasingly elaborate
technology. A typewriter is also appealing in its transparency - whack a
key, and watch the typebar smack a letter onto a piece of paper. Try
figuring that out with a laser printer. Many people also find typewriters
charming ambassadors of a bygone era."
Awaken your sense of wonder. Julia Cameron, author of "The Artist's
Way" suggests that once a week, for at least an hour, you take yourself
on some small festive adventure. Explore something new, try
something you've always wondered about.
The Basic Tools
Remember there is more than one right answer. One of the worst
aspects of formal education is the insistence it places on finding "the"
Edward de Bono
Dr. Edward de Bono is a leading authority in the field of creative
thinking and is the originator of the term "lateral thinking."
"Lateral thinking" involves approaching problems from diverse,
unexpected angles and from different perspectives. Dr. de Bono meant
to differentiate lateral thinking-in which you nudge the mind to make
sudden turns- from vertical thinking, which is logical and sequential
He has written over 50 books in the field of creativity and thinking.
Edward de Bono's Six Thinking Hats
1. White Hat - State the facts and figures
2. Red Hat - State the emotions.
3. Black Hat -State the negatives. Use judgment and caution.
4. Yellow Hat - State the positives.
5. Green Hat - Ideas that come by seeing things in a new light. Suggest
alternatives, proposals, provocations.
6. Blue Hat - Sum up what has been learned. It controls the debate. To
see it in action.
Stop second-guessing yourself and try not to focus on how others will
perceive your work.
Study and experiment with several forms of media: music,
photography, writing or drawing. You can often learn concepts from all
of these media which you can apply to other disciplines.
"The state of mind of the photographer while creating is a blank . . .
[But] It is a very active state of mind, ready at an instant to grasp an
image, yet with no image pre-formed in it at any time."
Create a "swipe file". This is basically a collection of items of interest
which you found noteworthy and which you can refer to in order to
help jump-start your creativity.
Borrow Ideas From Others but Make the End Product Your Own
Michael de Meng has the following to say about creativity: "In my view,
creativity is a rampant thievery mixed with reinterpretation . . . I see
the act [of creativity] as being like a martini shaker, in which you add all
those ingredients that you like or admire. Three parts Picasso, two
parts Joseph Cornell, seven parts Mexican Folk Art, a splash of abstract
expressionism, and garnish with a twist of Daidism."
Be curious about everything. You never know when random, seemingly
unrelated ideas will come together to form a new idea.
Curiosity is looking for lots of possibilities.
Albert Einstein illustrated this point when asked what made him
different from other people. He responded: most people stop looking
when they find the proverbial needle in the haystack. I would continue
looking to see if there were other needles.
“Art is work. It is not inspiration." Twyla Tharp”
Twyla Tharp - "The Creative Habit"
Discipline is essential to the flourishing of one's creativity.
Twyla Tharp, one of America's greatest choreographers, began her
career in 1965, and in the ensuing years has created more than 130
dances for her own company as well as for the Joffrey Ballet, the New
York City Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, London's Royal Ballet, and
American Ballet Theater. She writes about the creative process in her
book, "The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life".
"Creativity is not a gift from the gods given to select individuals", says
Twyla Tharp. She maintains that it's the product of preparation and
effort, and it is within reach of everyone who wants to achieve it. All it
takes is the willingness to make creativity a habit, an integral part of
your life: "In order to be creative, you have to know how to prepare to
be creative." ("Ballerina Resting", courtesy of Ruth Christie).
The Creative Habit
Exercise during your lunch break.
"The key question isn't "What fosters creativity?" But it is why in God's
name isn't everyone creative? Where was the human potential lost?
How was it crippled? I think therefore a good question might be not
why do people create? But why do people not create or innovate? We
have got to abandon that sense of amazement in the face of creativity,
as if it were a miracle if anybody created anything."
100 Simple Ways to Be More Creative
I cheerfully present to you Idea Champions' time-tested, easy-to-read,
highly compelling, imminently practical 100 Ways to Be More
Creative on the Job.
1. Find the most creative people at work and ask for their ideas.
2. Brainstorm daily with a co-worker.
3. Tape record your ideas on your commute to and from work.
4. Present your biggest challenge to a child.
5. Take your team off-site for a day.
6. Listen more carefully to your inner muse.
7. Play music in your office.
8. Go for a daily brainstorming walk.
9. Ask someone to collaborate with you on your favorite project.
10. Exercise during your lunch break.
11. Turn on a radio at random times and listen for a "message."
12. Invite your customers and vendors to brainstorming sessions.
13. Think of five other ways to define your challenge.
14. Assign a "fun fairy" to each of your meetings.
15. Reward yourself, in specific ways, for small successes.
16. Introduce odd catalysts into your daily routine.
17. Get out of the office more regularly
18. Play with fun toys in your office whenever you get stuck.
19. Take more naps.
20. Take the train, instead of driving to work.
21. Work in cafes.
22. Transform your assumptions into "How can I?" questions.
23. Write down as many ideas as you can think of in five minutes
24. Redesign your office.
25. Take regular daydreaming breaks.
26. Dissolve turf boundaries.
27. Initiate cross-functional brainstorming sessions.
28. Arrive earlier to the office than anyone else.
29. Turn a conference room into an upbeat "think tank" room.
30. Read odd books -- having nothing to do with your work.
31. Block off time on your calendar for creative thinking.
32. Take a shower in the middle of the day.
33. Keep an idea notebook at your desk or in your briefcase.
34. Decorate your office with inspiring quotes and images.
35. Create a headline of the future and the story behind it.
36. Choose to be more creative.
37. Recall a time in your life when you were very creative. Feel it.
38. Wander around a bookstore while thinking about a challenge.
39. Trust your instincts more.
40. Immerse yourself in your most exciting project.
41. Open a magazine and free associate off of a word or image.
42. Write down your ideas when you first wake up in the morning.
43. Ask yourself what the simplest solution is.
44. Get fast feedback from people you trust.
45. Conduct more experiments.
45. Ask yourself what the market wants or needs.
46. Ask "What's the worst thing that could happen if I fail?"
47. Pilot your idea, even if it's not completely ready.
48. Work "in the cracks" -- small bursts of creative energy.
49. Incubate (sleep on it).
50. Test existing boundaries -- and then test them again.
51. Schedule time with the smartest people at work.
52. Visit your customers more frequently.
53. Benchmark your competitors -- then adapt their successes.
54. Enroll your boss or peers in your most fascinating project.
55. Imagine you already know the answer. What would it be?
56. Create ground rules with your team that foster new thinking.
57. Ask stupid questions. Then ask some more.
58. Challenge everything you do.
59. Give yourself a deadline -- and stick to it
60. Look for three alternatives to every solution you originate.
61. Write your ideas in a notebook and review them regularly.
62. Make connections between seemingly disconnected things.
63. Use creative thinking techniques.
64. Play with the Free the Genie cards.
65 Use similes and metaphors when describing your ideas.
66. Have more fun. Be sillier than usual.
67. Ask "How can I accomplish my goal in half the time?"
68. Take a break when you are stuck on a problem.
69. Think of how your biggest hero might approach your challenge.
70. Declare Friday afternoons a "no-email zone."
71. Ask five people how they would improve your idea.
72. Create a wall of images that inspires you.
73. Do more of what already helps you be creative off the job.
74. Laugh more. worry less.
75. Remember your dreams -- then write them down.
76. Ask impossible questions.
77. Eliminate all unnecessary bureaucracy and admin tasks.
78. Create a compelling vision of what you want to accomplish.
79. Work on hottest project every day, even if only 5 minutes.
80. Do whatever is necessary to create a sense of urgency.
81. Go for a walk anytime you're stuck.
82. Meditate or do relaxation exercises.
83. Take more breaks.
84. Go out for lunch with your team more often.
85. Eat lunch with a different person each day.
86. Ask for forgiveness, not permission.
87. Invite an outside facilitator to lead a brainstorming session.
88. Take more risks outside of the office (i.e. surf, ski, box etc.)
89. Ask for help when you need it.
90. Know that it is possible to make a difference.
91. Find a mentor.
92. Acknowledge all your successes at the end of each day.
93. Create an "idea piggy bank" and make deposits daily.
94. Have shorter meetings.
95. Try the techniques in Awake at the Wheel
96. Don't listen to or watch the news for 24 hours.
97. Make drawings of your ideas.
98. Bring your project or challenge to mind before going to bed.
99. Divide your idea into component parts. Then rethink each part.
100. Post this list near your desk and read it daily.
Ebook: How to Be More Creative - A Handbook for Alchemists
by Marelisa Fábrega
Here's more praise for "How to Be More Creative - A Handbook for
The word 'alchemist' - what does that mean? "A person who turns
something common into something special." In this ebook, you'll find a
myriad of ways in which to creatively apply this in your life - and really
become an alchemist! Marelisa has created a fantastic ebook which is a
resource on many, many ways to get the creative thought process really
revved up in your life! And what truly makes this great is both the
number of different methods on being creative, and the easy to follow
understanding of each of these. If you're looking to really increase your
creativity factor, then this is just what you can use! Marelisa has created
an amazing resource on creativity techniques that everyone can apply
to all areas of their life right away!
(Lance from "The Jungle of Life", Wisconsin, USA)
"What if . . ."
"Why not . . ."
"How else can this be done?"
"How can this be improved?"
"What other alternatives are there?"
“I didn't fail 10,000 times. I successfully eliminated 10,000
combinations that wouldn't work.”
Edison was awarded a total of 1,093 patents. Among his most famous
inventions were the phonograph, the mimeograph, fluoroscope,
alkaline storage battery, dictating machine and motion picture cameras
Where do ideas come from? A + B = C
To have a creative idea simply connect two unrelated things; that is,
How to Unleash Your Creativity?
In a discussion with Scientific American Mind executive editor Mariette
DiChristina, three noted experts on creativity, each with a very different
perspective and background, reveal powerful ways to unleash your
"The most potent muse of all is our own inner child." - Stephen
Cultivate Your Creativity: Connect With Your Inner Child
Charles Baudelaire described genius as "no more than childhood
recaptured at will." Creativity is also something that you can recapture
at will by getting in touch with your inner child. If it's been a long time
since you invited your inner child out to play, you can reconnect with
him or her by doing the following:
1. Color. Buy crayons and a coloring book-the big thick kind filled with
all kinds of images that you loved as a child--and sit down for an
afternoon of coloring. It's OK if you color outside the lines.
2. Play. Spend some time thinking about what you loved to play with as
a child. Did you play jacks, draw with chalk on the sidewalk, build a
fortress with Legos, or create "baked goods" with Play-Doh.
3. Go to the playground. Play hopscotch, jump rope, climb on the
swings, and climb on the jungle gyms.
4. Draw your goal. Grab some crayons, markers or colored pencils.
Imagine a goal that you'd like to meet, and draw a picture of what it will
look like when you've reached this goal.
5. Go for a walk.Go on a nature walk and look at everything with
wonder like a child would. Be curious and aware. Gather leaves,
feathers, rocks, and flowers and take them home with you.
6. Make a cootie catcher. Did you forget how? Go here.
7. Read Dr. Seuss' books. Few things will help you reconnect with your
inner child as much as sitting down and rhyming along with the magical
("Little Artist", courtesy of bo_gazi).
Disrupt your habitual thought patterns. Take a different route to work,
try food you've never eaten before, listen to a music genre you normally
don't listen to, and so on.
Creativity Technique: Play
"When we engage in what we are naturally suited to do, our work takes
on the quality of play and it is play that stimulates creativity." -- Linda
Tim Brown, CEO of Ideo
Look at Some of the Things They Do at Google
These are some of the things they do at Google--a company known for
innovation--to stimulate their employee's creativity:
How to Make Your Desk a More Creative Space
Do you consider yourself a creative person? Find out how to make your
workplace desk a creative workspace that will inspire and amplify your
creative talents. This video is funny, informational, and inspirational.
Make your common desk, uncommonly special and unique
Every office has one. From the desk that looks like a tropical oasis to a
workspace that would make Martha Stewart blush -- we want to see the
creative cubicles that occupy
Take a look at the rooms in which some of the world's best literature
has been written.
Make Your Workspace More Creative
One of the best things you can do to increase your creativity is to create
an environment which gets your creative juices flowing. In order to
help inspire you in putting together a workspace you can look forward
to entering each day, below you'll find pictures of creative cubicles from
CNN's iReports, as well as photographs of the spaces in which some of
the world's most famous writers have created some of their best work.
Challenge Your Assumptions
Farmers in Japan figured out how to grow square-shaped watermelons.
A fat, round watermelon takes up a lot of room. Instead of just
assuming that watermelons had to be round, they began inserting
melons in square glass cases while they were still growing on the vine.
The end result was a square watermelon which fits conveniently in the
refrigerators in which they're transported. What assumptions are you
making that are stopping you from finding a solution to your problem?
Learn to notice patterns. "The genius," said American painter Ben
Shahn, "is merely the one able to detect the pattern amidst the
confusion of details just a little sooner than the average man."
"Nothing is done. Everything in the world remains to be done or done
over. The greatest picture is not yet painted, the greatest play isn't
written, the greatest poem is unsung. There isn't in all the world a
perfect railroad, nor a good government, nor a sound law. Physics,
mathematics, and especially the most advanced and exact of the
sciences are being fundamentally revised. . . Psychology, economics,
and sociology are awaiting a Darwin, whose work in turn is awaiting an
Tell the World: "I'm an Artist"
Strive for Excellence, Not Perfection
"Perfectionism is not a quest for the best. It is a pursuit of the worst in
ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good
enough . . . that we should try again." (Julia Cameron)
“You are in an ecstatic state to such a point that you feel as though you
almost don't exist.”
Creativity and Flow
Flow can happen in any domain or activity. The main requirement is
that your skills so perfectly match the demands of the activity that all
self-consciousness disappears. If your skills are not up to the challenge,
you experience anxiety; if your skills are too great, you experience
One of the greatest benefits of the flow state is that it's the most
creative state to be in. Here's a quote about the flow state:
"Being in the flow" is definitely worth striving for. I know when I'm
there. I'm tapped into something that is far beyond my ability." - Aleta
Jack Foster: The key message is that all of us are very creative. If we
simply allow ourselves to be more creative we will be more creative.
Most of the time we hold ourselves back, but if we can convince
ourselves that we are a fountain of good ideas we will become a
fountain of good ideas. The same is true in all facets of life, certainly in
all facets of our personality. We make ourselves. We invent ourselves.
Break it down. Break a problem down into its smallest
components and rebuild it from the ground up, questioning at
every step whether that's the best way to do it.
Use Visual Thinking
Learn to Draw
Mandalas-from the Sanskrit for "circle"-have been used for thousands
of years in many cultures around the globe as a tool for spiritual
growth, creativity, and physical and emotional healing.
Constraints and Limitations
Composer Stephen Sondheim once said:
"If you ask me to write a song about the ocean, I'm stumped. But if you
tell me to write a ballad about a woman in a red dress falling off her
stool at three in the morning, I'm inspired."
Stimulating Creativity with Constraints and Limits
While thinking "outside the box" is often used as a synonym for
creativity, thinking "inside the box" with limitations of time, money and
other resources often helps the mind to focus and respond with
innovative solutions to problems. Composer Stephen Sondheim once
"If you ask me to write a song about the ocean, I'm stumped. But if you
tell me to write a ballad about a woman in a red dress falling off her
stool at three in the morning, I'm inspired."
Two examples of how you can allow your creativity to soar by setting
limits are the "Three Units for a Good Tragedy" explained below and
"The Houdini Solution" explained in the next text module.:
The Three Unities for A Good Tragedy
In an interview published on "Heads up! on Organizational Innovation",
creativity guru Roger von Oech explains that constraints force the
innovator to think and look more deeply for opportunities. As an
example, he explains that he was watching a Roman Polanski's 1962
film titled "Knife in the Water". One of the DVD's special features had an
interview with Polanski and his screenwriter in which they both stated
that they forced themselves to stick with Aristotle's "three unities for a
- All action takes place within 24 hours;
- All action occurs in the same place; and
- There is a limited number of characters
This made them think more deeply about plot and character rather
than taking cinematic shortcuts. That is, these three limits helped them
create a much better film than they would have put together had they
not set any limits.
The Houdini Solution
This lens by Ernie Schenck, author of "The Houdini Solution", explains
that creative breakthroughs occur because of limitations, not in spite of
To Be More Creative, Think Within the Box
Ernie Schenck is an advertising and creative director, as well as the
author of the book "The Houdini Solution". He argues that the best way
to come up with great ideas is not to think outside of the box, but
instead to think within the box. He explains this concept in his squidoo
lens, houdinisolution, and quotes psychologist and creativity expert
Rollo May as follows:
"Creativity requires limits, for the creative act arises out of the struggle
of human beings and against that which limits them."
Schenck argues that you don't need to wait for "the muse" to appear or
for your life circumstances to change; instead, work with the
circumstances in which you currently find yourself and use any existing
parameters or limitations as a vehicle to give your creativity direction.
He adds that by the time you finish reading "The Houdini Solution"
you'll understand the following:
"The biggest secret of truly productive creative people is that they
embrace obstacles, they don't run from them. In their mind, every
setback is an opportunity, every limitation is a chance. Where others
see a wall, they see a doorway."
One of the examples used by Schenck to illustrate his point is that of
Jack White, a guitarist and songwriter and the leader of the Grammy
Award-winning rock band, White Stripes. These are some of Jack
White's self-imposed restrictions:
* No computers.
* No digital recording technology.
* No bass guitars.
* No studio equipment invented after 1968.
* No clothes that aren't red, white or black.
This forced creative captivity nurtures innovation and results in music
that is more centered on talent than on technology.
How many of us are waiting for something to happen or for some
obstacle to be removed before embarking on our creative endeavors?
Start using any limitations in your life as a way to mold your creativity,
instead of using them as excuses for not getting started.
Small Spark of Insight v. Sudden Blast of Inspiration
An Excerpt From "How to Be More Creative - A Handbook for
Here's an excerpt from my ebook, "How to Be More Creative - A
Handbook for Alchemists", which did not actually make it into the
ebook, simply because I wanted to limit the size of the document (it
ended up being 123 pages long).
R. Keith Sawyer, Washington University psychologist and author of
"Explaining Creativity: The Science of Human Innovation", argues that
the sudden creative flash is a byproduct of doing the work. In an
interview for Time magazine he explains that researchers use cleverly
designed experiments to study the "creative flash".
In one experiment, subjects were asked to look at words that came up
one at a time on a computer screen and to think of the one word that
was associated with all of them. After each word they had to give their
best guess. Here's an illustration:
red - nut - bowl - cup - basket - jelly - fresh - cocktail -
candy - pie - baking - salad - tree - fly
Although most of the test subjects indicated that they had no idea what
the answer was until about the twelfth word, their guesses got
progressively closer to the correct solution: fruit. That is, even when an
idea seems sudden, our minds have actually been working on it all
He admonishes that we should get to work instead of waiting for that
one full-blown moment of inspiration. As we work-by gathering data,
letting the ideas ferment, conducting experiments, and gradually
modifying our approach-we begin to get those tiny little sparks of
insight, one after the other. “Includes enough fun and informative
resources to take your creativity as far as you want to take it.”
Creative Thinking Technique: The Idea Box
You can overcome routine thinking and stimulate creative thought by
using specific techniques that will help both stimulate and constrain
your mind so that it can solve problems more effectively and generate
more ideas. The Idea Box is one of the most interesting creative
techniques that there is.
Idea Box - A Morphological Analysis
Idea Box is a Morphological analysis technique developed by Fritz
Zwicky in the 1940's and 50's as a method for systematically
structuring and investigating the total set of relationships contained in
multi-dimensional problems. It's an extension of attribute listing.
Variations of this technique are described by Arthur VanGundy in his
book "Techniques of Structured Problem Solving" and Michael
Michalko in "Thinkertoys".
You choose the number of parameters for your challenge and list
variations for each parameter. By combining different variations of the
parameters you create new ideas. The box is a matrix in which you
insert all of the different parameters so that you can see them clearly. If
you choose 10 elements with 10 possible variations for each, there will
be 10 billion possible combinations, so keep this in mind so that you're
idea box isn't too complex.
The general procedure to implement this technique is the following:
Step 1. List all the major elements involved in the issue or problem. For
example, the major elements of a product you're trying to improve
could be the material, the shape, and added features.
Step 2. Each variable is then listed under each element. So under
"material" the variables could be wood, steel, plastic, and so on.
Step 3. Start combining the variables together to try to come up with
some novel ideas.
Step 4. Analyze the ideas and decide which one to pursue.
Hang a sign in a prominent place where you'll be sure to see it every
day that says "Create or die!".
The Big Dip
"Idea Sandbox" has a free problem solving tool called "The Big Dig". You
just click to scoop suggestions, such as: "Consider double-checking that
you're solving the right problem. Is there a more significant one you're
Take a Gator Break. Here's one: "If at first an idea is not absurd, then
there's no hope for it." - Albert Einstein
Reconsider the old. Redesign something you see all the time (a stop
sign, a penny, etc.). This forces you to look at old things in a new way-
and challenges you to try different design approaches.
Follow Ernest Hemingway's advice: "Write the truest sentence you
More Ways to Get Unblocked
Mixing It Up Down Under: Creativity Unblocked
"When I can't begin or when I can't progress it is usually my inner
perfectionist raising her ugly-but-well-maintained head. I have become
too precious about the project, sometimes it is just an idea but already I
see it as sooooo wonderful that I could not possibly do it justice. I
Good To Know Issue
What is your biggest stumbling block to creativity (or expressing
yourself artistically) and what works for you in overcoming these
"There is a vitality, a life-force, an energy, a quickening that is
translated through you into action and because there is only one of you
in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never
exist through any other medium and be lost."
Mind Maps: Everything You Need to Know
A mind map is a whole-brain method for generating and organizing
ideas which is largely inspired by Leonardo da Vinci's approach to note-
Feel the fear, and then do it anyway.
“I've been absolutely terrified every moment of my life -- and I've never
let it keep me . . .”
Marelisa Fabrega blogs at http://abundance-blog.marelisa-
3.16 TURNING PROBLEMS INTO
One of the most insidious, unproductive, icky ways we use time is
complaining about our problems—especially when we should be
thinking about them as new opportunities.
The Difference Between Problems and Opportunities
A problem is just a problem because we think of it that way. Stuff
happens. If we don’t like the stuff, we label it a problem and try to jam
the world back into the way it was going before. If we do like the stuff,
we label it an opportunity and try to take advantage of it. The difference
between a problem and an opportunity is what we do with it, not what
it is to begin with.
How to Turn Problems into Opportunities
Take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. Write
“problems” in the left-hand column. Write “opportunities” in the right.
List your problems down the left. Now comes the fun part. Go down the
right column and write down how each problem could be some kind of
How to Find the Opportunity: What New Abilities Does It Bring?
This takes some thought. One way of finding the opportunity is: ask
yourself what new capabilities your problem gives you. If the problem
is that your car broke down, it gives you the ability to sell car parts on
eBay. It also gives you the chance to learn to use public transportation,
which could give you a lot of time to read and relax while you travel.
Though you may or may not want this capability, your problem does
give it to you.
Use a New Opportunity to Eliminate Old Behaviors
Your opportunity may lie not in new capabilities, but in the chance to
eliminate old behaviors. If your problem is a dead car, you’re saved
from having to keep the tank full, having to take it in for regular
maintenance, and having to explain to your friends why going
“Vrrruuum” when you start your Toyota Corolla really does make it
seem like a Porsche 911 Turbo-S. To you. Only to you.
New Opportunities Give You Excuses to Make Changes
The difference between a problem and an opportunity is what we do
with it, not what it is to begin with. Sometimes a problem gives you
excuses. When your leg gets torn off in a unfortunate rice picking
accident, you can no longer be expected to take out the trash. “I have no
legs” is really hard to argue with. Then you can hire housecleaners and
spend your time finally writing that book you always wanted to write.
(Just don’t call it Get-it-Done Guy’s 9 Steps to Work Less and Do More.
That’s my book, coming from St. Martin’s Press in September 2010.
Order it now!) If your house burns down and you’re well insured, at last
you have an excuse to build your dream home… as long as you were
insured with replacement value insurance.
A friend of mine was diagnosed with AIDS. He used that as an excuse to
quit his job and start doing things he loves. It’s about ten years later.
He’s still in great spirits, and has spent the last ten years doing all the
things in life he never previously let himself do--and finding ways to get
paid for them at the same time. As bad as his problem was, it gave him
the push to revolutionize his life.
New Opportunities Lead You to New People and Places
Often, problems bring you to new communities and causes. Hair loss
problems? You can join a hair loss support group. You and your new
friends will have lots to talk about. Just not hair.
Some people turn problems into activism. My friend Carl was frustrated
with the policies his local congressman was voting for in his district.
With no prior political experience, he ran for office and won. Now he’s a
full-time state senator. His problem led to a whole new career!
Turn a Problem into a New Career Opportunity
If your problem is one you think others may share, you can think about
solving it for everyone, and it could turn into a huge opportunity. That
is how many entrepreneurs get started. Scott Cook was frustrated with
the poor quality of software designed to help him balance his
checkbook. He decided to start a software company to fix the problem.
His company Intuit is now a multi-billion-dollar success story.
Sometimes the Opportunity is Surrender
The opportunity a problem can bring is surrendering to the inevitable. I
did the Get-it-Done Guy episode on not giving up your dreams because
I’d been bitten by the musical theater bug but never had the courage to
follow it. I visited New York, met several actors, producers, and
directors, and realized the competition would be brutal. The dancing
alone would be a challenge (ask me to tell you the story about the bone
saw someday when we have more time).
Dancing, a challenge? I love a challenge! I hired an acting coach to help
me prepare audition monologues. At our first meeting, she explained
that pretty much no one, no matter how talented, actually makes a
living at acting, so I should get that notion out of my head immediately.
FREEDOM! Once I discarded the idea that this had to be a career, the
possibilities for musical theater as a hobby opened up. Stay tuned for
the Get-it-Done Guy one-man musical. And no, I’m not joking.
Sometimes surrendering to the inevitable leads to the very thing you
thought was impossible.
Now it’s time for me to turn a problem into an opportunity. The
problem: I’m staring at a picture of Bernice and Melvin in wet, clinging
clothes, at a water park. There must be an opportunity here.
Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!
I look younger than
my age and geeky
enough that no one
takes me seriously.
Craft my image around fun, humor,
and a younger generation.
People don’t take me
seriously when they
first meet me.
Develop public speaking skills so they
have no choice but to sit and listen to
my ideas long enough to realize that if
they close their eyes, I’m worth taking
I have way too much
writing to do every
week and it’s driving
I retain rights to most of the writing,
so it can form the basis for another
book, or a series of white papers, or an
animated series starring Nicholas Cage
as the pile of stationery.
I haven’t yet recorded
my episode this week.
Get back on a wake-up-at-6:30-am
schedule and record before my
"In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity." Albert Einstein
"Trouble is only opportunity in work clothes." Henry J. Kaiser
"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls
and looks like work." Thomas Alva Edison
"Life's up and downs provide windows of opportunity to determine
your values and goals – Think of using all obstacles as stepping stones
to build the life you want." Marsha Sinetar
"We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as
impossible situations." Charles R. Swindoll
Six Powerful Tips
1. Start to believe you can. Think positively. Most people simply do not
get what they want because they have no courage to believe that
they can achieve it.
2. Shift your focus. Don't focus on the problems, focus on finding
opportunities. Don't talk about a problem; talk about an
opportunity. When you see a problem as a problem you only attract
more problems. If you wish to attract opportunities instead, see the
problem as an opportunity. There is an old saying that goes like this:
"There are no problems, only opportunities."
3. Think of what it is you really want to achieve. Write a statement in a
form "Wouldn't it be nice if...". Commit to it to engage your
4. Think about how you can accomplish your goal. When you think of
possible solutions you force your mind and subconscious mind to
find opportunities that will help you achieve the desired results.
5. Take different views of the situation. Having looked at the scene
from your view, look at it from different perspectives, try each of
these views: opportunist, entrepreneur, dreamer, optimist, child,
6. Make it a habit. See every problem as an opportunity. As you
regularly start to look for opportunities in a problem, as you
continue to think of finding opportunities you will begin to attract
Stever Robbins, author of Get-It Done Guy's 9 Steps to Work Less and
Turning obstacles into opportunities, sample worksheet –
3.17 SUMMARIZE, EVALUATE AND WRAP
In line with paraphrasing, when we reflect the content of a message,
there are moments when it is essential to summarize the content of a
complete story, conversation or session.
Such logical moments are:
- at the start or end of a session
- at the transition point to a new phase
- when we want to encourage coachee by highlighting what he
has already achieved..
- before evaluating a conversation, session, series of sessions,
phase or project
What is summarizing? Why is it useful and how best do it?
I am sure you have experienced the frustration of walking away from a
conversation with your head spinning and you're thinking:
What on earth did we discuss?
What is expected from me?
What did I agree to do?
When am I supposed to do this?
When, how and to whom do I report about this?
Where did we say we would meet?
The skill of summarizing is an essential yet often overlooked step in the
communication process. It allows you to avoid all post conversation
confusion and to make that none of the parties involved walk away
from a conversation "hoping" they can remember all the important
things discussed and in particular any agreements made. You need to
be completely confident that you and the person you have been
communicating with are both 100% clear on where to from here!
In terms of verbal communication, a summary is a brief rundown
covering the main points covered in your conversation, made to:
Check each person's understanding of what has been said to that
Note any important points from the conversation that you feel
need to be highlighted
Bring the conversation to a close
Restate any contracts or agreements made during the
Refresh each others memory of what has been discussed
It is vital when summarizing that you are as concise as possible!
However, there are 3 ELEMENTS that a summary MUST contain:
o Important FACTS obtained from the other person
o Important INFORMATION given to the other person
o Any CONTRACTS or AGREEMENTS made with the other person
THE THREE STEP PROCESS OF SUMMARIZING
Introduce the summary. To do so, you could say:
"So Tom, let's just review what we have discussed today………"
Summarize the discussion.
Only mention those things that are critical and necessary and make
sure you include the 3 ELEMENTS that must be included in a summary,
i.e. Facts, Information and Agreements.
Check the other persons understanding.
This is vital to a successful outcome.
In order to be sure you have summarized correctly, check that the other
person agrees that your summary is indeed an accurate account of
what has just been discussed.
You could do this simply by asking:
"So Tom, does that sound OK to you?"
"Well John, it's been great
talking with you today, I've
really enjoyed our discussion
and having this opportunity to
explore this business with
you. Just to wrap up I'd like to
review what we covered and
make sure we are both clear
about where to go from here.
Firstly, thanks for taking the
time to tell me about your
short and long term goals.
You mentioned that you would like to …. within the next 6 months,
and within 12 months you would like to …,
so that you can ….
In response to hearing your goals I have …
We have discussed today so that you can review this over the next 2
We have agreed that we will meet at my place next Thursday 10.00 am
with the view to …
How does that sound John?"
"Well Karen, it's been
great chatting - thanks
for calling me about …
We've covered a bit in
our conversation this
morning, so I thought it
might be helpful if I just
recap quickly so we are
both clear about where
to go from here.
You told me that you
have been looking for ….
In response to this I have referred you to 2 websites that I believe will
provide you with all the information you need to complete your
research and assist you to determine if … .
We have agreed that I will phone you on Monday at 7.30PM so that we
can chat further.
At this time I can assist you …
How does that sound Karen?"
"Hey Francis, it's been great catching up today and working through
your action plan. You are always such a pleasure to work with as you
really show a strong commitment to...
As is always the case, we have covered a lot of information in session,
so I think it might be a good idea to quickly recap so we are both clear
about what we've covered and what we both now need to do.
Firstly, thanks for updating me on your progress with … of your plan
and for providing supporting evidence of the tasks you've completed.
It is great that you have demonstrated competence in all the skills on
level one of this plan and you are starting to see the results of your
growing skill level translated into specific results in your life.
Now that you have completed level one, I have provided you with the
competency framework for level two, so you can start to familiarize
yourself with this over the next week.
I have also given you the next level of your coaching workbook so you
can start to work on this.
We have agreed that we will have your next coaching appointment in
one week, on Tuesday at 8.00PM at my house as you are anxious to
make a start on level two of your action plan.
How does that sound Francis?"
A summary presents to the coachee a brief synopsis of his story, coming
from someone else, making it clear to him at what point he is at the
moment and/or how far he has come. A good summary is short and
gets to the essence of what the coachee has said. In the discussion there
are a few logical moments to summarize, such as at the beginning and
at the end of a session. But it can also be during a session, when moving
from one phase to another in the counselling process. The summary
should serve to evaluate the situation and it can stimulate the coachee
to add to your interpretation or to correct or change it. Summarizing
can have a positive effect on the coachee, who can hear how far he has
gotten up to then, and also that he has been heard and understood.
Paraphrasing, summarizing and evaluating follow one another
naturally. With paraphrasing you give the essence of what has just been
said in a few sentences. Summarizing or evaluating can concern a whole
session or even several sessions. You use it to clarify the situation is
and to determine together how your coachee can proceed.
It is also possible to have your coachee summarize what has been
discussed. This shows the vision of the coachee, what has stuck in his
mind, what is going on for him right now, or what he simply 'forgets'.
At the start of a session.
Harry, let's have a look at how we are doing so far. Three weeks
ago you came to see me for the first time because you noticed
you couldn't concentrate at work anymore and you are afraid
you will get fired. During our sessions we established that the
relationship with your girlfriend influences your work
substantially. Since you started living together you both really
have had to get used to the new situation. Is there anything you
would like to add to that?
You've come to the conclusion that the last few years you've
mainly put your energy in taking care of your children, in
addition to the household. You got a lot of satisfaction out of
that. But since your youngest has gone to school, you've got a lot
of energy left and you have no real outlet for it , you feel you're
going around in circles. What aspects should we still look at
before we start looking for new goals or things to do?
Bill, we've come a long way. We talked about your problems.
What lies at the heart of the matter is that you start a lot of
things, but you never really finish anything. The goal you set
yourself was to begin something and this time finish it, no
matter what, so you can get a sense of accomplishment. We
devised an action plan for this. When could you start putting
this plan into action?
Keep track of time, preferably unobtrusively. Reserve five to ten
minutes to round off the discussion. Look for a good moment to work
towards ending the conversation.
A possible end of a session could go as follow:
This seems a good moment to summarise what we have done
To briefly summarize the session, you told me about .... and you
had the insight that you... Then we explored some possible
Is there anything you would like to add to that?
How did you experience the session?
I suggest you let the session sink in for a while. Do reflect on it
and see where that gets you.... Next time we could continue with
this or else focus on what seems most relevant then.
All right, shall we make an appointment for the next session. I
suggest we meet again next week. Would the same day and time
be ok for you?
That is taken care of, then. I look forward to seeing you next
At the end of the coaching process, one could conclude as follows:
Let's see where you are now.. Five sessions ago you came to see me
because you.... We discussed your situation thoroughly and you set
yourself some new goals, we also made an action plan to achieve
these goals. You are now well on your way with putting your plan
into action and hearing you today gives me the impression you are
fairly back on track. How do you see things?
I am under the impression that you are now capable of
continuing under your own steam with the action plan you set
for yourself. I suggest we don't set anymore appointments right
now and that you continue as planned. Of course, if at some
stage you feel the need to come and see me again, then you
could contact me and we could have another appointment.
Thank you for trusting me and I wish you all the best!
By suggesting the coachee think further about the session and that this
might produce further insights, you encourage the coachee to take
responsibility for what happens next. Remember, no matter how much
coachees think (and often really believe) they are powerless and
depending on you, everyone is in fact responsible for his own life and
for his day-to-day choices. You're only guiding the coachee, never
directing. Note that nobody can help what's being done to him by
others (to a certain extent because sometimes you can let things
happen), but everybody is responsible for how and when they deal with
the consequences of other people's acts.
Experience shows coachees often wait too long to come and see you
again. So you can also make an appointment with the coachee for six
months on, this could be a maintenance appointment. You can always
point out that they could cancel the scheduled appointment sufficiently
ahead of time, if they wouldn't have a need for it then.
It maybe a good idea to give coachees you have worked well with, a few
business cards which they could give to relatives, friends or colleagues,
if they want to. A satisfied customer is the best advertising you can
Evaluation is often looked at from four different levels (the "Kirkpatrick
levels") listed below. Note that the farther down the list, the more valid
1. Reaction - What does the learner feel about the coaching?
2. Learning - What facts, knowledge, etc., did the learner gain?
3. Behaviors - What skills did the learner develop, that is, what new
information is the learner using on the job?
4. Results or effectiveness - What results occurred, that is, did the
learner apply the new skills to the necessary tasks and, if so, what
results were achieved?
Although level 4, evaluating results and effectiveness, is the most
desired result from training, it's usually the most difficult to
accomplish. Evaluating effectiveness often involves the use of key
performance measures -- measures you can see, e.g., faster and more
reliable output from the machine after the operator has been trained,
higher ratings on employees' job satisfaction questionnaires from the
trained supervisor, etc. This is where following sound principles of
performance management is of great benefit.
1. As you went through the coaching journey, how did it change
things for you?
2. Did you get what you hoped to get from coaching? Were your
3. What new strengths can you see you have developed from the
4. Is there a way I could have been a better coach for you?
5. How did you surprise yourself through the coaching series?
6. What was the thing you benefited from and/or enjoyed the most?
7. What do you see as the major insights or breakthroughs you made
8. What will you now do differently?
9. Are you comfortable writing a testimonial for me (the coach) on
the overall experience and how could you word this?
10. If you are willing to endorse and recommend my coaching, but are
stuck on how to write a testimonial, would you like me to help you
11. Do you have an interest in adding coaching to your portfolio of
skills or becoming a Life Coach yourself?
Coaching and development activities can be evaluated before, during
and after the activities.:
Before the Implementation Phase
Will the selected coaching and development methods really result
in the coachee's learning the knowledge and skills needed to
perform the task or carry out the role? Have other coachees used
the methods and been successful?
Consider applying the methods to a highly skilled coachee. Ask the
coachee of their impressions of the methods.
Do the methods conform to the coachee's preferences and learning
styles? Have the coachee briefly review the methods, e.g.,
documentation, overheads, etc. Does the coachee experience any
difficulties understanding the methods?
During Implementation of Coaching
Ask the coachee how they're doing. Do they understand what's
Periodically conduct a short test, e.g., have the coachee explain the
main points of what was just described to him, e.g., in the lecture.
Is the coachee enthusiastically taking part in the activities? Is he or
she coming late and leaving early. It's surprising how often learners
will leave a course or workshop and immediately complain that it
was a complete waste of their time. Ask the coachee to rate the
activities from 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest rating. If the coachee
gives a rating of anything less than 5, have the coachee describe
what could be done to get a 5.
After Completion of the Coaching
Give him or her a test before and after the coaching and
development, and compare the results?
Interview him or her before and after, and compare results?
Watch him or her perform the task or conduct the role?
Assign an expert evaluator from inside or outside the organization
to evaluate the learner's knowledge and skills?
3.18.1 Visualization and imagery
Mental imagery, sometimes know as visualization, is the method used
to recreate experiences in the mind using information from real events.
This information is stored in our memory. Dreaming is a scattered form
of imagery and the imagery. The visualization of interested here is
structured imagery, where the athlete uses his or her imagination in a
controlled fashion to recreate specific images for a precise goal.
There is a difference between visualization and imagery. Imagery is full
body sensation, i.e. see, feel, smell, and touch the experience.
Visualization is only “seeing” the experience. It has been found that
imagery is the more powerful of the two.
There a three main ways of imagery. 1st person, you see and experience
the event thorough your eyes as you are the competitor. 2nd person,
you’re watching from the standpoint of a spectator or coach, and 3rd
person, it’s like you’re watching a movie, detached from the entire
Research has shown that the most effect perception to use is 1st
person. In addition, research also shows that the more able an athlete is
to control his or her imagined movements, emotions, sounds etc, the
greater the potential performance enhancement.
As for hypnosis, there’s nothing mythical about it…all hypnosis is self-
hypnosis. The process of hypnosis is nothing more then getting the
brain into the Alpha state. This is a state where there is direct access to
the sub/un-conscious mind. Basically this is simply a method of
inducing a state of heightened relaxation and awareness. And when
achieved, provides an ideal mental environment in which to practice
Indeed, the effects of imagery can be even more powerful when
practiced in an Alpha state (hypnotic).
How Imagery Works
Research has shown that visualizing a specific muscle movement (in
the mind) can create electrical activity in that same muscle even though
there’s no actual movement in the muscle itself! In addition, the specific
pattern of muscle activity closely resembles that seen during actual
So what does this mean?
Detailed and controlled imagery can stimulate electrical impulses in
the desired muscles, and then those ‘primed’ muscles are ready for
the physical activities that follow.
Physical skills can be maintained or even improved by proper
imagery when practice isn’t possible, i.e. injury, off season, etc.
Evidence also suggests that using imagery can even accelerate
rehabilitation and recovery after injury.
As for the best type of imagery to use, until recently evidence suggested
it depends on what you’re trying to achieve. For the acquisition or
improvement of sports skills, it was thought that using an external
perspective (i.e. that of spectator) was best for learning or retaining
those skills. For ‘psyching yourself up’ or priming yourself for an event,
an internal perspective (i.e. imagining the feelings in the muscle)
produced better results.
Now, new research indicates that the best results are archived when
using first person or internal perspective, although there are benefits
from the second person perspective as well.
Combined with other techniques, such as the use of music, imagery can
enhance performance or enter the Alpha state. Combining both mental
imagery practice and physical practice can be more effective than
physical practice alone. Data from various studies have also shown that
mental imagery conducted in a state of hypnosis (Alpha) results in far
more vivid and realistic imagery than without.
The practical use of imagery while in hypnotic (Alpha) state is
numerous. It can be used for skill learning, preparation for an event,
injury healing and what if scenarios.
Imagery involves creating or recreating an event or a scene in one’s
mind. For example, an athlete can use imagery to create a perfect swim
performance, or he or she can call to mind a past successful
performance. Imagery involves all the senses. When athletes are using
imagery they should try to not only see but also to hear, feel and smell
all that is going on in the imagined situation. For maximal benefits, the
image needs to be as close to reality as possible. Research shows that
imagery, if used purposefully, is a skill that enhances performance. But
if the imagery becomes negative it can be a detriment to performance.
Make athletes aware of the numerous ways that imagery can be used to
help performance. Having this understanding will enable them to
obtain the maximal benefits from imagery and will also enhance their
motivation to practice and use imagery. Specifically, athletes can use
imagery to do the following:
To see and feel success. Athletes can use imagery to see and feel
themselves achieving goals and performing as they are capable of
doing. Imagery also helps enhance self-confidence.
To motivate. Images of past and future competitions can be called
upon to maintain persistence and intensity level while training and
competing. This type of imaging provides an incentive for continued
To manage arousal. Athletes can use imagery to increase or decrease
arousal. For example, athletes can visualize a peaceful, relaxing scene
to decrease arousal whereas motivating images can be used to
increase arousal as needed.
To learn skills and techniques. Athletes can use imagery as an
additional form of practice to help them master a skill. For example,
athletes can visualize themselves doing a perfect flip turn prior to
To refocus. During practice and competition, many distractions and
situations arise that prevent an optimal focus. Athletes can refocus
themselves by using specific images to achieve the focus needed for
To prepare for competition. Athletes can use imagery to familiarize
themselves with the competitive environment and to rehearse their
performance or key elements of their performance. In addition, they
can use imagery to prepare for various situations that may arise so
they can develop strategies to cope with these stressors. If the
situation does arise they will have rehearsed it in their minds and
will know how to deal with it.
Imagery is best learned and practiced in a quiet environment when the
athlete is relaxed. It may be beneficial, therefore, to first discuss simple
relaxation skills so that athletes learn how to relax their minds and
bodies prior to learning how to use imagery. It is helpful to develop
imagery skills by initially using non-threatening, non-stressful images.
For example, direct athletes to imagine being on a beach: encourage
them to see, smell, hear and feel the scene. The athlete can then
progress to visualizing swimming skills and, finally, to imaging
competitive situations. With a little forethought, imagery training can
be easily incorporated into physical training instead of making it a
separate component of preparation. For example, coaches can direct
athletes to visualize the technique they are working on prior to
executing the drills, to imagine hard repeats to help prepare them for
the challenge, or to visualize upcoming competitions to enhance
Athletes need to work on the following two components of imagery:
control and vividness. Teach athletes to control their imagery (for
example, seeing and feeling a perfect start as opposed to visualizing the
slow start that has plagued them in past races) and to make their
images clear, vivid, and as close to reality as possible (for example,
smell the chlorine, hear their parents in the stands, and feel the muscle
fatigue in the last 50 meters). With continued practice athletes can
manipulate images to see and feel the perfect race and see and feel
themselves responding to any adverse situations. They should be able
to incorporate performance cues into their visualization to create a
vivid image of how they want to perform.
Visualization and imagery is powerful. Our brains do not know the
difference between real and imagined success. We can convince
ourselves that we have already successfully done something, if we are
consistent in “reprogramming” our memory.
And when it is backed up by the physical, for lack of a better word right
now, preparation, it becomes almost magical in its applications.
But you have to believe, you have to want to believe, need to believe. It
doesn’t work if you only “sort of” want it to happen. You need the fire in
your soul, hunger, call it whatever you want, to make the visualizations
take hold and you must spend time at it every day.
Old old principles of psycho-cybernetics and psycho-prophylaxis. Spend
21 days at this and you can set new patterns of behaviour and results. It
really does work but it gets ignored a fair bit. You cannot measure it,
attach a diode to it, track it with a machine that goes ping, so those of us
who are used to taking measurements in scientifically quantifiable
terms get a bit uncomfortable with the principles involved at times.
The thing is: Once we have done something successfully the first time, it
is far easier to repeat that thing.
Our brains are pretty incredible. As long as you do not try to convince
yourself that you will wake up on Day X to discover you have suddenly
lost 20 pounds, grown 6″ and have been awarded a Nobel Prize for
breathing, it will work. The goal still has to be believable and humanly
Psychodrama is the use of action techniques to explore an individual's
private and public world in a multi-dimensional way. It is also useful in
helping the individual to express unexpressed feelings and to find and
practice new ways to change unsatisfying situations in life.
It is a safe environment for people to explore issues and concerns in a
gentle, non confrontational manner. For non-therapists, this method of
psychotherapy allows participants to view their conflicts experientially
from a different perspective and thus resolution is faster and long
lasting. For therapists and counselors, action methods can be
incorporated into an existing therapeutic model providing a new
theoretical framework to increase the effectiveness of clinical skills and
facilitate spontaneity and creativity in the therapeutic process.
Psychodrama explores an individual's world through action
incorporating various modalities such as music, art, roleplay, story
telling etc. to facilitate personal growth. Through enactment, clients
enter the world of their issues in a safe non judgmental environment.
During the enactment, they experience their world instead of talking
about it. After each enactment, all participants share their stories. The
power of the group sharing aids in the healing process.
Psychodramatic interventions are designed to encounter people where
they are, in the present and assist them in contacting and developing
the best that is within themselves, whatever their functioning level.
Psychodrama reinvests power in people.
Source: Psychodrama Training Association
Tips and Techniques
Listed below are a few tips for using action and experiential methods in
one to one therapy. An excellent resource is Stein, M.B. & Callahan, M.L.
(1982). The use of psychodrama in individual therapy. Journal of Group
Psychotherapy, Psychodrama and Sociometry, 35, 118-129.
WARM-UP, ACTION & CLOSURE Each individual session will have a
warm-up, action and a closure segment. During the warm-up, the client
(re)gains, rapport with the therapist, discusses what issues will be the
focus of the session, and readies him/herself for action. The action
phase is the actual psychodramatic portion. The closure is the time
succeeding the action when the client de-roles and cools down from the
role playing. Occasionally, the therapist shares from his own life
experience to assist the client in normalizing, in reducing isolation, or in
presenting new possibilities for further thought and integration. If you
choose to share with the client, remember that the sharing is directed
toward the client's therapeusis.
Sometimes directors and clients are skittish about moving into
psychodrama in individual therapy. Here are some ways to gently
warm yourself and the client up to action.
1) As the client is talking to you, shift your seat to the client's double
position, explaining to the client that you want to be sure you
understand fully what she means and feels. Once in the position, note
that you'll be speaking as the client and that if what you say is correct
the client is to repeat it; if incorrect, to change it.
2) As the client discusses a significant person in his life, ask him to
imagine the person sitting in an empty chair in your office. Ask the
client to describe the person in detail so that you can have a sense of
him/her. Then ask the client to step over into the seat so that you can
ask a couple of questions, again to better understand what the person is
like. You can ask the client to choose a scarf or prop to symbolize the
3) When a client is recounting a story vividly and is saying first what
she said and then what the other person said, ask her to shift her body
position when she shifts roles.
4) If you have used artwork with a client, ask him to hold the work and
speak from one of the elements of the drawing. You can interview him
as the drawing.
5) When a client is uncertain about the future, ask her to imagine that
there is an imaginary clock face on the floor, each of whose numbers
represents a month in the future. Let's say it's currently April. Ask the
person to stand at 3 (months from April), and tell you what's happening
to her in July.
6) Time line: When a client begins to describe a long chain of events,
ask him to stand and begin at a spot on the floor and walk forward (or
around the perimeter of the space) and stop at specific, important times
and tell you what happened on that date. You can use objects in the
room, scarves, or labeled pieces of paper to mark off the times. When
the exercise is complete ask the client to stand back and see if he can
see any patterns; what sense he makes of all the events when
considered from this perspective; or if any specific time is more crucial
than the others. This may also be done at the beginning of treatment
when taking a history from a client.
7) If a client remarks about or is drawn to an object in your office, ask
her to reverse roles with the object and interview her in the role of the
8) When working with a client whose spontaneity or creativity are
blocked, concretize the Canon of Creativity, marking out areas on your
floor for Creativity, Spontaneity, the Conserve and the Warming Up
Process. Ask the client to walk the Canon focusing on the issue
(conserve) in relation to their spontaneity or creativity or where they
are in the warming up process.
SOCIAL ATOM Make the social atom a regular and routine part of the
one-to-one experience. Remember the therapy maxim, "Treat the
individual as a group and the group as an individual."
Think systemic. Assess, intervene and evaluate within the client's
social network. Other useful tools are the Food Atom, Addictions Atom,
HERE AND NOW Most of the session should be focused on the here and
now. Remember that all enactment takes place in the here and now.
Remember that scenes from the past, when enacted, take place in the
"present" of that time; e.g., a client re-enacts an event that occurred
when he was 22. In the scene, he is 22; not his current age of 40.
SET UP THE SCENE As in a group psychodrama enactment, you will
want the client to identify the time and place of the scene. You will also
want the client to describe the other (e.g., three characteristics of the
other) before proceeding with the action. You may also want to
interview the client in the role of the other to gain more information.
This is contra-indicated if the client is very angry at the other or if the
other is a perpetrator. Take your time and do a thorough and complete
warm-up. Use empty chairs for the characters so that the client can do
the role reversals and sit in the other person's chair. Two or three
characters are plenty.
SUPPORT AND ENCOURAGEMENT Where abuse and/or trauma form
the base of the client's issues, the majority of the action phase of the
session should be conducted with others who support and encourage
the client. Create and bring the positive other (someone who is in the
protagonist's corner) into the room prior to bringing in the negative
actor. Create a balance, so that the positive energy is at least as potent
as the negative energy. Sometimes it is necessary to have more than
one positive figure available. Also it is helpful to ask the client to define
some area of the room as a safe, time-out space, where she can go if the
action seems overwhelming at any point. She might use pillows,
scarves or props to define the area.
COACHING Clients can frequently derive much help from interacting
with wise and caring figures. These can be intrapsychic roles like one's
own inner guide, inner counselor, inner friend, one's future self. The
coach can be a supportive figure from the client's past and present: best
friend; loving grandparent; caring youth group leader. Coaches can also
be transpersonal guides whom the client has never met, such as a
fantasy or historical figure. An all-purpose figure that embodies many
energies is very useful: the Goddess, god, Buddha. Archetypal energies
can also be useful, but each has its own limitations (e.g., the Lover will
always say the solution is to love, while the Warrior will always tell you
the solution is to fight).
DOUBLE Start and end the action phase with doubling the client.
Doubling is one of the most important and client satisfying actions to
take in any one to one session. Use a variety of doubling techniques
(e.g., cognitive, containing, expressive, etc.) The deepening double is
especially useful with timid clients, those who have difficulty accurately
labeling feelings, and with those who have difficulty tapping into the
depth of feeling. With the deepening double the client becomes her
To utilize the deepening double, do the following: After the client makes
a statement to her significant other in the empty chair, place another
empty chair behind the client in her own double position. Ask her to sit
in the chair and make another statement on the same subject to the
significant other. Then place another chair behind the double chair.
Ask the client to sit in that chair and speak from this deeper place
inside herself. If necessary, place still another chair in the double
position behind the other ones and reverse the client into that seat to
make a statement. You can put pillows, stuffed toys or scarves in the
empty chairs to hold the spot for the client. After the client has said all
she needs to say from the deepest double spot, move her gradually
forward to the outer self, first making another statement from each
double position and ending with a statement from her outer self to the
significant other. Another wonderful aspect of this technique is that
you can double for the client in each of the double positions, providing
support and encouragement for expression.
For example if Bob is speaking to his wife about an affair she just
concluded, he may say, "That really irritates me," from his outer
position. From his first double position, he may say, "How could you do
this to me, you bitch?" From his second double position, he may say, "I
feel so betrayed. I feel so helpless." From his third position, he may
say, "I'm heartbroken. How can we ever repair this?" Doubling is
especially useful if a client is overtly angry at the therapist. Simply
evacuate your seat and move to the client's double position. Assist the
client in fully expressing whatever he feels. In this way, the client feels
supported and is often able to unravel the transference that may be at
the base of his feelings. (Certainly, if the therapist has made an error
that deserves an apology, e.g., double booking a client, it is important to
acknowledge the error and make a sincere apology. Obviously, this is
not simply the client's transference operating, although that may
indeed be in the mix).
ROLE REVERSAL Role reversal is the sine qua non of psychodramatic
intervention techniques, and it is used differently in individual therapy
sessions. The director rarely, if ever, assumes the role of the other. The
director can repeat a last line of the other, but it is wise to do so either
from your chair or from behind the chair of the other, and not sitting in
that chair. You can speak from the client's role when the client is in the
role of the other, either from the double position, or from the client's
seat. Playing the role of the other can lead to negative transference and
premature termination from therapy. Role reversal can be used
effectively with a client when a client asks you for advice. Reverse roles
with the client and have him answer his own question.
FUTURE PROJECTION Psychodrama provides the wonderful option of
time travel since everything takes place in the present in psychodrama.
A scene from 1956 happens in the "now' of 1956 and a scene from 2010
takes place in the now of 2010. When clients feel their present
problems are unresolveable, it is helpful to place them into some future
time when their problem has been solved. This works well also when
the client is holding a grudge and wants to move toward forgiveness of
the wrong. Place him into some future time when he has forgiven the
wrong. Ask him what steps he took to move toward forgiveness. One
can also ask the solution-focused therapy "miracle question:" "If some
miracle happened and your life were as you wished (or your problem
solved), what would it look like?" Place the client into that future of life
as desired, interview them, and ask them what they did to get there.
Continue with dialogues mentioned above, role reversing the present
and future selves.
HUMANIZE RATHER THAN DEMONIZE The ultimate goal in therapy is
for the client to experience everyone in the universe humanely. The
key is compassion for self and others. Psychodramatists believe that
people do the best they can at the time of action. Hampered
spontaneity and creativity create inadequate judgment, inflexibility,
and inadequate action.
CHANGE AGENT The goal of psychodramatic therapy is to help the
individual change how he/she is in the world and in so doing, change
the world. Challenge the client to make the world a "bigger" place by
thinking outside him/herself and incorporate the thoughts and feelings
of others. One of the exciting areas of opportunity in psychodrama is in
the realm of atonement. Sometimes we have regrets, though at the time
we acted as best we could. Psychodrama provides us with the
opportunity to re-enact a past situation and practice how to better
complete it, so that we can go forth in our lives and make the necessary
amends. It also provides us with the opportunity to re-enact the past
with people who are no longer available (through death, for example)
and finish unfinished business that would otherwise have no outlet.
ADVICE GIVING The desire to give advice is often a signal of counter-
transference. When the urge to give advice hits, breathe, refrain and
say nothing. After the session, process your desire to give advice.
HOMEWORK Make behavioral homework assignments a regular and
routine part of the session. The obvious purpose is to re-enforce
empowerment outside the session and integrate and further the work
of the session in the client's general life experience. Our most difficult
job is to help the client chunk down here and now goals that are
RUMBA (realistic, utilitarian, measurable, behavioral and achievable).
Unattained goals may result in shame, hopelessness and premature
termination from therapy.
ADAPT A VARIETY OF GROUP TECHNIQUES TO INDIVIDUAL WORK
There are many sociometric and psychodramatic intervention tools
that can be adapted to psychodama a deux: spectrograms, behind-the-
back, high chair, metaphors, myths, magic shop, trial scenes, dream re-
enactment, locograms, etc.
DIAMOND OF OPPOSITES The Diamond of Opposites was created by
Linnea Carlson Sabelli and Hector Sabelli.
The method moves from linear sociometry (A chooses B) to a
multidimensional sociometry (A chooses and rejects B). The method
allows for the illumination of both positive and negative feelings that
individuals have about a person, situation or thing. It also illuminates
the degree to which a person experiences those feelings. It is very
useful for exploring ambivalence, for example, the degree of positive
feelings towards dating (or a particular person) and the degree of
negative feelings towards dating (or a particular person). The model
postulates that conflict comes from having equal and high tensions
between positive and negative forces. Let's say that Mary wants to get a
new job, but she fears leaving her old job because her position is secure
and familiar. If she has a 90% desire to leave and a 10% desire to stay,
she will leave. However, if Mary has a 100% desire to leave and a 100%
desire to stay, there will be high tension and no resolution.
The director's job is to help her increase or decrease the tension on one
end of the diamond so that she is released from the ambivalence and
can move toward choice. We have also noticed that sometimes people
feel conflicted and tell themselves they feel equally about two options,
but when they concretize their ambivalence on the Diamond of
Opposites, they realize that in fact they feel, say, 60% that they do want
to do something and 40% that they don't. When working with the
Diamond, an additional question we like to ask clients who seem
constitutionally ambivalent, is, "Whose voice is speaking the message
from Pole A and whose voice is speaking the message from Pole B?"
Frequently it is the voice of each of the client's parents.
DIFFERENTIAL DIRECTION John Raven Mosher and Brigid Yukman
have written on the need for differential directing styles, and they have
identified four primary styles: caring leader, emotional stimulator,
director, and meaning attributor. When clients are dealing with
abandonment and telling stories of lovelessness, the director needs to
be caring (e.g., protective, genuine, encouraging, providing unrequested
unconditional acceptance for being, etc.). When the client is dealing
with issues of betrayal and stories of joylessness, the director needs to
be an emotional stimulator (e.g., charismatic, playful, intimate, creative
and emotionally available and transparent). When the client is
disempowered and telling stories of disempowerment, the director
needs to be challenging (e.g., setting limits, norms and direction,
challenging current behavior, asking the client for answers, etc.). When
the client is in chaos and telling stories of meaningless, the director
needs to provide structure (e.g., interpreting reality, naming,
normalizing and identifying emotional states and experiences, teaching
cognitive techniques, providing a framework for change, identifying
EVALUATION From time to time with some regularity it is helpful to
ask your clients to evaluate you as a therapist and take stock of their
own progress. Encourage positive and negative expressions. This helps
to keep the process on track. It helps the client and therapist to look at
the work, see what goals have been accomplished and which ones
haven't so that objectives can be revised if appropriate and new plans
can be made.
3.19 THE MIRACLE QUESTION
The miracle question The miracle question is a method of questioning
that a coach, therapist, or counselor uses to aid the client to envision
how the future will be different when the problem is no longer present.
Also, this may help to establish goals.
A traditional version of the miracle question would go like this:
"Suppose our meeting is over, you go home, do whatever you planned
to do for the rest of the day. And then, some time in the evening, you get
tired and go to sleep. And in the middle of the night, when you are fast
asleep, a miracle happens and all the problems that brought you here
today are solved just like that. But since the miracle happened
overnight nobody is telling you that the miracle happened. When you
wake up the next morning, how are you going to start discovering that
the miracle happened? ... What else are you going to notice? What else?"
Whilst relatively easy to state the miracle question requires
considerable skill to ask well. The question must be asked slowly with
close attention to the person's non-verbal communication to ensure
that the pace matches the person's ability to follow the question. Initial
responses frequently include a sense of "I don't know." To ask the
question well this should be met with respectful silence to give the
person time to fully absorb the question.
Once the miracle day has been thoroughly explored the worker can
follow this with scales, on a scale where 0 = worst things have ever
been and 10 = the miracle day where are you now? Where would it
need to be for you to know that you didn't need to see me any more?
What will be the first things that will let you know you are 1 point
higher. In this way the miracle question is not so much a question as a
series of questions.
There are many different versions of the miracle question depending
on the context and the client.
In a specific situation, the counselor may ask,
"If you woke up tomorrow, and a miracle happened so that you no
longer easily lost your temper, what would you see differently?" What
would the first signs be that the miracle occurred?"
The client (a child) may respond by saying,
"I would not get upset when somebody calls me names."
The counselor wants the client to develop positive goals, or what they
will do, rather than what they will not do--to better ensure success. So,
the counselor may ask the client, "What will you be doing instead when
someone calls you names?"
1. When would a clinician use the Miracle Question?
The Miracle Question is a goal setting question that is useful when a
client simply does not know what a preferred future would look like. It
can be used with individuals to set the course for therapy, with couples,
to clarify what each person needs from each other and with families,
who too often see one person as the culprit. By using the Miracle
Question and asking each person what a better life would look like, the
system sees perhaps for the first time, what others need from each
2. What does it look like?
"Suppose tonight, while you slept, a miracle occurred. When you awake
tomorrow, what would be some of the things you would notice that
would tell you life had suddenly gotten better?"
The therapist stays with the question even if the client describes an
"impossible" solution, such as a deceased person being alive, and
acknowledges that wish and then asks "how would that make a
difference in your life?" Then as the client describes that he/she might
feel as if they have their companion back, again, the therapist asks "how
would that make a difference?" With that, the client may say, "I would
have someone to confide in and support me." From there, the therapist
would ask the client to think of others in the client's life who could
begin to be a confidant in a very small manner.
3. How does it help the client?
It catapults the client from a problem saturated context into a visionary
context where he/she has a moment of freedom, to step out of the
problem story and into a story where they are more problem free. But,
more importantly, it helps the therapist to know exactly what the client
wants from therapy...and this is what makes Solution Focused Therapy
so efficient and brief.
4. What makes the Miracle Question a cool intervention?
It helps the therapist see where the client wants to go. Too often,
therapists assume that a client needs to grieve, leave their spouse, quit
their job, after the client describes why he/she has come to therapy.
The Miracle Question helps the client and therapist to address exactly
what the client wants, not what the therapist thinks is best.
Follow up Questions:
FOLLOW-UP QUESTIONS TO THE MIRACLE QUESTION THAT HELP
THE CLIENT DEVELOP WELL-FORMED GOALS
How will you know the miracle happened?
What will be the first thing you notice that would tell you that a
miracle happened; that things are different?
What else would tell you that things are different/better?
What might others (mother, father, spouse, partner, siblings,
friends, work associates, teachers, and etcetera) notice about you
that would tell them that the miracle has happened, that things are
different or better?
How would they react?
Then what would you do?
What would they do next?
If I had a “before miracle” and an “after miracle” movie of you
shown sideby-side, what differences would I see in your looks, your
Have there been times when you have seen pieces of this miracle
Prof Miller maintained that people are often able to give themselves
excellent advice but often lack the framework and objectivity to do so,
so he taught me this little assignment...
Imagine that it is two years from now and everything in your life has
worked out well and the problems you are currently facing have been
successfully resolved. Everything is okay, your dreams have come true
and you are enjoying your life. Write yourself a letter from the "future
you" to the "you of today" not only explaining how you overcame
various difficulties, but just as importantly giving yourself
encouragement, praise and tips for how to deal with things.
It is an assignment that I have used many, many times and always
provokes a positive response. It can be given as a "homework" style
assignment or worked on "live" in a Life Coaching session. Both ways
work equally well.
The assignment encourages people to be pro-active in giving
themselves advice rather than relying on the practitioner to come up
with the answers. It also immediately stimulates a higher level of
confidence as people are "seeing" themselves as having changed
already. This easy method of generating "success experiences" is also a
hugely therapeutic element of the assignment.
Linda Metcalf, Ph.D. is founder of the Solution Focused Institute of Fort
Worth, Texas and author of ten books including The Miracle Question:
Answer It and Change Your Life.
The Pennsylvania Child Welfare Training Program
The best life coaching technique in the World by Alex Gunn
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/6497060
3.20 SHARING INFORMATION
Effective coaches assess the needs of their coachees and draw upon a
variety of blended strategies , which can be grouped into five broad
categories: Instructional, Facilitative, Consultative, Collaborative and
None of these categories are fully distinct: E.g.: Consultative coaching
tends to be instructional, but may also be facilitative.
Instructional strategies focus on ways of doing things (How should I
…?) and include a variety of didactic teaching strategies including
showing, and telling. In fact the coach is taking on the role of a teacher
here, offering information that can be of value to the coachee.
Facilitative strategies on the other hand, aim to build internalized
learning and change not only what the coachee does, but also their way
of being in the world, including how they think and feel.
Here too, often, the coachee will not dispose of all the required
information, The coach may than share information that allows the
coachee to obtain the necessary internal and external resources for
personal and professional growth.
Sometimes a coachee hasn't got all the relevant or necessary
information. The information you give as coach is not advice in the
sense that the coachee must follow it, but is shared when it seems the
coachee can make good use of it.
Look at the following examples:
My girlfriend is already three months pregnant, if her father finds out...
She can't even go to the doctor because her parents will get the bill.
I would like to help the two of you as best I can. Do you know there
are organisations that help young girls in her situation with all
sorts of practical things, free of charge. If need be, they can even
offer Anita a roof over her head. They respect the unborn child and
it doesn't matter to them if the pregnant woman is 14 or 40. Here
you have the address.
I can't face it anymore; it seems that the more I try, the deeper I sink.
I think that at the moment you are in a really difficult phase of the
process you are going through. You're trying to find out how you
got in this mess in the first place, without seeing any real future for
yourself. It means you're investing a lot of energy in getting ahead,
but at the same time it also means that it's not impossible to do so.
Yes, the homeopath said that it had something to do with my mother
A homeopath might be able to notice the imbalance of your body by
certain signs. But he can't tell you anything about the cause of this
imbalance, unless he is making assumptions on the basis of what
you've told him yourself.
I'm powerless. Next week I'm being evicted.
As a tenant you have certain rights, even if you can't pay the rent.
You can get legal assistance. To find out more, you could contact
the legal affairs agency. They help people who have no money
nearly free of charge. The first consult is even for free.
I just wonder why I had to get burglarized? I don't even know the guy, I
didn't harm him and I don't deserve this.
Good question. Seems more a coincidence you got burglarized. He
is well know to the police and seems to have committed more than
a hundred burglaries. He's a drug addict. Though you're deeply
affected by it, it was nothing personal.
I know I should exercise more, but when I run my knees start to trouble
Running is a strain on the knees, but there are other sports you
could do that won't injure you, for example swimming could be an
option if that's your thing.
3.21 SELF DISCLOSURE
Coachees often are under the impression that they are the only ones
struggling with that kind of problem. Though they may have heard of or
read about similar cases, that has not led to recognition or helped them
develop a better strategy. Because they have been going round in
circles, they are unable to see a way out. In such cases, it can be useful
to tell them of similar things from your own experience. The purpose
is to show them a solution is possible.
Self-disclosure can also be used to a degree to strengthen the bond with
the coachee, i.e. if it would help the coachee to know that the coach has
gone through a similar experience. You can also use self-disclosure to
break the ice or to make sure the coachee doesn't put you on a pedestal.
Make sure self-disclosure is done in such a way that the coachee doesn't
get the impression everybody can handle the situation, except him.
Don't disclose things about yourself that you haven't come to terms
with, otherwise the coachee might start feeling he really should coach
you instead of the other way around.
This use of self cannot be taught in a prescriptive or normative manner,
since each coach will draw on unique personal experiences and
knowledge, and each coaching encounter will present unique
constellations of opportunity for the coach’s use of self.
Change through relationship
Gestalt holds that change happens through relationship. The
importance of the quality of the relationship between coach/client is
not exclusive to Gestalt of course (e.g. De Haan, 2008), but Gestalt does
bring a perspective, which is quite different from conventional wisdom.
To Perls, the ‘self ’ is not a semi-fixed entity that endures over time.
Instead ‘self ’ is a process, always in flux and totally contextual, it is a
function of what gets evoked in the interaction between individuals
under the unique set of circumstances of that particular interaction
(Perls, 1978). Simply put, the ‘me’ that I experience when I am with my
boss is likely to be different in some respect from the ‘me’ that I
experience when I am with my best friend etc. The implication of this
for coaching is that you, as coach, are a critical aspect of the client’s
experience and how you ‘show up’ will inform (not necessarily
consciously) what the client chooses to reveal. Two aspects of the way
you work as a Gestalt coach are critical: your presence/use of self and
your ability to engage in dialogue.
Presence is much more than how ‘professional’ you are as a coach. It
includes how ‘grounded’ you are in yourself and your work, how able
you are to ‘contact’ the client, even when they are difficult to reach. It is
the ability to be in the here and now, i.e. to tune into what is going on
within yourself (your reactions to your client, what they evoke in you,
what images come to mind, what sensations are stimulated) as you are
impacted by them, and to disclose some of this in order to ‘make
I am listening to Jane who has returned to work after a miscarriage and
is struggling as a new partner in a professional services firm. She talks
in a jolly, light, cheerful manner and I notice that I am struggling to stay
present. Suddenly the image of a bird comes to mind. I see it skimming
along the top of the hedgerow, never really coming to land anywhere. I
share this image with Jane, owning that it is my image, and ask if it has
any meaning for her in her world.
I trust that because this vivid image has arisen within the interaction
between me and my client it is reasonable to assume that it has some
relevance to the client’s situation and is worth checking out.
You do this of course in the service of their awareness and part of the
process is to find out what impact your disclosure has had on them.
This opened the door to a fruitful exploration of how she has been
trying to ‘make light’ of her situation with her colleagues and how in
our session we both have been staying in a ‘light, frothy’ place (the
parallel process). My disclosure enabled Jane and I to make contact, i.e.
relate in a different way, to move from ‘skimming the surface’ to
something more helpful to her and to us.
This is the Gestalt notion of ‘dialogue’ , which has its roots in Buber’s
(e.g. 1970) existential philosophy that differentiates between ‘I–thou’
interaction (two people engaging in an open, mutually respectful way
without attempting to impose their will on the other) and ‘I–it’
interactions in which one or both attempt to shape the other towards
some desired outcome. Genuine, moving contact cannot be made to
happen. It flows from the coach’s willingness to be him or herself
without any attachment to what might happen in the encounter. This
means that as a Gestalt coach, I am particularly attentive to the quality
of the relationship between myself and my client.
1 Siminovitch, D., and Van Eron, A. (2006)
Practical Implications for the Coach
1. What to disclose
• The coach’s internal reactions offer valuable data. These reactions are
data that is readily available, present in the room, and which have
arisen in the context of the coaching encounter. They have a relevance
and the coach needs to trust his/her internal world – the thoughts,
reflections, observations, sensations, the visualisations, metaphors and
images that come to mind, along with what the client evokes for the
coach etc. In order to do this coaches may need to ‘unlearn’ some
previously held notions of coach self disclosure, notably that a) it isn’t
relevant, and b) any attempt by the coach to share their experience
takes the focus away from the coaching client.
• Through use of self, as a coach you become an expert in awareness,
not only awareness of yourself and awareness of your client, but also
awareness of the unfolding relationship between the two of you. Useful
questions to reflect on are: what is the tone/colour/Music which best
captures your coach/client relationship? What do you observe about
e.g. energy levels, flow and tone of speech, body movements, eye
contact, congruence between behaviour, thinking and feelings etc. How
does all of this impact on you as coach? In a Gestalt way of working, the
human body is a gateway to the inner world, and so through sharing
the impact the client has on you, you bring the client’s awareness to
‘how’ they are being in relationship with you (and potentially wider
world) which in turn heightens their own self-awareness.
• What we can never know is how the client will respond to the
information you offer. It is not for the coach to volunteer an
interpretation, but to help the client do the meaning making. In
selecting the most pertinent observations the Gestalt coach invites the
client to first ‘stay with’ (i.e. attend to) and then explore their
experience in the moment. The key emphasis is on the client’s
enhanced awareness rather than on finding the ‘right’ answer.
Siminovitch and Van Eron also make the point that by self disclosing
the coach models personal risk taking for clients who may view such
behaviour as too personally threatening.
2. If and when to disclose
• The key question that guides your decision is always ‘how will your
disclosure serve the client?’ If the response is a potential heightening of
the client’s awareness, thus ‘adding to’ what the client already knows,
then you may decide to go ahead. For example, at the end of a
challenging piece of work in which the client had worked through a
particularly difficult scenario about which he had felt very stressed, he
reported that he felt calmer and more at peace which was visible in his
body demeanour, rate and flow of speech etc. A response of “Yes I feel
calmer also” is superfluous and adds nothing for the client. Whereas a
response of “Yes, I can see that and I’m also aware of my own feeling of
satisfaction, of a job well done.
I’m wondering how you reflect on and celebrate your achievements?”
affirms the client and helps him to acknowledge what he has achieved. •
If you are unsure then wait, and by delaying you may get further clarity
about your internal data which might well be of use to the client at a
later point in the session. You might also give some thought to the
consequences of not disclosing. For example, a persistent image or
hunch that keeps running through your thoughts, if left undisclosed,
might lead you to feel distracted and so less present with the client.
• If a feeling, image etc. has persisted with this client during the session
or over the time you have known him or her, it is important you chose
to disclose when it emerges once more in the current session, because
there will be reason that it has come back to you ‘right now’ and this is
the context that can help you and the client make sense of the data.
Sharing an image that occurred to you last session at the beginning of
this session will be out of context and the client is unlikely to be able to
relate to it.
• One of the many reasons that coaches refrain from self disclosure is
anxiety about it being ‘my stuff ’ and, therefore, not relevant to the
client. So how do you know if your emotional reaction is a genuine
response to a client or ‘your own stuff ’ (technically known as
countertransference? Sometimes it is obvious, as when a client reminds
you of someone else, or brings material which evokes a strong reaction
that reactivates a past event or relationship of your own, or touches on
a strong value that you hold. Here it is probably more appropriate to
refrain from disclosing, reflect further and take your reaction to
supervision. One question to ask yourself is how frequently something
happens. For example, are you working on the same issue with every
coaching client that you have? If you are, then it is highly possible that
you are (unconsciously) shaping the agenda because it’s your interest
(or your expertise).
This is why supervision is so essential.
3. How to disclose
• When noticing your internal world, make sure you articulate it first to
yourself and then to the client using language which is both non-
judgemental and non-interpretive, and which is phrased in the present
‘here and now’, e.g. “that’s interesting, I notice that my attention is
drifting” as opposed to “this is (she is) really boring!”.
• Then, when you articulate your awareness, own what you say using ‘I’
rather than ‘you’language (“I notice that my energy level dropped in the
last few minutes. What’s happening for you as you talk about this?”).
Notice how important it is to make the link back to the client’s
experience… simply saying “I notice that my energy level dropped in
the last few minutes” without checking what is going on for the the
client is likely to be received as a criticism, when if fact you are trying to
see if you are picking up some of the client’s own boredom with his
• Having made your intervention be attentive to the client’s reaction by
noticing the impact on the client, and be ready to help the client express
a reaction to what you said. There is no right or wrong in this. You are
not making an interpretation or casting a judgement, but offering your
self-reflections lightly, with curiosity and wonderment. Track your
client’s energy and interest. If your disclosure does not ‘land’ fully with
the client, he/she will let you know and something will happen. Your
intervention may help the client to get clear about something else, or
you may opt to ‘let it go’. It will come around again if it is significant, it
might simply be that the client isn’t quite ready to explore this area yet.
• We talk a lot about the use of intuition in coaching, i.e. the hunches we
have. In a Gestalt way of working, our hunches are backed up with
observational data in the room. For example, in a coaching
demonstration as part of a Gestalt workshop I shared a hunch which
had materialised for me from data offered by the client, in her use of
language, changes in her energy levels when she referred to a particular
relationship, as well as my own feelings of increasing sadness as she
talked. I shared my hunch (owning it as mine, and not an
interpretation) and this struck a chord for her. In the debrief following
there was comment from an observer about ‘how I had instilled’ my
thoughts into the client. Drawing on my own ‘internal supervisor’ there
were two ways I could double check the ‘integrity’ of my intervention.
First, I referred back to the client’s experience and her response to
what I’d said, which had been very positive. Second, I had supported my
intervention with the data I had observed (e.g. the client’s energy level
4. How much to disclose
• As a general rule, less is always better than more. In the event that
you have a number of responses that you could make, it pays to keep
paying attention to your own evolving reactions for a while, and
eventually something will begin to stand out (e.g. a particularly strong
image or sensation), or what started as multiple reactions will suddenly
synthesise into a single and, therefore, potentially potent response.
Guidelines for Practice: a summary
1. Tune into yourself: what impact does the client have on you?
2. Selectively disclose in service of the client;
3. Trust the validity of your self disclosure;
4. Check the impact this has on the client, what meaning it holds for
5. Don’t be too attached to your reaction. Be prepared to let it go if it
has little/no resonance for the client;
6. Use supervision as a place to talk through strong reactions you have
to your clients and the issues they bring.
The outside world seems to think that after two weeks you should go
on as if nothing happened. I can't do that. Nothing seems fun anymore
since my mother died and all I can think of are her last days.
I understand. When my mother died, it took me quite some time to
get over it. I did notice that after a while, the good memories about
her came back, and that I could enjoy them again.
I am afraid to speak in public. The times that I had to do it, I broke out
in such a sweat I virtually floated of the stage.
Fear of failure, stage fright, fear of speaking in public - a lot of
people are troubled by it. I shall let you in on a secret. When I first
started, I had to give a seminar about counselling in a big firm to
3.22 USING INTUITION
This is a thought-provoking article, on an intriguing subject – the
potential links between intuition and coaching. As human beings, we all
use intuition to varying degrees. The same, argues Mavor, can be said
about our role as coaches. She acknowledges, however, that apart from
a trickle of studies, very little research has been undertaken on this
But what do we mean by intuition? There is, as yet, no universally
accepted definition. Mavor presents a number of alternative
perspectives. Dane and Pratt (2007: 40) for example, regard intuitions
as ‘affectively charged judgements that arise through rapid,
nonconscious, and holistic associations’. Hence, intuition contains
features such as: ‘gut feelings or gut instincts’; speed – they arise
rapidly; nonconscious information processing; and holistic associations
including patterns, structures or schemas held in long-term memory.
The Mavor study used semi-structured interviews with 14 experienced
executive coaches (8 males and 6 females) with an average of 14.5
years experience as a coach. The coaches were asked to report
retrospectively on intuitive experiences in either one-to-one or group
coaching. A series of 15 broad questions, elicited from the literature on
intuition, were posed, each interview lasting approximately two hours.
The findings suggest that intuition is, indeed, very much present in
coaching conversations. One coach, for example, talked about ‘out of the
blue’ experience. The intuition ‘came from nowhere’. But it cannot be
deliberately ‘called up’. Looking for it makes it difficult to find. The key
seems to be being open and maintaining a ‘soft focus’, allowing intuition
to give you messages and clues.
Intuition is more likely to be accessed if the coach has self-belief and
self-confidence in what they do. But it is also essential that the coach
gets themselves in the right physical, mental and emotional state to
help them access and apply their intuition. This includes the coach’s:
Attention to their own well-being
- The preparation they undertake before the coaching session
- The rituals or routines they use before the session to get into ‘the
- Their ability to stay present and focused during the session
Preparation for a session depends on the individual coach. Some would
read through the notes from previous sessions; others would look
through coaching models or frameworks. The key, however, was letting
go of analytical thoughts, of getting ‘grounded’ and quieting the mind. It
meant being congruent, receptive, fresh, attentive and calm. This helps
to develop the vital ingredient of rapport which allows the coaching
conversation to access deeper levels of communication and beliefs,
attitudes, emotions and feelings. Yet it also means having a level of
detachment and objectiveness in accessing and applying intuition, and
to present an observation as an offering as opposed to a profound truth.
As one coach said, it means being “willing to put it out there and willing
to get it wrong”. This is not a celebration of ignorance. As one coach
commented, “you have to know your stuff”. Hence, intuition is mainly
used by more experienced coaches. This is because they operate at an
unconscious competence level. Experience enables coaches to chunk
information so that they can store and retrieve it easily (Hayashi 2001).
It would be wrong to read too much into what is, at best, a small scale
study. However, the findings here on intuition in coaching, seem largely
consistent with much of the general literature on intuition. The study
raises some important themes that are certainly worthy of further
It is often possible to know things or have a gut feeling about something
without having any real tangible indication or evidence, by just having a
feeling, an impression. The coach could express this intuition. Be
cautious though, because the coachee is usually not aware of it yet and
it may be hard to tell initially whether your intuition is right or not.
Take into account that the feeling you get with this coachee is an
interpretation based on your own experience, it doesn't have to match
the coachee's feeling or experience. Be sure the coachee doesn't get a
sense of being exposed or unmasked. Throw out a feeler or say
something in casual manner.
Intuition and Intuitive Awareness
If you could...
Know Your true Self... Would you?
Be totally aware, always... Would you?
Activate your inner guidance... Would you?
Enjoy ultimate support to discover the authentic You... Would you?
What kind of a person wouldn't?
Intuitive awareness is being in touch with your True Self. Intuitive
awareness is the unmoving bedrock of my life coaching work. My
intuition coaching work includes:
Combining life skills coaching with intuition coaching
Customised personal intuition coaching programs
Life purpose awareness
Integration of intuition and awareness into your everyday life
You can know exactly what you need to know—right when you
need to know it.
Are you overwhelmed by the volume of information and tasks you face?
Have you noticed that logic and will power don't get the same results
anymore? Whether in your personal life or in business, to cut through
today's noise in pursuit of authentic answers and purposeful action,
you need a new way of perceiving that integrates the direct knowing of
the body and soul with the logical mind. With intuition, your insights,
choices, and timing will be immediate and in perfect alignment with
what's right for you.
I'd love to share what I've discovered about intuitive awareness with
The more I've studied the mysteries and searched for the sanity of the
soul, the more I've found that intuition is the key to knowing our life
purpose, our whole self, and our basic interrelatedness with all people,
all forms of life, and all dimensions of awareness; in other words the
key to life itself! Life functions according to elegant innate principles,
and if we can live in alignment with these truths, things work more
smoothly and effectively—and with higher quality. With increased
intuition, you can easily discern new channels for creativity in your
personal life or business. Your intuition might give you insight into
techniques for putting problems into a new context, yielding a more
rapid solution, or potentials for success on any given action path.
Intuition, awareness and life coaching
Maybe you recognise intuition as a hunch, an inner voice, gut instinct,
common sense or inspiration. At all times we are unconsciously in tune
with both our universe and our immediate environment, intuition
allows us to discriminate the preverbal data our body is constantly
picking up from the environment. An incredible resource that is there
for the taking.
Intuitive awareness has been described as the art of "skilful
perception"—using our awareness to create more harmony in
ourselves and the world. Your intuitive awareness is your unmovable
solid ground upon which I build a quality life coaching regimen for you.
Intuition is a method for continually staying in touch with your life
vision or dreams enabling you to accurately live out your evolving life
purpose; it can act as a vehicle to bring you an experience of
connectedness with life, which is true spiritual knowing.
As a coach I will work with you to unlock the inspired guidance that
comes from your higher mind, or your soul. By increasing your
attention on your sensory awareness, and learning how to trust and
interpret sensations, symbols, and the imagery that is constantly
streaming from your unconscious, you'll find a source of information
that is direct and highly useful in all aspects of your life. You can apply
this kind of attentiveness to various micro-aspects of your life, like
problem-solving, creativity and innovation, self-guidance and
relationships and communication; and at a macro level we can use your
intuitive awareness to tap into your evolving life purpose. There are no
new discoveries here -- we simply work together to heighten your
awareness of a phenomenon that you are doing already! Very exciting
Inspirational messages Emotional awareness Recognise your unique
gifts Enhance and develop spiritual growth Activate your inner
guidance Discover the essence of divine purpose Partner with your
inner self and understand your innermost reality Personal Intuition
As a skilled intuitive I can help cut through the "noise" in your mind to
put you back in touch with your most central truths, the goals that fulfil
all aspects of your self and the most efficient and joyful paths of action.
Looking below the surface into the hidden patterns of your life. By
bringing light to your blind spots, and helping you see your talents and
gifts, I can help you reveal applicable insights about streamlining your
personal growth process.
Higher perspective on your life Understand fully what intuition is, what
frees and blocks it Guidance in your personal life or business Values,
energy and destination follow your purpose Getting un-stuck and
finding clarity in your way forwards Heightened perception Address
spiritual purpose Encourages you to make your own decisions
Delineates your life purpose, lessons, and the probability for success on
various action paths. Be more, do more, have more, and know more
Intuitive awareness is being in touch with your True Self. My intuition
coaching for professionals includes:
Combining professional coaching with intuition coaching
Customised professional intuition coaching programs
Life purpose awareness
Integration of purpose, intuition and awareness into your work life
In business, as a skilled intuitive you can penetrate into the inner
workings of your organization and shed light on underlying
unconscious "yes, buts" that interfere with success, whether they be
yours, or shared with your partners, management team, or employees.
Calling out these hidden agendas can help you create from the clearest
level possible and initiate actions that won't be sabotaged by people,
circumstance, or procrastination. Looking under the surface for
intangible influences can help solve personnel problems, assess
prospective business partnerships, identify trends in pertinent
markets, name and position new companies and ventures, pinpoint
timing, estimate sales figures, and create and double check strategies.
You can also define the most comprehensive, accurate and current
vision statement for your career path and company. With alignment
between true inner purpose and appropriate outer action, you and your
employees will characteristically respond with increased motivation
Intuition always needs to be grounded and related to what's practical.
Intuition should fund your logical mind, not the other way around--you
cannot live without logistics. In spite of your feelings You can learn how
to take charge of your professional life. Finding solutions from within
and moving forward with increased insight into professional potential
for positive living.
Take up the challenge of confident intuitive and awareness coaching.
Using a safe and supportive foundation of trust, freedom of expression
and commitment, I always work to help you explore your inner being,
to regain balance in your personal and working life and to align with
your true values and fullest potential. Using a stimulating face-to-face,
phone support and email program customised to fit your current
personal development needs, my coaching focuses on your inner
guidance, purpose, skills, beliefs, techniques and processes necessary to
take you into a great future.
3.23 RECOGNISING LIFE PATTERNS
Though every person is unique, you can often recognise general
patterns in people's lives. For example certain problems are related to
age, gender, social status, the spirit of the time or the religious belief of
the coachee. Having knowledge of these general human patterns
enables you as coach to see similarities or rather to recognise when a
coachee deviates from standard patterns. Through life experience and
knowledge, you can possibly reassure coachees that it is not unusual to
be faced with certain problems in particular phases of life.
3.23.1 THE PHASES OF HUMAN DEVELOPMENT
No individual is born complete or fully developed. Throughout life we
continue to learn and grow, although what we learn is often dictated by
what stage of life we are at. This process can be seen as continuous,
while at the same time moving through stages or phases. Although each
individual life path is different, human life has certain common phases.
There have been many interpretations of these phases, and one can find
many different models of human development in modern
developmental psychology. These models go back to the theoretical
foundations laid by Aristotle and other classical scholars, which were
subsequently elaborated during the 18th century by Descartes and
other Enlightenment philosophers.
In the 20th century, Freud outlined five stages of psychosexual
development and Rudolf Steiner described 10 stages of development
throughout human life. Whatever model one chooses, however, it
becomes clear that these are all variations of the archetypal model in
terms of which human life is divided into three phases: Childhood,
Adulthood and Old Age. In terms of our relationships with each other,
these phases are characterised by three states of being: Dependence,
Independence and Interdependence.
These phases are not only found in Western thinking, but appear to be
an archetype common to many cultures. For example, ancient Chinese
teachings refl ects similar phases, known as a time to learn, a time to fi
ght and a time to grow wise.
In terms of the model, the dependent phase lasts from conception until
we are able to make our own way in life – usually in our early 20s.
The independent phase arises when, as young adults, we question or
reject the ‘givens’ that we grew up with, strive to formulate our own
ideas and become fi nancially self-suffi cient. This phase can last into
The interdependent phase arises when there is a mature recognition
that to achieve life’s full potential we need to cooperate actively with
other people in order to give back something to the world. This phase
often kicks in at middle age, but can arrive much earlier.
Ten phases of individual development
According to Bernard Lievegoed, the three major phases of life can
further be divided into ten phases, each seven years long. The problem
with Lievegoed’s formulation is that while everyone seems to agree on
the existence of the three main phases, the age groups that apply to
these stages may vary from one culture or society to another. For this
reason we have adapted Steiner’s model to make it more flexible,
retaining his suggested ten phases without aligning them to specific age
DEPENDENCY: From 0 to +- 20 years
1. THE PHASE OF IMITATION
• When a child is born it is completely dependent on its parents for
basic human needs; food, shelter and warmth, as well as the emotional
needs of love and trust.
• Children learn primarily through imitation and role modeling,
therefore play is immensely important at an early age. It allows the
infant an opportunity to mimic and copy the human behavior they see
around them. Mother and father fi gures are the fi rst models for
children to learn the balance between masculine and feminine in each
• Children learn to use language at an early age, building up sixty
percent of their vocabulary in this period.
• Children have very fertile imaginations and in this period they cannot
always distinguish between fantasy and reality.
• At this stage it is important that a child develops self confi dence and a
good concept of their self and their ability.
2. TESTING AUTHORITY
• The world outside becomes increasingly important at this stage (for
example, schools, teachers and friends, which the child will integrate
into his/ her world view.
• Other role models besides the parents will emerge, such as teachers
• Children may start to contest authority, particularly of their parents.
This too can be seen as a learning process.
• Children may start to articulate their thinking, particularly around
issues like: good and evil, competition, beauty and ugliness, truth and
untruth and fantasy and reality.
. They will often develop a sense of their own values in this period.
• At this stage children are often ready to take on some responsibility.
3. WHO AM I?
• Puberty can be seen as a time when a person searches for their own
individuality and identity in the world, often defying and exploring the
notions of authority in this search.
• It is a time for growth of sexual awareness and the questioning of
sexuality. It is the onset of woman/manhood that is signifi ed by
physical changes such as menstruation in girls and the boys’ voices
cracking and getting deeper.
• Ideals and idols become important, such as pop singers and fi lm stars.
There is often a strong identifi cation with a certain group or
• It can be a period of intense emotions such as insecurity, loneliness,
boredom and anger. These are sometimes related to the search ‘for the
meaning of life’ that the young teenager may be going through.
INDEPENDENCE: From +- 18 to +- 45 years
4. A TIME FOR CREATIVITY
• This can be seen as an explorative phase, when the young adult wants
to have as many new experiences as possible. It is a search for
sensations, experimentation with borders and limits, a time of
wandering and traveling, but also of childbearing and raising. The
young adult may change jobs, or even places they live in many times in
• It is a time of increased independence, when one’s own space and
lifestyle choices become important, sometimes distancing the young
adult from his/her family
• The notion and fear of conformity become prevalent in some cases, as
the young adult wants to make a life for themselves that is different and
5. MY OWN PHILOSOPHY
• This is a time when there is a tendency towards specialisation and a
readiness to deepen understanding.
• As an adult there is more creative ability accessible to respond to
• It is a time when people may have found their place in the world and
are using it to their advantage. A settling down phase.
• There are dangers to be faced here, such as becoming stuck in a
certain routine and not accessing new creative energy.
6. THE MIDDLE PASSAGE
• This period can be described as almost a “second puberty” that brings
up a deep questioning of personal identity.
• It is a period where self doubt is common, as your assumptions of life
are challenged by experience.
• The recognition that many things you wanted to do are not yet
completed can be diffi cult to accept, along with the fi rst signs of
physical decline; the inevitability of getting older and the fact that you
will die at some stage.
• It can be a painful and emotional period. Some people respond by
indulging in escapist behavior such as: alcohol abuse, workaholism or
INTERDEPENDENCE: From +- 40 years to …
7. THE PIONEERING STAGE
• Emergence from the crisis with new values and meaning can be an
uplifting experience. At this point some people make radical life
changes; new jobs or careers and approaching things with new
• Moments in life are more appreciated through a new attitude. • A
new-found freedom may bring new interests and strengths.
• One may fi nd an enhanced ability to bring “inner” and “outer” worlds
together, while incorporating the views of others.
• A sense of real self knowledge is brought about by the experience of
8. A TIME FOR WISDOM
• A tranquil time in which a new respect for nature is developed. It is a
time when you may discover your own uniqueness.
• There is the danger of contemptuous talk and behaviour if a person
has not come to grips with the slipping away of youth at this stage. A
respect should develop for the task of youth in life.
• A sense of wisdom that is rooted in experience, self knowledge and
knowledge of the world may develop • An interest in long term
development may arise.
9. A TIME FOR REVIEW
• Issues that have not been fully dealt with earlier in life may come back
with a vengeance.
• There may be the realisation that the work of life is not fi nished and
there is little time to put things right.
• It is a time for dealing with the negatives of one’s own personality.
• The fear of becoming too old to look after oneself; having to become
dependent on others might be painful. A heightened awareness of death
and coming to terms with it.
10. FREE TIME
• In these late years time becomes “free” if we decide we are
responsible and have the capacity to truly love. If not we will be needy
but unable to give unconditional love.
• There is an important choice to be made; one can choose to hang onto
things from the past or let go and gracefully give and accept love.
• The retrospective perception of life; one can appreciate that although
people are imperfect, mostly they genuinely strive for something better.
This is true respect for the individual.
I will go and live on my own and work. I am finished with school, they
can go to hell!
You're young, rebellious and know what you want. I used to be like
that, maybe even worse. It's not easy though to leave school
without a diploma and find a well paid job. Cleaning toilets might
be fun for a while, but after that... What would you say if we look at
what you would really like to go for?
The doctor says I'm depressed and prescribes medication just to get rid
of me. Am I not allowed to be sad because my wife died?
It's not unusual that grieving over a loved one is confused with
having a depression. I believe that you are very sad and that
medication isn't going to help to come to terms with things. In the
old days people could mourn for two years, but nowadays with the
fast pace of life you're supposed to be happy again a few weeks
after the funeral. But that is just not humanly possible, you do need
3.23.2 ERIKSON'S PSYCHOSOCIAL DEVELOPMENT THEORY
Erik Erikson's psychosocial crisis life cycle model - the eight stages of
human development - is a very significant, highly regarded and
Life is a series of lessons and challenges which help us to grow.
Erikson's wonderful theory helps to tell us why.
The theory is helpful for child development, and adults too.
Various terms are used to describe Erikson's model, for example
Erikson's biopsychosocial or bio-psycho-social theory (bio refers to
biological, which in this context means life); Erikson's human
development cycle or life cycle, and variations of these. All refer to the
same eight stages psychosocial theory, it being Erikson's most distinct
work and remarkable model.
The word 'psychosocial' is Erikson's term, effectively from the words
psychological (mind) and social (relationships). Erikson believed that
his psychosocial principle is genetically inevitable in shaping human
development. It occurs in all people.
He also referred to his theory as 'epigenesis' and the 'epigenetic
principle', which signified the concept's relevance to evolution (past
and future) and genetics. Erikson explained his use of the word
'epigenesis' thus: "...epi can mean 'above' in space as well as 'before' in
time, and in connection with genesis can well represent the space-time
nature of all development..." (from Vital Involvement in Old Age, 1989).
In Erikson's theory, Epigenetic therefore does not refer to individual
genetic make-up and its influence on individual development. This was
not central to Erikson's ideas.
Erikson, like Freud, was largely concerned with how personality and
behaviour is influenced after birth and especially during childhood. In
the 'nature v nurture' (genes v experience) debate, Erikson was firmly
focused on nurture and experience.
Erik Erikson's eight stages of psychosocial development
Like other seminal concepts, Erikson's model is simple and elegant, yet
very sophisticated. The theory is a basis for broad or complex
discussion and analysis of personality and behaviour, and also for
understanding and for facilitating personal development - of self and
The main elements of the theory covered in this explanation are:
Erikson theory overview - a diagram and concise explanation of the
main features of model.
The Freudian stages of psychosexual development, which
influenced Erikson's approach to the psychosocial model.
Erikson's 'psychosocial crises' (or crisis stages) - meanings and
'Basic virtues' (basic strengths) - the potential positive outcomes
arising from each of the crisis stages.
'Maladapations' and 'Malignancies' - potential negative outcomes
(one or the other) arising from each crisis stage.
Erikson terminology - variations and refinements to names and
N.B. This summary occasionally uses the terms 'positive' and 'negative'
to identify the first or second factors in each crisis (e.g., Trust =
positive; Mistrust = negative) however no crisis factor (disposition or
emotional force - whatever you choose to call them - descriptions are
quite tricky as even Erikson found) is actually wholly positive or wholly
negative. Healthy personality development is based on a sensible
balance between 'positive' and 'negative' dispositions at each crisis
stage. Erikson didn't use the words positive and negative in this sense.
He tended to use 'syntonic' and 'dystonic' to differentiate between the
two sides of each crisis, which is why I occasionally use the more
recognisable 'positive' and 'negative' terms, despite them being
potentially misleading. You should also qualify your use of these terms
if using them in relation to the crisis stages.
Erikson's psychosocial theory - summary diagram
Here's a broad introduction to the main features of Erikson's model.
Various people have produced different interpretations like this grid
below. Erikson produced a few charts of his own too, from different
perspectives, but he seems never to have produced a fully definitive
matrix. To aid explanation and use of his theory he produced several
perspectives in grid format, some of which he advocated be used as
worksheets. He viewed his concept as an evolving work in progress.
This summary attempts to show the main points of the Erikson
psychosocial crisis theory of human development. More detail follows
life stage /
outcome - one or
the other - from
1. Trust v
Oral infant / mother
/ feeding and
v Shame &
Anal toddler /
parents / bodily
3. Initiative v
Phallic preschool /
4. Industry v Latency schoolchild / Competence Narrow
Inferiority school, teachers,
and Method Virtuosity /
5. Identity v
6. Intimacy v
(Genitality) young adult /
work and social
n/a mid-adult /
8. Integrity v
n/a late adult /
world, life /
This chart attempts to capture and present concisely the major
elements of Erikson's theory, drawn from various Erikson books,
diagrams and other references, including Childhood and Society
(1950); Identity and the Life Cycle (1959); The Life Cycle Completed: A
Review (1982, revised 1996 by Joan Erikson); and Vital Involvement in
Old Age (1989). Erikson later suggested psychosexual stages 7 and 8,
but they are not typically part of Freud's scheme which extended only
to Puberty/Genitality. See Freud's psychosexual stages below.
Erik Erikson's psychosocial theory overview
Erikson's psychosocial theory is widely and highly regarded. As with
any concept there are critics, but generally Erikson's theory is
considered fundamentally significant. Erikson was a psychoanalyst and
also a humanitarian. So his theory is useful far beyond psychoanalysis -
it's useful for any application involving personal awareness and
development - of oneself or others.
There is a strong, but not essential, Freudian element in Erikson's work
and model. Fans of Freud will find the influence useful. People who
disagree with Freud, and especially his psychosexual theory, can ignore
the Freudian aspect and still find Erikson's ideas useful. Erikson's
theory stands alone and does not depend on Freud for its robustness
Aside from Freudian psychoanalysis, Erikson developed his theory
mainly from his extensive practical field research, initially with Native
American communities, and then also from his clinical therapy work
attached to leading mental health centres and universities. He actively
pioneered psychoanalytical development from the late 1940's until the
Erikson's concept crucially incorporated cultural and social aspects
into Freud's biological and sexually oriented theory.
Erikson was able to do this because of his strong interest and
compassion for people, especially young people, and also because his
research was carried out among human societies far removed from the
more inward-looking world of the psychoanalyst's couch, which was
essentially Freud's approach.
This helps Erikson's eight stages theory to be a tremendously powerful
model: it is very accessible and obviously relevant to modern life, from
several different perspectives, for understanding and explaining how
personality and behaviour develops in people. As such Erikson's theory
is useful for teaching, parenting, self-awareness, managing and
coaching, dealing with conflict, and generally for understanding self and
Both Erikson and his wife Joan, who collaborated as psychoanalysts and
writers, were passionately interested in childhood development, and its
effects on adult society. Eriksons' work is as relevant today as when he
first outlined his original theory, in fact given the modern pressures on
society, family and relationships - and the quest for personal
development and fulfilment - his ideas are probably more relevant now
Erikson's psychosocial theory basically asserts that people experience
eight 'psychosocial crisis stages' which significantly affect each person's
development and personality. Joan Erikson described a 'ninth' stage
after Erik's death, but the eight stage model is most commonly
referenced and is regarded as the standard. (Joan Erikson's work on the
'ninth stage' appears in her 1996 revisions to The Life Cycle Completed:
A Review, and will in the future be summarised on this page.)
Erikson's theory refers to 'psychosocial crisis' (or psychosocial crises,
being the plural). This term is an extension of Sigmund Freud's use of
the word 'crisis', which represents internal emotional conflict. You
might also describe this sort of crisis as an internal struggle or
challenge which a person must negotiate and deal with in order to grow
Erikson's 'psychosocial' term is derived from the two source words -
namely psychological (or the root, 'psycho' relating to the mind, brain,
personality, etc) and social (external relationships and environment),
both at the heart of Erikson's theory. Occasionally you'll see the term
extended to biopsychosocial, in which bio refers to life, as in biological.
Each stage involves a crisis of two opposing emotional forces. A helpful
term used by Erikson for these opposing forces is 'contrary
dispositions'. Each crisis stage relates to a corresponding life stage and
its inherent challenges. Erikson used the words 'syntonic' for the first-
listed 'positive' disposition in each crisis (e.g., Trust) and 'dystonic' for
the second-listed 'negative' disposition (e.g., Mistrust). To signify the
opposing or conflicting relationship between each pair of forces or
dispositions Erikson connected them with the word 'versus', which he
abbreviated to 'v'. (Versus is Latin, meaning turned towards or against.)
The actual definitions of the syntonic and dystonic words (see Erikson's
terminology below) are mainly irrelevant unless you have a passion for
the detailed history of Erikson's ideas.
Successfully passing through each crisis involves 'achieving' a healthy
ratio or balance between the two opposing dispositions that represent
each crisis. For example a healthy balance at crisis stage stage one
(Trust v Mistrust) might be described as experiencing and growing
through the crisis 'Trust' (of people, life and one's future development)
and also experiencing and growing a suitable capacity for 'Mistrust'
where appropriate, so as not to be hopelessly unrealistic or gullible, nor
to be mistrustful of everything. Or experiencing and growing through
stage two (Autonomy v Shame & Doubt) to be essentially 'Autonomous'
(to be one's own person and not a mindless or quivering follower) but
to have sufficient capacity for 'Shame and Doubt', so as to be free-
thinking and independent, while also being ethical and considerate and
Erikson called these successful balanced outcomes 'Basic Virtues' or
'Basic Strengths'. He identified one particular word to represent the
fundamental strength gained at each stage, which appear commonly in
Erikson's diagrams and written theory, and other explanations of his
work. Erikson also identified a second supporting 'strength' word at
each stage, which along with the basic virtue emphasised the main
healthy outcome at each stage, and helped convey simple meaning in
summaries and charts. Examples of basic virtues and supporting
strengths words are 'Hope and Drive' (from stage one, Trust v Mistrust)
and 'Willpower and Self-Control' (from stage two, Autonomy v Shame &
Doubt). It's very useful however to gain a more detailed understanding
of the meaning behind these words because although Erikson's choice
these words is very clever, and the words are very symbolic, using just
one or two words alone is not adequate for truly conveying the depth of
the theory, and particularly the emotional and behavioural strengths
that arise from healthy progression through each crisis. More detail
about basic virtues and strengths is in the Basic Virtues section.
Erikson was sparing in his use of the word 'achieve' in the context of
successful outcomes, because it implied gaining something clear-cut
and permanent. Psychosocial development is not clear-cut and is not
irreversible: any previous crisis can effectively revisit anyone, albeit in
a different guise, with successful or unsuccessful results. This perhaps
helps explain how 'high achievers' can fall from grace, and how
'hopeless failures' can ultimately achieve great things. No-one should
become complacent, and there is hope for us all.
Later in his life Erikson was keen to warn against interpreting his
theory into an 'achievement scale', in which the crisis stages represent
single safe achievement or target of the extreme 'positive' option,
secured once and for ever. Erikson said (in Identity and the Life Cycle):
"...What the child acquires at a given stage is a certain ratio between
the positive and negative, which if the balance is toward the positive,
will help him to meet later crises with a better chance for unimpaired
He continued (in rather complicated language, hence paraphrasing)
that at no stage can a 'goodness' be achieved which is impervious to
new conflicts, and that to believe so is dangerous and inept.
The crisis stages are not sharply defined steps. Elements tend to
overlap and mingle from one stage to the next and to the preceding
stages. It's a broad framework and concept, not a mathematical formula
which replicates precisely across all people and situations.
Erikson was keen to point out that the transition between stages is
'overlapping'. Crisis stages connect with each other like inter-laced
fingers, not like a series of neatly stacked boxes. People don't suddenly
wake up one morning and be in a new life stage. Changes don't happen
in regimented clear-cut steps. Changes are graduated, mixed-together
and organic. In this respect the 'feel' of the model is similar to other
flexible human development frameworks (for example, Elisabeth
Kübler-Ross's 'Grief Cycle', and Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs).
Where a person passes unsuccessfully through a psychosocial crisis
stage they develop a tendency towards one or other of the opposing
forces (either to the syntonic or the dystonic, in Erikson's language),
which then becomes a behavioural tendency, or even a mental problem.
In crude terms we might call this 'baggage' or a 'hang-up', although
perhaps avoid such terms in serious work. I use them here to illustrate
that Erikson's ideas are very much related to real life and the way
ordinary people think and wonder about things.
Erikson called an extreme tendency towards the syntonic (first
disposition) a 'maladapation', and he identified specific words to
represent the maladapation at each stage. He called an extreme
tendency towards the dystonic (second disposition) a 'malignancy', and
again he identified specific words to represent the malignancy at each
stage. More under 'Maladapations' and 'Malignancies'.
Erikson emphasised the significance of and 'mutuality' and
'generativity' in his theory. The terms are linked. Mutuality reflects the
effect of generations on each other, especially among families, and
particularly between parents and children and grandchildren. Everyone
potentially affects everyone else's experiences as they pass through the
different crisis stages. Generativity, actually a named disposition within
one of the crisis stages (Generativity v Stagnation, stage seven), reflects
the significant relationship between adults and the best interests of
children - one's own children, and in a way everyone else's children -
the next generation, and all following generations.
Generations affect each other. A parent obviously affects the child's
psychosocial development, but in turn the parent's psychosocial
development is affected by their experience of dealing with the child
and the pressures produced. Same for grandparents. Again this helps
explain why as parents (or teachers or siblings or grandparents) we can
often struggle to deal well with a young person when it's as much as we
can do to deal with our own emotional challenges.
In some ways the development actually peaks at stage seven, since
stage eight is more about taking stock and coming to terms with how
one has made use of life, and ideally preparing to leave it feeling at
peace. The perspective of giving and making a positive difference for
future generations echoes Erikson's humanitarian philosophy, and it's
this perhaps more than anything else that enabled him to develop such
a powerful concept.
Freud's influence on erikson's theory
Erikson's psychosocial theory of the 'eight stages of human
development' drew from and extended the ideas of Sigmund Freud and
Freud's daughter Anna Freud, and particularly the four (or five,
depending on interpretation) Freudian stages of development, known
as Freud's psychosexual stages or Freud's sexual theory. These
concepts are fundamental to Freudian thinking and are outlined below
in basic terms relating to Erikson's psychosocial stages.
Freud's concepts, while influential on Erikson, are not however
fundamental to Erikson's theory, which stands up perfectly well in its
It is not necessary therefore to understand or agree with Freud's ideas
in order to appreciate and use Erikson's theory. If you naturally relate
to Freud's ideas fine, otherwise leave them to one side.
Part of Erikson's appeal is that he built on Freud's ideas in a socially
meaningful and accessible way - and in a way that did not wholly rely
on adherence to fundamental Freudian thinking. Some of Freud's
theories by their nature tend attract a lot of attention and criticism -
sex, breasts, genitals, and bodily functions generally do - and if you are
distracted or put off by these references then ignore them, because they
are not crucial for understanding and using Erikson's model.
Freud's psychosexual stages - overview
Age guide is a broad approximation, hence the overlaps. The stages
happen in this sequence, but not to a fixed timetable.
Freudian psychosexual stages - overview Erikson's
1. Oral Stage - Feeding, crying, teething, biting,
thumb-sucking, weaning - the mouth and the
breast are the centre of all experience. The
infant's actual experiences and attachments to
mum (or maternal equivalent) through this
stage have a fundamental effect on the
unconscious mind and thereby on deeply
rooted feelings, which along with the next two
stages affect all sorts of behaviours and
(sexually powered) drives and aims - Freud's
'libido' - and preferences in later life.
1. Trust v
baby, birth to
2. Anal Stage - It's a lot to do with pooh -
'holding on' or 'letting go' - the pleasure and
v Shame and
control. Is it dirty? Is it okay? Bodily expulsions
are the centre of the world, and the pivot
around which early character is formed. Am I
pleasing my mum and dad? Are they making me
feel good or bad about my bottom? Am I okay or
naughty? Again the young child's actual
experiences through this stage have a deep
effect on the unconscious and behaviours and
preferences in later life.
3. Phallic Stage - Phallic is not restricted to boys.
This stage is focused on resolving reproductive
issues. This is a sort of dry run before the real
game starts in adolescence. Where do babies
come from? Can I have a baby? Why has dad got
a willy and I've not? Why have I got a willy and
mum hasn't? Why do they tell me off for
touching my bits and pieces down there? (Boys)
I'm going to marry mum (and maybe kill dad).
(Girls) I'm in love with my dad. Oedipus
Complex, Penis envy, Castration Anxiety, etc. "If
you touch yourself down there it'll fall off/heal
up.." Inevitably once more, experiences in this
stage have a profound effect on feelings and
behaviour and libido in later life. If you want to
know more about all this I recommend you read
about Freud, not Erikson, and I repeat that
understanding Freud's psychosexual theory is
not required for understanding and using
3. Initiative v
3-6 yrs, pre-
4. Latency Stage - Sexual dormancy or
repression. The focus is on learning, skills,
schoolwork. This is actually not a psychosexual
stage because basically normally nothing
formative happens sexually. Experiences, fears
4. Industry v
and conditioning from the previous stages have
already shaped many of the child's feelings and
attitudes and these will re-surface in the next
5. Genital stage - Puberty in other words.
Glandular, hormonal, and physical changes in
the adolescent child's body cause a resurgence
of sexual thoughts, feelings and behaviours.
Boys start treating their mothers like woman-
servants and challenge their fathers (Freud's
'Oedipus'). Girls flirt with their fathers and
argue with their mums (Freud's 'Electra'). All
become highly agitated if away from a mirror
for more than half an hour (Freud's Narcissus
or Narcissism). Dating and fondling quickly
push schoolwork and sports (and anything else
encouraged by parents and figures of authority)
into second place. Basically everyone is in
turmoil and it's mostly to do with growing up,
which entails more sexual undercurrents than
parents would ever believe, even though these
same parents went through exactly the same
struggles themselves just a few years before.
It's a wonder anyone ever makes it to
adulthood, but of course they do, and mostly it's
all perfectly normal.
This is the final Freudian psychosexual stage.
Erikson's model, which from the start offers a
different and more socially oriented
perspective, continues through to old age, and
re-interprets Freudian sexual theory into the
adult life stages equating to Erikson's crisis
stages. This incorporation of Freudian sexual
stages into the adult crisis stages is not
5. Identity v
Arguably no direct equivalent Freudian stage,
although as from Identity and the Life Cycle
(1969) Erikson clearly separated Puberty and
Genitality (Freud's Genital stage) , and related
each respectively to Identity v Role Confusion,
and Intimacy v Isolation.
6. Intimacy v
No direct equivalent Freudian stage, although
Erikson later interpreted this as being a
psychosexual stage of 'Procreativity'.
Again no direct equivalent Freudian stage.
Erikson later called this the psychosexual stage
of 'Generalization of Sensual Modes'.
8. Integrity v
50+, old age,
N.B. This is a quick light overview of Freud's sexual theory and where it
equates to Erikson's crisis stages. It's not meant to be a serious detailed
analysis of Freud's psychosexual ideas. That said, I'm open to
suggestions from any Freud experts out there who would like to offer
improved (quick, easy, down-to-earth) pointers to the Freudian
Erikson's eight psychosocial crisis stages
Here's a more detailed interpretation of Erikson's psychosocial crisis
Remember age range is just a very rough guide, especially through the
later levels when parenthood timing and influences vary. Hence the
overlap between the age ranges in the interpretation below.
Interpretations of age range vary among writers and academics.
Erikson intentionally did not stipulate clear fixed age stages, and it's
impossible for anyone to do so.
Below is a reminder of the crisis stages, using the crisis terminology of
the original 1950 model aside from the shorter terminology that
Erikson later preferred for stages one and eight. The 'Life Stage' names
were suggested in later writings by Erikson and did not appear so
clearly in the 1950 model. Age range and other descriptions are general
interpretations and were not shown specifically like this by Erikson.
Erikson's main terminology changes are explained below.
Crisis stages are driven by physical and sexual growth, which then
prompts the life issues which create the crises. The crises are therefore
not driven by age precisely. Erikson never showed precise ages, and I
prefer to state wider age ranges than many other common
interpretations. The final three (adult) stages happen at particularly
It's worth noting also that these days there's a lot more 'life' and
complexity in the final (old age) stage than when the eight stages were
originally outlined, which no doubt fuelled Joan Erikson's ideas on a
'ninth stage' after Erik's death.
Erikson's eight psychosocial stages
Psychosocial Crisis Stage Life Stage
age range, other
1. Trust v Mistrust Infancy
0-1½ yrs, baby, birth to
2. Autonomy v Shame and
1-3 yrs, toddler, toilet
3. Initiative v Guilt Play Age
3-6 yrs, pre-school,
4. Industry v Inferiority School Age 5-12 yrs, early school
5. Identity v Role Confusion Adolescence 9-18 yrs, puberty, teens*
6. Intimacy v Isolation Young Adult 18-40, courting, early
7. Generativity v Stagnation Adulthood
30-65, middle age,
8. Integrity v Despair Mature Age 50+, old age, grandparents
* Other interpretations of the Adolescence stage commonly suggest
stage 5 begins around 12 years of age. This is reasonable for most boys,
but given that Erikson and Freud cite the onset of puberty as the start
of this stage, stage 5 can begin for girls as early as age nine.
Erikson's psychosocial theory essentially states that each person
experiences eight 'psychosocial crises' (internal conflicts linked to
life's key stages) which help to define his or her growth and
People experience these 'psychosocial crisis' stages in a fixed sequence,
but timings vary according to people and circumstances.
This is why the stages and the model are represented primarily by the
names of the crises or emotional conflicts themselves (e.g., Trust v
Mistrust) rather than strict age or life stage definitions. Age and life
stages do feature in the model, but as related rather than pivotal
factors, and age ranges are increasingly variable as the stages unfold.
Each of the eight 'psychosocial crises' is characterised by a conflict
between two opposing positions or attitudes (or dispositions or
emotional forces). Erikson never really settled on a firm recognisable
description for the two components of each crisis, although in later
works the first disposition is formally referred to as the 'Adaptive
Strength'. He also used the terms 'syntonic' and 'dystonic' for
respectively the first and second dispositions in each crisis, but not
surprisingly these esoteric words never featured strongly in
interpretations of Erikson’s terminology, and their usual meanings are
not very helpful in understanding what Erikson meant in this context.
The difficulty in 'labeling' the first and second dispositions in each crisis
is a reflection that neither is actually wholly good or bad, or wholly
positive or negative. The first disposition is certainly the preferable
tendency, but an ideal outcome is achieved only when it is counter-
balanced with a degree of the second disposition.
Successful development through each crisis is requires a balance and
ratio between the two dispositions, not total adoption of the apparent
'positive' disposition, which if happens can produce almost as much
difficulty as a strong or undiluted tendency towards the second
Some of the crisis stages are easier to understand than others. Each
stage contains far more meaning than can be conveyed in just two or
three words. Crisis stage one is 'Trust versus Mistrust', which is easier
to understand than some of the others. Stage four 'Industry versus
Inferiority' is a little trickier. You could say instead 'usefulness versus
uselessness' in more modern common language. Erikson later refined
'Industry' to 'Industriousness', which probably conveys a fuller
meaning. See the more detailed crisis stages descriptions below for a
Successful passage through each stage is dependent on striking the
right balance between the conflicting extremes rather than entirely
focusing on (or being guided towards) the 'ideal' or 'preferable'
extreme in each crisis. In this respect Erikson's theory goes a long way
to explaining why too much of anything is not helpful for developing a
A well-balanced positive experience during each stage develops a
corresponding 'basic virtue' (or 'basic strength - a helpful personality
development), each of which enables a range of other related emotional
and psychological strengths. For example passing successfully through
the Industry versus Inferiority crisis (stage four, between 6-12 years of
age for most people) produces the 'basic psychosocial virtue' of
'competence' (plus related strengths such as 'method', skills,
techniques, ability to work with processes and collaborations, etc).
More detail is under 'Basic virtues'.
Where passage through a crisis stage is less successful (in other words
not well-balanced, or worse still, psychologically damaging) then to a
varying extent the personality acquires an unhelpful emotional or
psychological tendency, which corresponds to one of the two opposite
extremes of the crisis concerned.
Neglect and failure at any stage is is problematical, but so is too much
emphasis on the apparent 'good' extreme.
For example unsuccessful experiences during the Industry versus
Inferiority crisis would produce a tendency towards being overly
focused on learning and work, or the opposite tendency towards
uselessness and apathy. Describing these unhelpful outcomes, Erikson
later introduced the terms 'maladaptation' (overly adopting 'positive'
extreme) and 'malignancy' (adopting the 'negative' extreme). More
detail is under 'Maladaptations' and 'Malignancies'. In the most extreme
cases the tendency can amount to serious mental problems.
Here is each crisis stage in more detail.
Erikson's psychosocial crisis stages - meanings and interpretations
Erikson used particular words to represent each psychosocial crisis. As
ever, single words can be misleading and rarely convey much meaning.
Here is more explanation of what lies behind these terms.
Erikson reinforced these crisis explanations with a perspective called
'psychosocial modalities', which in the earlier stages reflect Freudian
theory, and which are paraphrased below. They are not crucial to the
model, but they do provide a useful additional viewpoint.
meaning and interpretation
1. Trust v Mistrust
'To give in return'
(To receive and to
give in return. Trust
is reciprocal -
The infant will develop a healthy balance
between trust and mistrust if fed and cared for
and not over-indulged or over-protected. Abuse
or neglect or cruelty will destroy trust and
foster mistrust. Mistrust increases a person's
resistance to risk-exposure and exploration.
"Once bitten twice shy" is an apt analogy. On the
other hand, if the infant is insulated from all and
any feelings of surprise and normality, or
unfailingly indulged, this will create a false
sense of trust amounting to sensory distortion,
in other words a failure to appreciate reality.
Infants who grow up to trust are more able to
hope and have faith that 'things will generally be
okay'. This crisis stage incorporates Freud's
psychosexual Oral stage, in which the infant's
crucial relationships and experiences are
defined by oral matters, notably feeding and
relationship with mum. Erikson later shortened
'Basic Trust v Basic Mistrust' to simply Trust v
Mistrust, especially in tables and headings.
2. Autonomy v
Shame & Doubt
'To hold on'
'To let go'
or be retentive. Of
Autonomy means self-reliance. This is
independence of thought, and a basic confidence
to think and act for oneself. Shame and Doubt
mean what they say, and obviously inhibit self-
expression and developing one's own ideas,
opinions and sense of self. Toilet and potty
training is a significant part of this crisis, as in
Freud's psychosexual Anal stage, where
parental reactions, encouragement and patience
play an important role in shaping the young
child's experience and successful progression
Freudian...) through this period. The significance of parental
reaction is not limited to bottoms and pooh - it
concerns all aspects of toddler exploration and
discovery while small children struggle to find
their feet - almost literally - as little people in
their own right. The 'terrible twos' and 'toddler
tantrums' are a couple of obvious analogies
which represent these internal struggles and
parental battles. The parental balancing act is a
challenging one, especially since parents
themselves are having to deal with their own
particular psychosocial crisis, and of course deal
with the influence of their own emotional
triggers which were conditioned when they
themselves passed through earlier formative
crisis stages. What are the odds that whenever a
parent berates a child, "That's dirty.." it will be
an echo from their own past experience at this
3. Initiative v Guilt
'To make (= going
'To "make like" (=
(To make and
and to make things
together. To pursue
Initiative is the capability to devise actions or
projects, and a confidence and belief that it is
okay to do so, even with a risk of failure or
making mistakes. Guilt means what it says, and
in this context is the feeling that it is wrong or
inappropriate to instigate something of one's
own design. Guilt results from being
admonished or believing that something is
wrong or likely to attract disapproval. Initiative
flourishes when adventure and game-playing is
encouraged, irrespective of how daft and silly it
seems to the grown-up in charge. Suppressing
adventure and experimentation, or preventing
young children doing things for themselves
because of time, mess or a bit of risk will inhibit
the development of confidence to initiate,
replacing it instead with an unhelpful fear of
being wrong or unapproved. The fear of being
admonished or accused of being stupid becomes
a part of the personality. "If I don't initiate or
stick my neck out I'll be safe.." (from feeling
guilty and bad). Parents, carers and older
siblings have a challenge to get the balance right
between giving young children enough space
and encouragement so as to foster a sense of
purpose and confidence, but to protect against
danger, and also to enable a sensible exposure
to trail and error, and to the consequences of
mistakes, without which an irresponsible or
reckless tendency can develop.
This crisis stage correlates with Freud's
psychosexual Phallic stage, characterised by a
perfectly natural interest in genitals, where
babies come from, and as Freud asserted, an
attachment to the opposite sex parent, and the
murky mysteries of the Oedipus Complex, Penis
Envy and Castration Anxiety, about which
further explanation and understanding is not
critical to appreciating Erikson's theory.
What's more essential is to recognise that
children of this age are not wicked or bad or
naughty, they are exploring and
4. Industry v Industry here refers to purposeful or
'To make (= going
'To "make like" and
and to make things
(To initiate projects
or ideas, and to
others to produce
meaningful activity. It's the development of
competence and skills, and a confidence to use a
'method', and is a crucial aspect of school years
experience. Erikson described this stage as a
sort of 'entrance to life'. This correlates with
Freud's psychosexual Latency stage, when
sexual motives and concerns are largely
repressed while the young person concentrates
on work and skills development. A child who
experiences the satisfaction of achievement - of
anything positive - will move towards successful
negotiation of this crisis stage. A child who
experiences failure at school tasks and work, or
worse still who is denied the opportunity to
discover and develop their own capabilities and
strengths and unique potential, quite naturally
is prone to feeling inferior and useless. Engaging
with others and using tools or technology are
also important aspects of this stage. It is like a
rehearsal for being productive and being valued
at work in later life. Inferiority is feeling useless;
unable to contribute, unable to cooperate or
work in a team to create something, with the
low self-esteem that accompanies such feelings.
Erikson knew this over fifty years ago. How is it
that the people in charge of children's education
still fail to realise this? Develop the child from
within. Help them to find and excel at what they
are naturally good at, and then they will achieve
the sense of purpose and industry on which
everything else can then be built.
5. Identity v Role
'To be oneself (or
not to be)'
'To share being
(To be yourself and
to share this with
or otherwise of how
you see yourself.)
Identity means essentially how a person sees
themselves in relation to their world. It's a sense
of self or individuality in the context of life and
what lies ahead. Role Confusion is the negative
perspective - an absence of identity - meaning
that the person cannot see clearly or at all who
they are and how they can relate positively with
their environment. This stage coincides with
puberty or adolescence, and the reawakening of
the sexual urge whose dormancy typically
characterises the previous stage.
Young people struggle to belong and to be
accepted and affirmed, and yet also to become
individuals. In itself this is a big dilemma, aside
from all the other distractions and confusions
experienced at this life stage.
Erikson later replaced the term 'Role Confusion'
with 'Identity Diffusion'. In essence they mean
6. Intimacy v
'To lose and find
oneself in another'
(Reciprocal love for
and with another
Intimacy means the process of achieving
relationships with family and marital or mating
partner(s). Erikson explained this stage also in
terms of sexual mutuality - the giving and
receiving of physical and emotional connection,
support, love, comfort, trust, and all the other
elements that we would typically associate with
healthy adult relationships conducive to mating
and child-rearing. There is a strong reciprocal
feature in the intimacy experienced during this
stage - giving and receiving - especially between
sexual or marital partners.
Isolation conversely means being and feeling
excluded from the usual life experiences of
dating and mating and mutually loving
relationships. This logically is characterised by
feelings of loneliness, alienation, social
withdrawal or non-participation.
Erikson also later correlated this stage with the
Freudian Genitality sexual stage, which
illustrates the difficulty in equating Freudian
psychosexual theory precisely to Erikson's
model. There is a correlation but it is not an
7. Generativity v
'To make be'
'To take care of'
care of one's
children, or other
Generativity derives from the word generation,
as in parents and children, and specifically the
unconditional giving that characterises positive
parental love and care for their offspring.
Erikson acknowledged that this stage also
extends to other productive activities - work
and creativity for example - but given his focus
on childhood development, and probably the
influence of Freudian theory, Erikson's analysis
of this stage was strongly oriented towards
parenting. Generativity potentially extends
beyond one's own children, and also to all future
generations, which gives the model ultimately a
very modern globally responsible perspective.
Positive outcomes from this crisis stage depend
on contributing positively and unconditionally.
We might also see this as an end of self-interest.
Having children is not a prerequisite for
Generativity, just as being a parent is no
guarantee that Generativity will be achieved.
Caring for children is the common Generativity
scenario, but success at this stage actually
depends on giving and caring - putting
something back into life, to the best of one's
Stagnation is an extension of intimacy which
turns inward in the form of self-interest and
self-absorption. It's the disposition that
represents feelings of selfishness, self-
indulgence, greed, lack of interest in young
people and future generations, and the wider
Erikson later used the term 'Self-Absorption'
instead of 'Stagnation' and then seems to have
settled in later work with the original
Stagnation and/or Self-Absorption result from
not having an outlet or opportunity for
contributing to the good or growth of children
and others, and potentially to the wider world.
8. Integrity v
'To be, through
This is a review and closing stage. The previous
stage is actually a culmination of one's
achievement and contribution to descendents,
and potentially future generations everywhere.
To face not being'
(To be peaceful and
satisfied with one's
life and efforts, and
to be accepting that
life will end.)
Later Erikson dropped the word 'Ego' (from
'Ego Integrity') and extended the whole term to
'Integrity v Disgust and Despair'. He also
continued to use the shorter form 'Integrity v
Integrity means feeling at peace with oneself
and the world. No regrets or recriminations. The
linking between the stages is perhaps clearer
here than anywhere: people are more likely to
look back on their lives positively and happily if
they have left the world a better place than they
found it - in whatever way, to whatever extent.
There lies Integrity and acceptance.
Despair and/or 'Disgust' (i.e., rejective denial, or
'sour grapes' feeling towards what life might
have been) represent the opposite disposition:
feelings of wasted opportunities, regrets,
wishing to be able to turn back the clock and
have a second chance.
This stage is a powerful lens through which to
view one's life - even before old age is reached.
To bring this idea to life look at the 'obituaries'
Erikson had a profound interest in humanity
and society's well-being in general. This crisis
stage highlights the issue very meaningfully.
Happily these days for many people it's often
possible to put something back, even in the
depths of despair. When this happens people
are effectively rebuilding wreckage from the
previous stage, which is fine.
Erikson's basic psychosocial virtues or strengths (positive outcomes)
The chart below identifies the 'basic psychosocial virtues' - and
related strengths - which result from successfully passing through each
crisis. Erikson described success as a 'favourable ratio' (between the
two extremes) at each crisis stage.
A basic virtue is not the result of simply achieving the positive extreme
of each crisis. Basic virtue is attained by a helpful balance, albeit
towards the 'positive', between the two extremes. Helpfully balanced
experience leads to positive growth.
Chief life stage issues and relationships are also re-stated as a reminder
as to when things happen.
'Basic psychological virtue' and 'basic virtue' (same thing), are
Erikson identified one basic virtue, plus another virtue (described
below a 'secondary virtue') for each stage. At times he referred to 'basic
virtues' as 'basic strengths'.
A bit confusing, but the main point is that based on what observed for
each stage he identified one clear basic virtue and one secondary virtue.
From this he was able to (and we can too - he encouraged people to do
so) extrapolate other related strengths.
Bear in mind also that the first disposition in each crisis is also
inevitably a related strength that comes from successfully experiencing
Erikson recognised this by later referring to the first disposition (e.g.,
Trust, Autonomy, etc) as an 'Adaptive Strength'.
basic virtues and other strengths
basic virtue & secondary
virtue (and related
life stage /
relationships / issues
1. Trust v
Hope & Drive (faith, inner
calm, grounding, basic
feeling that everything will
be okay - enabling
exposure to risk, a trust in
life and self and others,
inner resolve and strength
in the face of uncertainty
infant / mother / feeding
and being comforted,
2. Autonomy v
Shame & Doubt
Willpower & Self-Control
confidence in self to decide
things, having a voice,
being one's own person,
independence of thought,
toddler / parents /
bodily functions, toilet
3. Initiative v
Purpose & Direction
(sense of purpose,
with and leading others,
initiating projects and
ideas, courage to instigate,
preschool / family /
discovery, adventure and
ability to define personal
direction and aims and
goals, able to take
initiative and appropriate
4. Industry v
Competence & Method
(making things, producing
results, applying skills and
feeling valued and capable
of contributing, ability to
apply method and process
in pursuit of ideas or
objectives, confidence to
seek and respond to
challenge and learning,
active busy productive
schoolchild / school,
5. Identity v
Fidelity & Devotion (self-
confidence and self-esteem
necessary to freely
associate with people and
ideas based on merit,
loyalty, social and
standards and dignity,
pride and personal
identity, seeing useful
personal role(s) and
adolescent / peers,
groups, influences /
resolving identity and
direction, becoming a
purpose(s) in life)
6. Intimacy v
Love & Affiliation
(capacity to give and
receive love - emotionally
connectivity with others,
socially and inter-
ability to form honest
and friendships, capacity
to bond and commit with
others for mutual
satisfaction - for work and
personal life, reciprocity -
give and take - towards
young adult / lovers,
connections / intimate
relationships, work and
Care & Production
(giving unconditionally in
support of children and/or
for others, community,
society and the wider
world where possible and
contributing for the
greater good, making a
building a good legacy,
helping others through
their own crisis stages
mid-adult / children,
community / 'giving
8. Integrity v
Wisdom & Renunciation
detachment - non-
projection, no regrets,
peace of mind, non-
judgemental, spiritual or
acceptance of inevitably
late adult / society, the
world, life / meaning and
Erikson and Maslow correlations?
As an aside, there are significant parallels between the growth
outcomes of the Erikson psychosocial model, and the growth aspects
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. It's not a precise fit obviously because the
Erikson and Maslow perspectives are different, but the correlations are
clear and fascinating. Erikson separately listed a series of 'Related
Elements of Social Order' within his psychosocial model, which
although quite obscure in this context, might aid the comparison. You
might have your own views on this. For what it's worth here's mine:
life stage /
Needs stage -
infant / mother
/ feeding and
1. Trust v
Hope & Drive 'cosmic order' biological &
parents / bodily
v Shame &
4. Industry v
5. Identity v
young adult /
work and social
late adult /
world, life /
8. Integrity v
N.B. I'm not suggesting a direct fit between Erikson's and Maslow's
models. Rather, this simply puts the two perspectives alongside each
other to show how similar aspects could could inter-relate. Judge for
We might also use the Erikson model to help explain what happens in
Maslow's theory when a particular trauma sweeps away a part of
someone's life (perhaps due to redundancy, divorce, social exclusion,
bankruptcy, homelessness), which causes the person to revisit certain
needs and internal conflicts (crises) which were once satisfied earlier
but are no longer met. According to both Erikson's and Maslow's
theories, anyone can find themselves revisiting and having to resolve
needs (or crisis feelings or experiences) from earlier years.
Further thoughts and suggestions about correlations between Maslow
and Erikson are welcome.
Erikson's model - maladaptations and malignancies (negative
Later Erikson developed clearer ideas and terminology - notably
'Maladaptations' and 'Malignancies' - to represent the negative
outcomes arising from an unhelpful experience through each of the
In crude modern terms these negative outcomes might be referred to as
'baggage', which although somewhat unscientific, is actually a very apt
metaphor, since people tend to carry with them through life the
psychological outcomes of previously unhelpful experiences.
Psychoanalysis, the particular therapeutic science from which Erikson
approached these issues, is a way to help people understand where the
baggage came from, and thereby to assist the process of dumping it.
To an extent these negative outcomes can also arise from repeating or
revisiting a crisis, or more realistically the essential aspects of a crisis,
since we don't actually regress to a younger age, instead we revisit the
experiences and feelings associated with earlier life.
This chart is laid out with the crisis in the centre to aid appreciation
that 'maladaptations' develop from tending towards the extreme of the
first ('positive') disposition in each crisis, and 'malignancies' develop
from tending towards the extreme of the second ('negative') disposition
in each crisis.
A maladaptation could be seen as 'too much of a good thing'. A
malignancy could be seen as not enough.
In later writings malignancies were also referred to as 'antipathies'.
maladaptations and malignancies
Maladaptation Crisis Malignancy
Trust v Mistrust Withdrawal
Ruthlessness Initiative v Guilt Inhibition
Identity v Role
Promiscuity Intimacy v Isolation Exclusivity
Presumption Integrity v Despair Disdain
Erikson was careful to choose words for the maladaptations and
malignancies which convey a lot of meaning and are very symbolic of
the emotional outcomes that are relevant to each stage.
In each case the maladaptation or malignancy corresponds to an
extreme extension of the relevant crisis disposition (for example,
'Withdrawal' results from an extreme extension of 'Mistrust'). Thinking
about this helps to understand what these outcomes entail, and
interestingly helps to identify the traits in people - or oneself - when
you encounter the behavioural tendency concerned.
Malignancies and maladaptations can manifest in various ways. Here
are examples, using more modern and common language, to help
understand and interpret the meaning and possible attitudes,
tendencies, behaviours, etc., within the various malignancies and
malapdations. In each case the examples can manifest as more extreme
mental difficulties, in which case the terms would be more extreme too.
These examples are open to additional interpretation and are intended
to be a guide, not scientific certainties. Neither do these examples
suggest that anyone experiencing any of these behavioural tendencies
is suffering from mental problems. Erikson never established any
absolute measurement of emotional difficulty or tendency as to be
defined as a malignancy or maladaptation.
In truth each of us is subject to emotional feelings and and extremes of
various sorts, and it is always a matter of opinion as to what actually
constitutes a problem. All people possess a degree of maladaptation or
malignancy from each crisis experience. Not to do so would not be
human, since none of us is perfect. It's always a question of degree. It's
also a matter of understanding our weaknesses, maybe understanding
where they come from too, and thereby better understanding how we
might become stronger, more productive and happier.
maladaptations and malignancies - examples and interpretations
examples Maladap- crisis Malign- examples
loner, cold, self-
This section explains how some of the model's terminology altered as
Erikson developed his theory, and is not crucial to understanding the
model at a simple level.
Erikson was continually refining and re-evaluating his psychosocial
theory, and he encouraged his readers and followers to do likewise.
This developmental approach enabled the useful extension of the
model to its current format. Some of what is summarised here did not
initially appear clearly in Childhood and Society in 1950, which marked
the establishment of the basic theory, not its completion. Several
aspects of Erikson's theory were clarified in subsequent books decades
later, including work focusing on old age by Joan Erikson, Erik's wife
and collaborator, notably in the 1996 revised edition of The Life Cycle
Completed: A Review.
The Eriksons' refinements also involved alterations - some would say
complications - to the terminology, which (although presumably aiming
for scientific precision) do not necessarily aid understanding, especially
at a basic working level.
For clarity therefore this page sticks mostly with Erikson's original
1950 and other commonly used terminology. Basic Trust v Basic
Mistrust (1950) is however shortened here to Trust v Mistrust, and Ego
Integrity (1950) is shortened to Integrity, because these seem to be
more consistent Erikson preferences. The terms used on this page are
perfectly adequate, and perhaps easier too, for grasping what the
theory means and making use of it.
Here are the main examples of alternative terminology that Erikson
used in later works to describe the crisis stages and other aspects,
which will help you recognise and understand their meaning if you see
Erikson used the terms 'syntonic' and 'dystonic' to describe the
contrary dispositions and effects within each crisis stage - 'syntonic'
being the 'positive' first-listed factor (e.g., Trust) and 'dystonic' being
the 'negative' second-listed word (e.g., Mistrust). Again realise that a
balance between syntonic and dystonic tendencies is required for
healthy outcomes. Extreme tendency in either direction is not helpful.
Syntonic extremes equate to maladaptations. Dystonic extremes
equate to malignancies. The words syntonic and dystonic outside of
Erikson's theory have quite specific scientific medical meanings
which are not easy to equate to Erikson's essential ideas. Syntonic
conventionally refers to a high degree of emotional response to one's
environment; dystonic conventionally refers to abnormal muscular
responsiveness. See what I mean?.. neither literal definition
particularly aids understanding of Erikson's theory and as such they
are not very helpful in using the model.
Erikson later used 'Adaptive Strength' as a firm description of the
first disposition in each crisis, e.g., Trust, Autonomy, Initiative. He
used the description loosely early in his work but seems to have
settled on it as a firm heading in later work, (notably in Vital
Involvement in Old Age, 1986).
'Basic Virtues' Erikson also called 'Basic Strengths' (the word 'basic'
generally identified the single main virtue or strength that potentially
arose from each crisis, which would be accompanied by various other
Erikson (or maybe Joan Erikson) later used the term 'Antipathy' as an
alternative for 'Malignancy' (being the negative tendency towards the
second resulting from unsuccessful experience during a crisis stage).
'Sensory Distortion' was later referred to as 'Sensory Maladjustment',
being the maladaptive tendency arising at stage one (Trust v
'Impulsivity' he later changed to 'Shameless Willfulness', being the
maladaptive tendency arising at stage two (Autonomy v Shame &
Erikson generally used the simpler 'Trust v Mistrust' instead of 'Basic
Trust v Basic Mistrust' which first appeared in the 1950 model.
Erikson later refined 'Industry' to 'Industriousness'.
Erikson later referred to 'Role Confusion' as 'Identity Diffusion' and
He later referred to 'Intimacy' also as 'Intimacy and Distantiation'.
(Distantiation means the ability to bring objectivity - emotional
detachment - to personal decision-making.)
'Ego Integrity' he also simplified at times to simply 'Integrity'.
'Stagnation' was later shown alternatively as 'Self-Absorption', and
later still reverted to 'Stagnation'.
At times he extended 'Despair' to 'Despair and Disgust' (Disgust here
being a sort of 'sour grapes' reaction or rejective denial).
Erikson's psychosocial theory very powerful for self-awareness and
improvement, and for teaching and helping others.
While Erikson's model emphasises the sequential significance of the
eight character-forming crisis stages, the concept also asserts that
humans continue to change and develop throughout their lives, and
that personality is not exclusively formed during early childhood years.
This is a helpful and optimistic idea, and many believe it is realistic too.
It is certainly a view that greatly assists encouraging oneself and others
to see the future as an opportunity for positive change and
development, instead of looking back with blame and regret.
The better that people come through each crisis, the better they will
tend to deal with what lies ahead, but this is not to say that all is lost
and never to be recovered if a person has had a negative experience
during any particular crisis stage. Lessons can be revisited successfully
when they recur, if we recognise and welcome them.
Everyone can change and grow, no matter what has gone before. And as
ever, understanding why we are like we are - gaining meaningful self-
awareness - is always a useful and important step forward. Erikson's
theory, along with many other concepts featured on this website, helps
to enable this meaningful understanding and personal growth.
Erikson's psychosocial theory should be taught to everyone - especially
to school children, teachers and parents - it's certainly accessible
enough, and would greatly assist all people of all ages to understand the
connections between life experiences and human behaviour - and
particularly how grown-ups can help rather than hinder children's
development into rounded emotionally mature people.
Erikson was keen to improve the way children and young people are
taught and nurtured, and it would be appropriate for his ideas to be
more widely known and used in day-to-day life, beyond the clinical and
Hopefully this page explains Erikson's psychosocial theory in
reasonable simple terms. I'm always open to suggestions of
improvements, especially for a challenging and potent area like this
I recommend for more detail you see the wonderful materials created
by Professor George Boeree of the Shippensburg (Pennsylvania)
University Psychology Department, and specifically George Boeree's
Erikson theory explanation.
Or read any of Erikson's books - they are very accessible and rich in
ideas, and they do have a strong resonance with much of what we face
in modern life.
3.24 THE DRAMA TRIANGLE
The Drama Triangle is a model of dysfunctional social interaction,
created by psychotherapist Stephen Karpman. Each point on the
triangle represents a common and ineffective response to conflict, one
more likely to prolong disharmony than to end it.
Participants in a drama triangle create misery for themselves and
others. The goal is to transform this lose-lose situation and create a
more positive outcome for everyone.
Each player in this particular mind game begins by assuming one of
three archetypical roles: Victim, Rescuer, or Persecutor.
• Victims are helpless and hopeless. They deny responsibility for their
negative circumstances, and deny possession of the power to change
them. They do less than 50%, won’t take a stand, act “super-sensitive”,
wanting kid glove treatment, and pretend impotence and
• Rescuers are constantly applying short-term repairs to a Victim’s
problems, while neglecting their own needs. They are always working
hard to “help” other people. They are harried, tired, and often have
physical complaints. They are usually angry underneath and may be a
loud or quiet martyr in style. They use guilt to get their way.
• Persecutors blame the Victims and criticize the enabling behavior of
Rescuers, without providing guidance, assistance or a solution to the
underlying problem. They are critical and unpleasant and good at
finding fault. They often feel inadequate underneath. They control with
threats, order, and rigidity. They can be loud or quiet in style and
sometimes be a bully.
Players sometimes alternate or “switch” roles during the course of a
game. For example, a Rescuer pushed too far by a Persecutor will
switch to the role of Victim or counter-Persecutor. Victims depend on a
savior, Rescuers yearn for a basket case and Persecutors need a
While a healthy person will perform in each of these roles occasionally,
pathological role-players actively avoid leaving the familiar and
comfortable environment of the game. Thus, if no recent misfortune has
befallen them or their loved ones, they will often create one. In each
case, the drama triangle is an instrument of destruction. The only way
to “escape” the Drama Triangle is to function as an “adult” and not
participate in the game.
How the game is played
A good example of the game could be this fictitious argument between
John and Mary, a married couple. Sometimes the Rescuer’s point seems
calm and even reasonable. If the words placate, soothe, calm, explain or
justify, it can be considered a Rescuer response--it is an attempt to
move the other person from their position.
John: I can't believe you burnt dinner! That's the third time this month!
Mary: Well, little Johnny fell and skinned his knee, it burned while I was
busy getting him a bandage. (R)
John: You baby that boy too much! (P)
Mary: You wouldn't want him to get an infection, would you? I'd end up
having to take care of him while he was sick. (V)
John: He's big enough to get his own bandage. (R)
Mary: I just didn't want him bleeding all over the carpet. (R)
John: You know, that's the problem with these kids! They expect you to
do everything! (R)
Mary: That's only natural, honey, they are just young. (R)
John: I work like a dog all day at a job I hate... (V)
Mary: Yes, you do work very hard, dear. (R)
John: And I can't even sit down to a good dinner! (V)
Mary: I can cook something else, it won't take too long. (R)
John: A waste of an expensive steak! (P)
Mary: Well maybe if you could have hauled your ass out of your chair
for a minute while I was busy, it wouldn't have gotten burned! (P)
John: You didn't say anything! How was I supposed to know? (P)
Mary: As if you couldn't hear Johnny crying? You always ignore the
John: I do not, I just need time to sit and relax and unwind after
working all day! You don't know what it's like... (V)
Mary: Sure, as if taking care of the house and kids isn't WORK! (P)
Anyone reading this article could undoubtedly continue this argument
indefinitely. What is of perhaps more interest is how one can remove
oneself from the triangle, which, as the example makes clear, can be
The simplest method is the non-defensive response. This works at any
point no matter what the role the other person is taking, as it doesn't
give a cue as to the next response.
Mary: Well maybe if you could have hauled your ass out of your chair
for a minute while I was busy, it wouldn't have gotten burned! (P) John:
Yes, that's true.
Although Mary may attempt to restart the cycle by continuing to scold,
if John continues in the same vein, Mary will eventually run out of
things to say. Unless Mary is actually abusive, in which case care should
be used in employing this method, John's calm response invites
discussion rather than continued wrangling. She might realize that she
didn't ask him for help, and they might well be able to resolve the
situation by planning on a course of action should something similar
arise in the future.
It Works just as well for the victim role:
John: I do not, I just need time to sit and relax and unwind after
working all day! You don't know what it's like... (V) Mary: I'm sorry
you're feeling so tired.
This acknowledges any real problem the other person might have
without continuing the dance. Again, the other person may attempt to
restart the cycle by continuing to complain, but again, with continued
non-defensive responses, the other person will run out of things to say.
While the "rescuer" role is seemingly the least problematic of the three
points of the triangle, it still is a part of a non-communicative cycle, and
thus should be treated in the same manner.
Mary: That's only natural, honey, they are just young. (R) John: Yes,
they are young.
Once again, the cycle is broken, and John has made it clear to Mary that
he needs no further placating or assistance.
Other excellent non-defensive responses:
"Oh." "I see." "You may be right."
The Empowerment Dynamic
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Empowerment Dynamic (TED) stands as an alternative to The
Drama Triangle. The drama triangle is a psychological and social model
of human interaction in transactional analysis (TA) first described by
Stephen Karpman in 1968. The drama triangle is used in psychology
and psychotherapy to describe the insidious way in which victims,
persecutors, and rescuers get caught in a cycle that is hard to escape.
For many years, the key to escaping this triangle was thought to be
awareness plus willpower. However, there was no clear alternative to
the drama triangle. In 2005, David Emerald (aka Womeldorff)
published a short book called The Power of TED* to provide a new
model that offers an antidote to and escape from Karpman's drama
triangle. TED* involves three key roles that correspond to the roles
found in the drama triangle. In the drama triangle, the major role is
known as the Victim. The Victim is someone who sees life as happening
to them and who feels powerless to change their circumstances. Victims
place the blame for their status on a Persecutor, who can be a person or
a situation. Being powerless, the Victim seeks a Rescuer to solve the
problem for them. This dynamic is cyclical and repeats as one problem
replaces another, creating a roller-coaster effect of tension and relief in
a person's life. These roles are intrinsic to the idea of Victimhood or, as
David Emerald describes it, the Victim Orientation.
The empowerment dynamic (TED*) is goal or outcome oriented and
replaces the Drama Triangle roles as follows. In the TED* framework,
the Victim shifts into the role of Creator. The Persecutor takes on the
role of Challenger, and the Rescuer assumes the new role of Coach. A
Creator is someone who stops to think about what they want - what
their long-term goal or vision is. Creators are outcome-oriented as
opposed to problem-oriented. Problems will always occur, but instead
of acting as a Persecutor, the problem now takes on the form of
A Challenger is a person or situation that forces you to clarify your goal.
Challengers encourage us to get clearer about what it is we do want,
then focus our efforts towards moving closer to that goal. Emerald calls
this Dynamic Tension. Dynamic Tension is the difference between
current reality and the envisioned goal or outcome. By taking what
Emerald calls Baby Steps a Creator gets closer to and clearer about the
goals or outcomes they are trying to create in their lives.
The final role of the TED* triangle is that of Coach. Instead of Rescuing
someone, a Coach asks questions that are intended to help the
individual to make informed choices. A Rescuer, by definition solves a
Victim's problems, which keeps the Victim powerless and dependent
upon the aid of others. This is a form of mind-game that can be found in
Transactional Analysis. This is a self-perpetuating cycle designed to
keep the Victim down and powerless. The key differentiation between a
Rescuer and a Coach is that the Coach sees the individual as capable of
making choices and of solving their own problems. A Coach asks
questions that enable the individual to see the possibilities for positive
action, to focus on what they do want instead of what they don't want.
Coaches see victims as Creators in their own right and meet them as
equals. This process interrupts the drama cycle and puts the former
victim in the powerful position of Creator where they make informed
choices and focus on outcomes instead of problems.
Sharon Stanley, Ph.D., is a scholar-practitioner in the field of somatic
psychotherapy who describes Victimhood as a "neurological image that
is held in the brain as a biological substrate". Dr. Stanley advocates the
use of the TED* framework to help individuals connect what they feel in
their bodies to what they believe in their minds to replace old
memories of victimhood with new beliefs in their individual potential.
The Empowerment Dynamic (*TED) - was developed by David
Womeldorff, a former Executive Trainer for BankOne and a current
faculty member of the Notre Dame Mendoza School of Business where
he incorporates TED* into their MBA curriculum. He is also the co-
founder of The Bainbridge Leadership Center, keynote speaker, and
author writing under the pen name of David Emerald. TED* was first
published in 2006 as a paperback self-help book in a fable format under
the title The Power of TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic) - The Key
to Creating an Extraordinary Life
The TED* framework has been used by several city and county
governments in the US to help stop the drama in the workplace as well
as in the educational and private sectors. In 2009, the TED* framework
was approved by a state prison warden and used (citation coming
soon) by an inmate to teach other prisoners how to shift their focus
from a problem/drama based lifestyle to a choice-based life.
1. Johnson, Brian. PhilosophersNotes Modern Classics Section, page 1,
MindValley LC 2009
5. Emerald, David. The Power of TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic), pages
1-152, Polaris Publishing, 2006.
3.25 VOICE DIALOGUE
Ever feel a battle raging inside you? The part that wants to achieve
versus the lazy bum? The good guy versus the rebel? The loner versus
the attention-seeker? Or maybe your critic, inner child, ideal self and
saboteur get together to play poker once in a while. Voice Dialogue may
be the technique for you.
Voice Dialogue is the main intervention used in a modality called the
Psychology of the Selves developed by psychologists Hal and Sidra
Stone, Their theory suggests that various parts of self coexist within
each of us and determine our thoughts, behaviors and relationships
“Each of us "contains multitudes". We are made up of many selves,
identifying with some and rejecting others. This over-identification
with some selves and the loss of wholeness that comes from the
rejection of others, can create imbalances and blind spots. This work is
about embracing all the selves. This dance of the selves is an amazing
process and we see the dynamics of the world around us shift as our
internal world changes.”
Rather than making choices based on a given criteria (the most rational,
what feels right, what other people want, etc.), Voice Dialogue
encourages a discussion between the parts of self at odds with one
another. The understanding and expression of these selves helps us
increase our self-awareness and even function better within a
When would a clinician use Voice Dialogue?
When there is a sense that the client has a feeling that he or she has
different selves or parts. For example, let us say that John goes to a
party that he doesn't really feel like going to. Once there he has a few
drinks and soon he is the life of the party. In the middle of the night
when he awakens he is a bit depressed. In his session he may say
something like: "I don't understand how I get into these things. I
really didn't feeling like going and again it is as if something just
takes over and there I am again doing something I don't really feel
like doing." In a situation like this Voice Dialogue could be a very
What does is look like?
The therapist might say: "It really does sound like there are two very
different ways of being or value systems that are operating in you.
There is you the party person, the more extraverted self who
generally needs some alcohol or drug to get him going. On the other
side is a more introverted part of you trying to come out and be
heard but he seems to have less authority than the other one. How
would you feel about my talking to these two feelings or ways of
being in the world to see if this might help clarify some of the
conflict that you are describing?"
The therapist starts always with the self that is the more primary, that
leads his life in the world. For this the client actually moves over
physically to a different position and the conversation or interview
begins. When finished John would go back to the center for a
discussion of the work so far. In this, or the next session, the therapist
might have a conversation with the less developed, often totally
How does it help the client?
Listen to the underlying messages of our internal voices
Discover the hidden agreements we have made with particular
parts of ourselves and change the contracts
Make peace with all aspects of ourselves so we can develop
cooperative members of our internal team
It helps the client in three ways. First he gets to hear in a very objective
way what these different "voices" or selves have to say, what they want
and need, how they developed -- the family forces that shaped them.
Just knowing that the voices are real can be a total revelation. A woman
might say that she can't stand looking in the mirror in the morning. To
discover that she has a voice in her, the Inner Critic, that embodies all of
her self criticism can initiate a major shift in her life.
Secondly, the therapist helps to develop a new place between the
opposites, a place that can help the client hold the introversion with
one hand and the extraversion with the other. It is a new "center" of
personality that we call the Aware Ego. It is this Aware Ego Process
that can learn to embrace the vast system of opposites that live within
each of us.
The third advantage is that from this Aware Ego Process the client is in
a better position to make conscious choices. A conscious choice is one
that honors both sides of the conflict no matter which choice is actually
In your opinion what makes Voice Dialogue a cool intervention?
First of all it is way of working that is fun and alive and brings in all
kinds of different thoughts, feelings and emotions. It is impossible as a
therapist to be bored or tired doing this work. It the therapist gets
tired or bored it is because he or she has fallen into a pattern of being
overly responsible or overly mental or some primary self that limits
possibilities of enjoying the work.
Secondly there is the constant excitement of new discovery.
Discovering and separating from a primary self is like waking up from
a dream and discovering whole new worlds of possibility.
Thirdly, what you judge in the world are generally expressions of selves
in you that have been shut down or rejected over time. What a ride it is
and how relationships do change as you begin to learn how to catch
hold of these judgments.
Fourthly, how different it is to learn how to allow your own
vulnerability to live in the world of relationship. So many people look
for more meaning in their lives. Learning how to use vulnerability in a
conscious way is really the royal highway to a more deeply felt and
Published on January 28, 2010 by Ryan Howes, PhD, ABPP in In
Confrontation does not have to be negative. It is the currency of the
realm for effective coaching. Here are seven steps to help coaches
develop effective confrontation skills:
I. Listen very carefully to what the person you are coaching truly
wants to accomplish: his values, beliefs, and aspirations. This is the
foundation of authentic coaching. Take the time to truly
“What I’m hearing is you truly believe that the only way to make a
dent in your department’s productivity is to implement an effective
quality improvement program. You really want to make that
happen. Have I got that right?”
II. Intervene directly and clearly when you discover self-sabotage
(When the person is looking at things in distorted or defensive
ways that block achievement of her aspirations and goals.)
“You keep telling war stories about why TQM efforts failed in other
operations and how top managers are cynical about quality
improvement programs. I wonder if, at some level, you’re worrying
about outside reactions and are reluctant to go against the grain –
using that as an excuse for not doing what you believe in?”
III. Help the person discover the destructive nature of negative
internal self-talk or external rationalization).
“Do you realize that if you give up, you automatically forfeit your
ability to create the future that you want or the difference you want
IV. Help the person revise his interpretation of reality (ladder of
inference) to see things differently.
“Just because quality programs haven’t worked here in the past
doesn’t mean they won’t work in your operation. There are lots of
success stories from other organizations where quality programs
have been implemented at the departmental level after not taking in
other parts of the organization. You may be drawing false
V. Help her rehearse behaviors that will move toward achievement of
goals and aspirations.
“I’ll play the role of your direct subordinate who, you think, will
have a problem supporting the program. Let’s rehearse that
dialogue and come up with some ways you can get his buy in.”
VI. Stimulate action taking.
“You’ve done enough thinking and negative self-talk. It’s time to
take action. What are the two or things you can do now to get
started? Let’s list them down.”
VII. Affirm client’s efforts and teach patience with the process.
“Sounds like your meetings went about as expected. You’ve
demonstrated a lot of courage. You are walking your talk – that
must feel good. Let’s see if we can find some ways to move the
project forward another step. Rome wasn’t built overnight.”
A coachee has become a coachee because his current approach doesn't
work. Something will have to change, but nobody likes to admit he was
wrong. Help the coachee to look at change as a process of growth and
not because of failure. Make it appealing to the coachee to try a
different approach and prevent loss of face.
If that is not enough, then it may be in the coachee's best interest to
have him face what he's trying to hide. First see if the coachee can
handle a confrontation, because you don't want a countereffect that
would damage or even destroyed the carefully constructed trusting
relationship. Keep showing respect and care towards the coachee, as
he's probably not able to envisage what will happen once he lets go of
what is familiar and doesn't know if he will be successful in the new
Oh well, I don't know. I think it's best if I continue to take care of
mother. Despite everything you said, though I understood what you
meant. But still...
What would you do with all the time you would have, if you didn't
have to spend all day taking care of your mother?
I understand it's not easy to stop taking care of your mother. But
you've told me you're on the verge of a breakdown and if that
happens you will be of no use to anyone and you wouldn't be able to
take care of her anymore anyway. What would have to happen to
keep you from breaking down?
I can see it's hard for you to stop taking care of you mother.
Continuing to take care of her won't change your own situation,
which is already too much for you as it is, with your own household
as well.... What's holding you back from involving other people in the
care of your mother?
I'm fat and diets don't work, it must be something genetic.
Changing your genes is impossible, but you could learn to be
selective about what you eat?
The Art of Constructive Confrontation
An article from John Hoover Ph.D and Roger P. DiSilvestro:
Building the People who Build your Business
The memoirs of successful men and women in business, education,
medicine, science, sports, and public service are filled with tributes to
their coaches, mentors, teachers, and trusted advisors—the people who
saw more potential in them than they saw in themselves. In looking
back upon their lives and careers, people whose names have become
household words, and whose accomplishments have become legendary,
don’t attribute their achievements to luck or being well-connected.
They invariably give credit to the people who encouraged them and,
more importantly, patiently taught them the processes and disciplines
that made extraordinary achievements possible. In short, they pay
tribute to those who cared enough to confront them.
Sometimes controversial and always irreverent organizational
leadership author, lecturer, and consultant, John Hoover, PhD (How to
Work for an Idiot, Career Press 2003 & Unleashing Leadership, Career
Press 2005), has teamed up with Athlon Sports Publishing CEO, Roger
DiSilvestro, a 30-year veteran of the corporate battlefield and leading
expert in process leadership, to issue the toughest in your face
challenge to executives in years:
“Do you have what it takes to hold people accountable
for the performance they’re paid to deliver?”
If they’re not held accountable Hoover and DiSilvestro say that
leadership is failing every member of the team and the organizational
mothership that takes care of everyone. The good news is that courage
has nothing to do with it. “People cower at the thought of
confrontation,” Hoover says, “because they believe effective leaders
must be strong like bulls and as courageous as lions.” The notion that
effective leadership requires unbridled boldness is the first of many
myths Hoover and DiSilvestro explode in their new book, The Art of
Constructive Confrontation: How to Increase Accountability and
Decrease Conflict (John Wiley and Sons 2005).
According to DiSilvestro and Hoover, most supervisors, managers, and
executives have been instructed or taught by example that chewing out
a subordinate after a missed deadline or failed project is an act of
courage. The authors say not. “Chewing people out is an act of
cowardice,” DiSilvestro explains. “It means that the supervisor,
manager, or executive is afraid to accept responsibility for not
effectively confronting issues and team members early and often
enough to have positively affected the outcome.”
“People might comply with policy and/or step up production for fear of
their livelihoods,” adds Hoover. “But the increases will be temporary
and the cost and consequences of forcing compliance with threats and
intimidation increase with each negative experience.”
Although using confrontation as a constructive building block in
workplace accountability and performance doesn’t require the courage
of a lion, holding people accountable for what they are paid to do and
decreasing conflict in the process does require the resolve to faithfully
follow a specific procedure such as the “circle of confrontation” the
authors outline in their book. “Acts that appear to be courageous might
be theatrical,” says Hoover, “and may appear to save the day in
dramatic moments. But, the success of an enterprise and the internal
and external people the enterprise serves is measured in performance
over time. For that, consistent process trumps drama.”
In addition to resolve, the consistent process that is constructive
confrontation also requires surrender to systematic behaviors that
bring about successful outcomes. It’s not about beating direct reports
into submission to the leader’s will, regardless of how vaguely he or she
expresses his or her will. It’s about securing commitment to the entire
circle of confrontation.
Confrontation’s Bad Reputation
Calling confrontation, “the weakest link in executive leadership,” the
authors explain that confrontation is not synonymous with conflict,
although it is frequently mistaken for the tantrums of supervisors,
managers, and executives who reach the end of their ropes and blow up
at those around or below them on the organizational food
chain—pointing fingers, making accusations, and assigning blame. In
stark contrast to this pejorative definition of confrontation,
constructive confrontation is the intentional, deliberate, and systematic
use of confrontation as:
A facilitated dialogue that establishes a specific course
A guidance system to maintain that course
A monitoring method to make course corrections as necessary
The notion that confrontation can be constructive is news to many
leaders and their direct reports who, based on extensive experience,
equate confrontation with conflict. According to DiSilvestro and
Hoover, conflict is confused with confrontation when the latter is used
reactively instead of proactively to assign guilt rather than to recognize
and reward responsibility. When expectations are made clear and
continuously reinforced, people are more likely to stay on task.
Correspondingly, confusion and ambiguity become less likely to
contaminate team leader/team member relationships.
Action is the Key
DiSilvestro and Hoover insist that the pro-active, constructive approach
to confrontation they teach prevents the aforementioned tantrums
from ever happening in the first place by exposing and eliminating the
assumptions and ambiguities that act like landmines hidden beneath
the workplace landscape. The “weakest link” accusation further
exposes confrontation for what it is; a misunderstood and thereby
mostly ignored business concept that is not studied or properly taught
in business school curriculums or management seminars.
The authors operate under the premise that action accomplishes more
than thinking alone. The circle of confrontation (or cycle of success as
the authors sometimes refer to it) is anchored in the fact that the right
actions drive right thinking, not the other way around. “Constructive
confrontation is an easy-to-follow, three-step cycle that takes the
guesswork out of leadership,” DiSilvestro contends, “and it’s all based
Dr. Hoover cites experience dating back to Deming proving that
consistently doing the right things improves personal productivity,
organizational performance, and produces positive attitudes more than
sitting in the Yoga position and contemplating positive thoughts. “Just
thinking positively,” he laments, “won’t make things happen. In most
organizations, leadership success is measured in the ability to get
results.” Like the old saying goes, there’s a big difference between just
doing things and getting things done.
Confront or Suffer the Consequences
The case the authors make for constructive confrontation as an
intentional and deliberate leadership technique is partially based on
the inevitability of some kind of confrontation. Leaders will either
constructively confront their people about expectations at the
beginning of and throughout a project or they’ll be compelled to
confront them in a negative manner later when expectations are not
met. Like fire and water, which can save life or kill, confrontation will
improve morale and organizational performance or drive both into the
ground—depending on how it is applied. Applying confrontation
constructively is a willful act.
The lack of attention paid to confrontation during conventional
leadership development is surprising given that avoiding confrontation
inevitably leads to conflict that is manifest as outward hostility or
repressed-but-deadly resentment—neither one of which are healthy
for the people who build businesses or those whose quality of life
depends upon healthy providers of goods and services.
DiSilvestro and Hoover’s constructive confrontation is a structured,
systematic approach that they claim decreases conflict and increases
accountability by connecting the dots between what people want and
what organizations need. They call it, “emotional purpose.”
Constructive confrontation is an example of displacement theory at
work. It reduces conflict in the same way it increases accountability
through clear and well-articulated expectations, follow-up, and
recognition. These qualities force the alternatives—confused and
ambiguous expectations, lack of follow up, and unrecognized
accomplishments—out of the organization along with their negative
Circle of Confrontation
The circle of confrontation continuous cycle begins with a conversation
between a team leader and team member that leads to a mutual
commitment, including a written covenant. The covenant is then
constructively confronted on a predetermined, regular basis, in a
specific manner as agreed to in the commitment stage. The third stage
of the circle of confrontation is celebration. Everything positive that
happens is celebrated, from a mere thumbs up for compliance with the
plan to a vacation in the Bahamas as reward for executing a wildly
successful (and profitable) project. Celebration, like commitment and
confrontation, needs to be appropriate to the accomplishment. Because
expectations need to be developed realistically and kept realistic,
because conversation needs to be continuous, and confrontation needs
to be consistent and constructive…the circle of confrontation never
Constructive confrontation, as the cornerstone of a leadership system,
is an individual and organizational guidance system. Without it, proper
course corrections will be coincidental at best. Together with
commitment and celebration, constructive confrontation is a
premeditated, methodical, and systematic approach to leveling the
leadership playing field.
Constructive confrontation could be called leadership engineering. It’s a
process that can be easily learned and applied across the organization.
When targets are not hit and goals are not reached, the leader and the
team member suffer, although not necessarily in that order.
Constructive confrontation is a well-engineered process that breaks
down what needs to be done, how it needs to be done, and how often it
needs to be done in order to produce higher-profile results.
Leadership is a two-way street. Long gone are the days when leaders
could merely invoke their institutional authority to command
obedience out of their direct reports. Compliance can be commanded
through intimidation, threats, and bribery. But the compliance only
lasts as long as the last threat or bribe and the quality of the work will
always be suspect. Despite the shift toward a kinder, gentler
management style, the conversation between the career-building
leader and the person whose career is being built isn’t apologetic. The
dialogue merely shifts to the most essential issue in professional
development: the emotional purpose that drives work.
Nothing engenders a sense of ownership and propriety more than a
personal and professional commitment to the cycle of success, based
upon a sense of purpose. The sense of purpose revealed in the team
leader/team member conversation is not couched in terms of material
possessions, but in achievements that bring meaning to the achiever’s
life. Material possessions are, nonetheless, important rewards that are
strengthened when considered in the context of the joy and happiness
they will bring to the achiever’s family and significant others.
On a higher level, commitment involves recognition of and submission
to the guiding principles of the organization and its mission. Surrender
is a term that most people in Western Civilization are socialized to
avoid. It implies loss of freedom. However, career success that results
from surrender to a successful process of achievement provides the
greatest opportunity for personal and professional satisfaction and
The conversation follows a simple who, what, when, where, why, and
how script to establish the context and conditions for commitment
from the team member to the organization and the organization to the
team member. The team leader is the conduit for the organization’s end
of the bargain.
If the commitment to action isn’t cleansed of all ambiguity, the entire
agenda is likely to be derailed. Objectives must be specific, concrete
components individual team members can complete in a measurable
manner. Using the cycle of success, each team member commits to the
required actions, in real time, to achieve real results. The commitment
between team member and team leader must be realistic, complete,
and meaningful before it can be enforceable.
It’s the leader’s responsibility to identify and engineer the connection
between the individual’s emotional purpose and the resources,
rewards, and realities of the job. Each team member’s wants and needs
need to be merged with the organization’s wants and needs. Once that
merger is defined and agreed to, it needs to be written down in a
covenant and signed off on by the team member and the leader on
behalf of the organization.
This is much more than a goal-setting session. The covenant is used to
translate principles into practice. The covenant is the basis for the meat
of the process to follow. Goals are broken down into tasks, and tasks
are plotted on a time-line. The covenant covers what is to be
accomplished, and when—all in the context of the team member’s
emotional purpose and the organization’s overriding mission and
strategic agenda. Purposeful goals are broken down into the habits,
skills, and activities necessary to complete the cycle of success and
bring it back to the point where the cycle starts anew.
The who, what, when, where, why, and how script is straight forward.
But, simple doesn’t always mean easy. It’s simple to talk a good game
and then begin losing pieces of the covenant as time passes and
circumstances change. Constructive confrontation is a dynamic process.
The who, what, when, where, why, and how are discussed and then
written down, hopefully in an online format that can be sent back and
forth between the team leader and the team member. That way the
document can be revisited and revised as often as necessary to keep the
team member firing on all cylinders and operating at maximum
efficiency and effectiveness.
If enterprise leadership lacks a spine about anything, it’s the resolve to
confront. A well-crafted covenant between team leaders and team
members is only as good as the team leader’s commitment to support
each team member through consistent and constructive confrontation.
To give executives, managers, and supervisors the benefit of the doubt,
no one probably taught them how badly they are cheating themselves,
their direct reports, and their organizations as a whole, when they fail
to confront in a thoughtful, methodical, systematic, and strategic
The craft of constructive confrontation is so rare that few have seen
enough of it to adopt it through imitation. Typically, once goals and
objectives are set in most organizations, team members and team
leaders fly off in different directions, aware at some level that there will
be no follow through. Constructive confrontation is the consistent
revisiting of the skills, habits, and activities agreed to in the
commitment stage. If team leaders fail to shoulder this responsibility,
team members not only have the opportunity to disconnect from their
commitments, they have a person to blame—the leader.
Consistent and constructive confrontation is not a burden to be
endured by the leader or the team member. It’s an obligation each has
to the other. It’s also an opportunity to propel things forward and build
enthusiasm. The leader owes it to the team member to make daily,
weekly, monthly, and quarterly assessments of the team member’s
performance, just as the team member is obligated to exert the daily,
weekly, monthly, and quarterly efforts set forth in the covenant.
Constructive confrontation is about holding team members accountable
for the habits, skills, and activities they need to engage in to fulfill their
covenant. The who, what, when, where, why, and how covenant needs
to be confronted frequently so that the conversation and commitment it
is based on remain clearly defined and free of ambiguity. When the time
comes to deal with adherence, and that time comes at regular, pre-
defined intervals, there’s no reason not to couch the confrontation in
positive terms of staying on track to fulfill the emotional purpose
agreed to in the beginning.
Once-per-year performance reviews aren’t nearly enough. Daily,
weekly, and monthly constructive, confrontation is a team leader’s
most fundamental responsibility to him- or herself, team members, and
the well-being of the entire organization. Confrontation, in the form of
coaching, encouragement, and accountability is an essential tool in a
team leader’s skill set.
A crack in the leader’s commitment can cause a dam break on the part
of the team member’s commitment, and rightly so. It’s as important for
the leader to be consistent as it is important for the leader to stay
positive. The bond between team members and the team leader is
cemented by trust. Nothing builds and sustains trust more than
consistent behavior over time. A major element of the initial
conversation, commitment, and covenant is the promise made by the
leader, on behalf of the organization, to each team member. Placing a
high priority on following through on that promise is imperative to
build and sustain trust.
One common mistake made in business is taking small
accomplishments for granted. Another mistake is celebrating only
extraordinary achievements. The commitment, confrontation,
celebration process involves celebrating the devotion to daily effort as
quantified in the covenant. When loyalty and adherence to the process
are sufficiently encouraged, the major results will happen. If the
deliberate, daily activities required to achieve larger results are not
encouraged, and dwindle as a result, the larger outcomes will not be
realized, except by coincidence.
Celebrations, large and small, must be meaningful if they’re to support
and encourage ongoing loyalty to the cycle of success. As previously
mentioned, the rewards must be appropriate and resonate with the
emotional purpose upon which the team member’s personal and
professional agendas are based. Cycles of success vary, depending on
the depth and scope of the achievements being sought. Daily, weekly,
monthly, quarterly, and annual celebrations are based on successful
adherence to the disciplines required to remain consistent with the
Without celebration, commitment and confrontation are meaningless.
But, what should be celebrated? The cycle of success is predicated on
the achievement and acquisition of the things team members have
identified as the possessions, moments, and memories they seek most
in their lives. Yet, celebration starts with the smallest achievements
upon which the larger accomplishments are built. If commitment and
constructive confrontation result in successful completion of the
covenant, celebration is essential to renew the cycle.
For all but the rarest individual, completely meeting a challenge is a
new experience for which he or she is not fully prepared. Armed with
recognition for the team members’ successes, the team leader
consistently and constructively confronts each team member as she or
he guides the team member’s personal and professional growth—all of
which were included in the original covenant with an eye toward
reaching and exceeding personal and organizational objectives.
From celebration comes increased confidence and renewed
commitment as the cycle begins anew. Each new cycle of success begins
with a newly energized person as a result of how well the team leader
facilitated the team member’s growth and development through the
celebration stage. The ultimate cycle is fulfilled when the team member
is able to step up and lead another person through the process of
commitment, confrontation, and celebration.
Celebration, with its resonant rewards and recognitions, brings the
cycle of success full circle and begins the cycle anew. The place and
time to determine which rewards are most appropriate for the team
member’s success are the same time and place to determine cycle
schedules—the initial conversation, commitment, covenant stage.
Summarizing the Enterprise-Wide Solution
Constructive confrontation is not a practice reserved for leaders to
apply to subordinates. Anyone, at any level, can and should be
encouraged to engage in constructive confrontation. The conditions are
simple: (1) A commitment covenant between the parties outlines
expectations, methods, and measures. (2) All parties to the covenant
regularly confront one another in a constructive way to ensure
progress and performance are what they should be. This means peer-
to-peer confrontation as well as team member-to-team leader
confrontation. The rules and principles are the same for everybody; the
only difference being range of institutional responsibility. (3) All parties
to the covenant must celebrate the successful completion of each
designated step in the process.
One of the core concepts supervisors, managers, and executives need to
learn is that appropriate action drives right thinking, not the other way
around. Training, education, hype, and/or fear-mongering won’t
produce high-performance over time. Even when eliminating hype,
false promises, and fear-mongering in favor of positive practices like
training and education, the active follow-through of constructive
confrontation is still vital to genuine performance enhancement.
Once the three-steps of constructive confrontation are understood, the
necessary instruction and encouragement can be applied and measured
evenly across the organization.
The commitment, confrontation, celebration process is also the training
ground for succession. The greatest fulfillment in the cycle of success is
to pass on the learning to others, and prepare them to move up. When
the team member begins to mentor other team members, the way he or
she has been mentored, the cycle of success becomes and upward
spiral. If the leader keeps his or her promise to confront team members
in a positive, constructive, and consistent manner, more skilled leaders
will emerge. Not new leaders with natural charisma, but leaders who
know, understand, and respect the system that made them successful.
That’s a legacy an organization can build on. Constructive confrontation
is the gospel of growing the organization through the marriage of
human capital and organizational needs.
Systemic coaching includes a complete
sequence for human development. It
integrates systemic diagnosis,
reminiscent of Gestalt therapy, elements
of Virginia Satir's questioning, Gregory
Bateson's systemic theory, Robert Dilts'
Sleight of Mouth, Frank Farrelly's
Provocative Therapy and Victor Frankl's
Logotherapy - to provide the best in
Provocation is an integral part of systemic coaching. Properly used, it
can motivate action, challenge beliefs and help people make difficult
decisions. This page is to assist students of systemic coaching and
systemic family therapy be artfully - and heartfully - provocative.
Belief: accept that something is true or real, often with an emotional
sense of certainty
Provoke: to elicit a response; to motivate an emotion or behavior
Reality: What is left when you stop believing in it
Faith: Believing what you know is not real
Provocative coaching can quickly cut through victim games, such as:
There is nothing I can do about it
If I try to do something I will fail
I am helpless, hopeless and powerless
You don't understand how weak I am
Provocation, not sympathy, helps people find resources. Provocation
Motivate an action or reaction (Martyn Carruthers)
Help people make decisions
Awaken new perspectives (Jan Sikorski)
Get too close to the truth (Carolyn Martin)
Guidelines for Provocation
1. Build TRUST first! (Provocation without trust starts fights!)
2. Start with agreement, compliments and mini-metaphors
3. Use a gentle voice tonality (unless you want a fight)
4. Soften provocation with “Maybe…”; “Perhaps…”, etc
5. Use the person’s values ("If X is really important, ...")
6. Give a person time to assimilate your provocation
7. Use a rising “question” tonality (“You really believe that?”)
8. Incorporate verbal and non-verbal objections
9. If a person age-regresses - talk as if to a wise child
10. Repeat important provocation in different ways
11. Offer provocative choices with multiple “Maybe”
12. Be prepared to support your provocation
1. Agreement You’re right! Exactly! Of course! So true! Good!
2. Compliment That may be a good summary of your situation.
3. Empathy If I were you I might believe that too.
4. Conditional Agreement Perhaps that’s true for you.
5. Neutral Maybe we can both learn something from this.
6. Reality Check Is that always true? Is there another way to look at
7. Exaggeration Maybe this problem has never before been solved!
8. Challenge Values Maybe it’s fine for you to stay this way.
9. Doubt I want to believe you ... but something is missing…
10. Mild disagreement That may not be totally true.
11. Counter Example Another client resolved that situation by…
12. Yes + No I completely agree (as you show a non-verbal “No”)
13. Yes, but I agree, but do you think that it’s really possible?
14. Metaphor Once upon a time there was an Ugly Duck …
15. Peaceful tact I agree that a person under stress might say that…
16. Total disagreement If that is true, I can go no further with you.
17. Mentor What would <a respected person> say about this?
18. Death What would you say about this on your deathbed?
19. Authority My trainer might tell you to…
20. Return to Goalwork That’s very interesting – and what do you
Appropriate provocation can accelerate clarification and help people
laugh at their issues. It can aid insight and integration, and help
people find integrity. Creating irritation or confusion can strengthen
resistance. Marina Budimir, Croatia
Meta-Model Challenges (from NLP)
Universals All? Every? Never? Is there no other possibility?
Beliefs According to whom? Who told you that?
Mind Reading How you know what he/she/I thought?
Cause-Effect I don’t understand. How can you make them happy?
Necessities What would you do if you could change this situation?
Time How long do you want to keep believing that?
Definitions You interacted with her? What does interacted mean?
Provocation to challenge beliefs
1. Agreement: Provoke a person to mismatch their own belief
2. Counter-examples: Find examples that do not fit a belief
3. Redefine: Substitute a belief with similar meaning and different
4. Consequence: Mention some effects of keeping a belief
5. Intention: Find the purpose or intention of a belief (pleasant or
6. Decompose: Break a complex belief into pieces and evaluate each
7. Generalize: Mention a larger classification that changes the
8. Change Goal: Question relevancy and switch to an appropriate goal
9. Analogy: Find a relationship analogous to the belief, with different
10. Apply to Self: Evaluate a belief according to the defined
relationship or criteria
11. Hierarchy: Evaluate a belief with more important values
12. Frame Size: Evaluate a belief for a different time frame, group size
13. Model of Reality: Evaluate a belief from a different model
14. Reality: Evaluate a belief allowing that we define beliefs with
15. Relationships: Evaluate a belief allowing that we define beliefs for
16. Meta-frame: Evaluate a belief as one way of summarizing complex
17. Relevance: Evaluate whether a belief is relevant to a goal.
Provocation Examples for “I can’t change!”
1. Agreement: Great! Wonderful! Exactly! So true!
2. Counter-example: That’s what I said last week, but … I changed
3. Redefine: Does that only mean that you can’t change this belief?
4. Consequence: That is one way you can try to freeze reality.
5. Intention: Does that belief allow you to relax and not make any
6. Decompose: Is it only you who can’t change? What does change
mean to you?
7. Generalize: Life is change – whether you believe you can change or
8. Change Goal: That’s an interesting belief – and what do you want?
9. Analogy: You can change your mind – why not your beliefs about
10. Apply to Self: How could you see yourself so that change is easy?
11. Values: Is that the example you want to give to your children?
12. Frame Size: Maybe we all think that sometimes, even when it’s not
13. Model of Reality: Does that mean that you don’t have enough
14. Reality: If you are convinced that that is true – what is your
15. Relationships: Maybe your belief protects an important
16. Meta-frame: The world is complex and we need generalizations
that serve us…
17. Relevance: That's interesting; but how does that support your
Soulwork provocation is about consequences - not about manipulation.
Practice provocation carefully. If you practice on important people
without their consent - you might not enjoy the consequences.
What good is a belief if it does not benefit your life? (Phineas Quimby,
Mindfulness is a "hot topic" in Western psychology right now -
increasingly recognised as a powerful therapeutic intervention for
everything from work stress to depression - and also as an effective
tool for increasing emotional intelligence. Acceptance and Commitment
Therapy (ACT) is a powerful mindfulness-based therapy (and coaching
model) which currently leads the field in terms of research, application
Mindfulness is a mental state of awareness, focus and openness - which
allows you to engage fully in what you are doing at any moment. In a
state of mindfulness, difficult thoughts and feelings have much less
impact and influence over you - so it is hugely useful for everything
from full-blown psychiatric illness to enhancing athletic or business
Mindfulness in coaching is equally important to coach and coachee,
because it helps him them to establish a positive, open, and acceptive
relationship based on trust and respect,
Acceptance and Commitment Training (ACT) programs offer a vast
range of tools to learn mindfulness skills - many of which require only a
few minutes to master. They break mindfulness skills down into 3
1) defusion: distancing from, and letting go of, unhelpful thoughts,
beliefs and memories
2) acceptance: making room for painful feelings, urges and sensations,
and allowing them to come and go without a struggle
3) contact with the present moment: engaging fully with your here-
and-now experience, with an attitude of openness and curiosity .
These 3 skills require you to use an aspect of yourself for which no
word exists in common everyday language. It is the part of you that is
capable of awareness and attention. And is sometimes described as
'observing self'’ or ‘pure awareness’.
We can talk about 'self' in many ways, but in common everyday
language we talk mainly about the 'physical self' - your body - and the
'thinking self' - your mind. The 'observing self' is the part of you that is
able to observe both your physical self and your thinking self. Being
mindful is 'pure awareness' in the sense that it refers to the part of us
that is aware of everything else: aware of every thought, every feeling,
everything you see, hear, touch, taste, smell, and do.
PSYCHOLOGICAL FLEXIBILITY & THE SIX CORE PROCESSES OF ACT
There are six core processes in ACT:
1. Contacting The Present Moment means being psychologically
present: consciously connecting with whatever is happening right
here, right now.
2. Defusion means learning to step back or detach from unhelpful
thoughts and worries and memories: instead of getting caught up in
your thoughts, or pushed around by them, or struggling to get rid of
them, you learn how to let them come and go - as if they were just
cars driving past outside your house. You learn how to step back
and watch your thinking, so you can respond effectively - instead of
getting tangled up or lost inside your thinking.
3. Acceptance means opening up and making room for painful feelings
and sensations. You learn how to drop the struggle with them, give
them some breathing space, and let them be there without getting
all caught up in them, or overwhelmed by them; the more you can
open up, and give them room to move, the easier it is for your
feelings to come and go without draining you or holding you back.
4. The Observing Self is the part of you that is responsible for
awareness and attention. We don't have a word for it in common
everyday language - we normally just talk about the "mind'. But
there are two parts to the mind: the thinking self - i.e. the part that
is always thinking; the part that is responsible for all your thoughts,
beliefs, memories, judgments, fantasies etc. And then there's the
observing self - the part of your mind that is able to be aware of
whatever you are thinking or feeling or doing at any moment.
Without it, you couldn't develop those mindfulness skills. And the
more you practice those mindfulness skills, the more you'll become
aware of this part of your mind, and able to access it when you need
it. (The technical term for this, in ACT, is 'self-as-context'.)
5. Values are what you want your life to be about, deep in your heart.
What you want to stand for. What you want to do with your time on
this planet. What ultimately matters to you in the big picture. What
you would like to be remembered for by the people you love.
6. Committed action means taking action guided by your values -
doing what matters - even if it's difficult or uncomfortable.
When you put all these things together, you develop 'psychological'
flexibility. This is the ability to be in the present moment, with
awareness and openness, and take action, guided by your values. In
other words, it's the ability to be present, open up, and do what
matters. The greater your ability to be present, open up and do what
matters, the greater your quality of life - the greater your sense of
vitality, wellbeing and fulfillment.
Definitions of Mindfulness
"Bringing one's complete attention to the present experience on a
moment-to-moment basis." (Marlatt & Kristeller)
"Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present
moment, and non-judgmentally." (Kabat-Zinn).
"The non-judgmental observation of the ongoing stream of internal and
external stimuli as they arise." (Baer)
"Awareness of present experience with acceptance." (Germer, Segal,
My own personal definition is: "Paying attention with openness,
curiosity and flexibility."
The Benefits of Mindfulness
Practising mindfulness helps you:
to be fully present, here and now
to experience unpleasant thoughts and feelings safely
to become aware of what you're avoiding
to become more connected to yourself, to others and to the world
to become less judgmental
to increase self-awareness
to become less disturbed by and less reactive to unpleasant
to learn the distinction between you and your thoughts
to have more direct contact with the world, rather than living
through your thoughts
to learn that everything changes; that thoughts and feelings come
and go like the weather
to have more balance, less emotional volatility
to experience more calm and peacefulness
to develop self-acceptance and self-compassion
Mindfulness and Psychotherapy
Mindfulness training has emerged as a powerful, evidence-based tool
for enhancing psychological health. It is empirically supported as an
effective intervention in a wide range of clinical disorders, including
chronic pain, anxiety disorders, depression, PTSD, OCD, substance
abuse, and borderline personality disorder.
The 'third wave' of behavioural therapies started in the late eighties
with Acceptance & Commitment Therapy, and now includes therapies
such as Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) and Mindfulness-Based
Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). These 'third wave' therapies all emphasise
mindfulness as a core principle in undermining destructive cognitive,
emotional and behavioural patterns. Since the first publications in
1984, ACT has seen more published studies, more randomised
controlled studies, and more participants in outcome studies than DBT,
MBCT, or any of the other 'Third Wave Therapies'.
The Benefits of Mindfulness for Therapists & Coaches
Facilitates empathy, compassion, and unconditional positive regard.
Allows you to stay focused and present, even when your client is
Helps you stay grounded, centred and composed, even in the midst
of clients' emotional turmoil
Enables a healthy attitude to therapeutic outcomes: neither
complacent nor overly-attached.
Helps you maintain direction and focus for therapy.
Increases your skills at observing your clients' responses.
Some Mindfulness Techniques
In his blog “Difficult Emotions: One Approach You’ll Want to Try,” Dr.
In the mindfulness circles the acronym R.A.I.N has floated around to
support people in dealing with difficult emotions. It has been found in
Tara Brach’s book Radical Acceptance, Jack Kornfield has said it, and
you will find it the upcoming Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
Workbook that I have co-authored with Bob Stahl, Ph.D (February,
2010). Here is a sneak peek:
“R” is to recognize when a strong emotion is present. “A” is to allow or
acknowledge that it is indeed there. “I” is to investigate and bring self-
inquiry to the body, feelings, and mind, and “N” is to non-identify with
what’s there. This non-identification is very useful in that it helps to
deflate the story and cultivates wise understanding in the recognition
that the emotion is just another passing mind state and not a definition
of who you are. Just like seeing a movie, standing back and watching the
actors play out their dramas, by non-identifying with your story and
seeing it as impermanent, this will help assist in loosening your own
tight grip of identification. Utilizing R.A.I. N. as a practice can help you
bring space to be with things as they are and grow in deeper
understanding of what drives, underlies or fuels our fears, anger, and
Turning into our emotions can feel a bit foreign since most of us live in
such a pain denying culture. Isn’t it time to begin acknowledging stress,
anxiety or pain rather than suppressing, repressing, or all-too-quickly
medicating it? Can we learn to view these challenges as a rite of passage
instead of running away from them?
Another tip to weave mindfulness into your daily schedule: before
work, during lunch, before you walk into your home in the evening, or
after you get the kids to bed at night. Writes Goldstein in his post
“Stress Got You Down?”:
Creating space to come down from the worried mind and back into the
present moment has been shown to be enormously helpful to people.
When we are present we have a firmer grasp of all our options and
resources which often make us feel better. Next time you find your
mind racing with stress, try the acronym S.T.O.P.:
S - Stop what you are doing, put things down for a minute.
T - Take a breath. Breathe normally and naturally and follow your
breath coming in and of your nose. You can even say to yourself “in” as
you’re breathing in and “out” as you’re breathing out if that helps with
O - Observe your thoughts, feelings, and emotions. You can reflect about
what is on your mind and also notice that thoughts are not facts and
they are not permanent. If the thought arises that you are inadequate,
just notice the thought, let it be, and continue on. Notice any emotions
that are there and just name them. Recent research out of UCLA says
that just naming your emotions can have a calming effect. Then notice
your body. Are you standing or sitting? How is your posture? Any aches
P - Proceed with something that will support you in the moment.
Whether that is talking to a friend or just rubbing your shoulders.
Walking is an easy way to incorporate mindfulness into your day. Heck,
even walking to the frig to grab some milk provides 60 seconds of
reflection time. So why not squeeze out the mindfulness potential? In
his post, “4 Ways to Walk (Mindfully) into Mental Health” Dr. Goldstein
lists four ways we can apply the simple act of walking to mindfulness.
Appreciation - If you are fortunate enough to have the ability to walk,
try and remember, it took you over a year to learn how to walk and
these legs are often the unsung heroes that take you to and fro day in
and day out. Thank your legs for all their efforts.
Grounding - Bring your attention to the sensations of your feet and legs
as the heel touches the ground, then the base of the foot, then the toes,
and then they lift. You can actually say to yourself, “heel, foot, toes, lift.”
This is a way to connect to the action of walking in the present moment.
Open Awareness - Walk slightly slower and begin to open your
awareness to all your senses one by one. Sight, sound, taste, feeling,
smell. See what is around you, listen to the sounds, taste the air or
whatever is in your mouth, feel the warmth, coolness, or breeze on your
cheeks, smell the air. Then stop for a moment and see if you can take in
all of the senses.
Mantra - As I mentioned in an earlier blog, you can also recite some
sayings while taking a few steps. For example, take a few steps and
during an in breath say to yourself, “breathing in, I have arrived,
breathing out, I am home” or “breathing in, I calm my body, breathing
out, I relax”. Or make up your own sayings.
I actually use this one a lot. Because when the kids were young, my time
in the shower was, honest to God, the only time I had to myself. So I was
not so green and blasted the hot water for a good five to minutes,
pretending I was under a tropical waterfall in Hawaii. In his post, “Turn
on the Shower and Reduce Your Stress Today,” Dr. Goldstein writes:
What would happen if instead of thinking about all the plans you had to
catch up on while you were in the shower, you took a pause, and then
brought your nose to the smell of the soap…and again, just exploring
the scent of it with your nose… What would happen if you then brought
your attention to just feeling the sensation of the warm water against
your skin and the feeling of goose bumps that might be there from the
contrast of coming in from the cold? Oh… then the mind drifts back
again about who you need to call at work, why are you doing this stupid
practice, the upcoming meetings, when you need to pick up your kids,
what you need to buy for dinner, as you begin to speed up and the
tension mounts. What would happen if you noticed this, said to yourself
“there goes my mind again”, and then brought your attention back into
the shower where you were right now. How might your experience be
different? How might your mood be different when getting out of the
shower? Would you be more or less reactive with your family,
roommates, or whoever you came in contact with next?
Through coaching, coachees aim to achieve real changes in their
personal life. A good coach will therefore always search for ways to
help the coachee make the best use of interesting conversation items
and ideas that surfaced during the coaching session.
Homework is a valuable activating element of the coaching process,
which keeps coachees commited to their goals outside the limited time
of coaching sessions, motivates them to reflect on particular issues and
encourages them to experiment new behaviour.
Homework may contribute considerabely to the progress, quality and
level of success of the coaching process.
Some examples of homework are:
- Find examples of people who do something you respect and are
attracted to for a living.
- Observe feelings of anger. Physical and emotional. Write it down.
- Make a sign by bed, on a cell phone display, or in car that says:
“What am I angry about?”
- Call Matthew every day for 30 seconds or less, anytime 24/7 and
leave a message reciting your declaration of self.
- Fill in the “blanks” in this sentence: “I am the blank that blanks.” –
e.g.: “I am the communicator that helps humanity.”
- Other examples of homework include reading, listening to an
educational tape, tracking one's use of time, trying a new approach
to communicating with a co-worker, etc.
Apparently laughter is the best medicine, although I’m guessing if
somebody ran into the back of your car and you’ve got severe whiplash,
you’re better to avoid laughter altogether and rely on a neck brace.
Yet, I do encourage the