Article by Dr.L.Michael Hall and Mr Shawn Dwyer 

While the coronavirus (covid-19) is a new and unknown medical problem, and like the flu and other viruses, it is to be dealt with intelligently. The real pandemic that we’re facing today, however, is the pandemic of fear.
What we know today is that the great majority of people who will catch the virus will recover. That’s been the case in China.

Pandemic and Fear

The real pandemic is not even fear. Fear is a good healthy emotion when there is something truly threatening and dangerous. Fear motivates us to take precautions. In this case, washing hands regularly, social distancing, staying healthy, etc. Fear, however, becomes unhealthy when it is unrealistic and exaggerated. And fear becomes toxic and dangerous when we are fearing fear. With healthy fear, the energy that the emotion of fear evokes gives you something to do – a way of directing your energies to do what you can.

With unhealthy fear, the energy that is evoked has nowhere to go except to your mind, your emotions, and your body. You become fearful of yourself, your experience, and all sorts of concepts- like the future. This is what has been happening- mostly thanks to the media who puts it front and center 24/7. People are fearful of what the coronavirus means, or could mean, and that has led to a lot of panicking. It has led to runs on goods at grocery stores, the sell-off of the markets on Wall Street, cancellations on traveling, non-medical people wearing masks (which does nothing), etc.

The Meta-Problems we Create

What happens when you fear fear, when you become fearful, anxious, worried, and apprehensive about what could happen? You enter into a trance state of fear which then enables you to see fearful dangers and threats everywhere. You color your perspective with a dark fear that makes you imagine the worst, feel paranoid, and invent conspiracy theories. With the feeling of fear driving your psychology, you exaggerate real problems, personalize the danger, forget the actual statistics, awfulize, and develop a dark tunnel vision. All of that, in turn, creates psycho-somatic problems- headaches, ulcers, asthma, etc.

We have nothing to fear but fear itself

The panicking that happened during the Great Depression led Franklin D. Roosevelt to utter the famous words, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” He made that statement in his inaugural statement in 1933 as he also described the problem with unreasonable fear.

“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is … fear itself- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and of vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. And I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.”

While realistic fear can be healthy and useful, unrealistic fear generates self-created problems. Then, as people panic- the panic itself gives people yet one more thing to fear. Investors, fearing the financial panicking, themselves panic which then amplifies the panicking. Like little children imagining the shadows are monsters hiding in the closet- so we are creating all sorts of monsters which only amplifies the panic of fear. Add partisan politics to the mix as many are doing, and you have a perform storm of panic about panicking.

What’s a better approach? 

Remind yourself of the statistics-80% will recover quickly, 20% will have some complications, and the 2% with immunity-deficiency, respiratory problem will die.

           Stay calm and cool, prepare, don’t panic.

           Don’t empty the shelves at the grocery store.

           Wash hands regularly.

           Eat lots of fruits and vegetables for the required nutriments.

           Realize that this too will pass.

           If you’re under 60 and no underlying health problems – go for a trip.

Set aside a 3 to 6-months emergency fund so you can easily handle the lack of employment for that period of time. (See Inside-Out Wealth).

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Article by Dr.L.Michael Hall and Mr Shawn Dwyer  ~  

Complete What We Start

Setting goals is one thing, completing them is another. Success often depends more upon persistently staying with a goal than starting. In that way, when things get tough, you persevere and complete what you started.

That’s not easy, yet it is more often than not, the key. How many times do you quit because it’s taking longer than you thought?  It’s harder than you thought?  It is requiring more time, energy, effort, money, etc. than you thought?  It is creating unintended consequences that you didn’t expect?

This speaks about planning

Being able to forecast by thinking things through and anticipating what may be difficult to anticipate. Obvious when you start, you want to complete what you started. If you have set some visionary 2020 goals, they reflect your highest values, especially your being values, then-of course, you want to see them through. You want to complete them and reach your objective. Why start something if you don’t plan to complete it? What would be the value of starting something which you later give up on and not complete it? If it comes to naught, if it dies out due to lack of resources, if it peters out due to factors that you did not plan for- how much time and energy and effort, etc. did you waste?

Let’s now assume you have done an excellent job in setting the goal, you have made sure it fits your values, and that it’s ecological. It deserves to be completed. The challenge with completing what you start is that there are so many factors that can interrupt, slow down, and disrupt the goals that you set.

And further, you cannot even anticipate all of them.

Those that you can anticipate, you can build Plan B and Plan C into your plan. That’s part of risk management. This is the famous Question #14 in the WFO questions, “What could stop you?” Here you consider the many possible things that could go wrong and the problems that could arise. Here you identify what would happen under those conditions.  In that way, you put at risk what is reasonable and appropriate and no more.  In that way, you protect yourself at risking what’s crucial.

What you cannot anticipate, those Black Swam events that can arise which no one considered even possible.  911 was such an event. Until then, terrorists had always hyjacked planes and used them to negotiate for whatever they wanted.  Who would have thought using the plane itself as a bomb? Obviously, we cannot humanly anticipate everything.

Accepting that, what then? What resources will you need to complete what you have started?  Resources -keep your intentionality strong and fresh by renewing your biggest reason why. Then develop an overall flexibility and build an inner sense of “bounce” within you so that whatever happens, you have the inner capability of resilience.  Resilience is the practical expression of being flexible and adaptable, able to keep thinking, learning, and adjusting in the moment.


Resilience means that when you are knocked down or when you suffer a set-back- you land on your feet. What this implies is something truly powerful.  It implies that you do not let a trauma traumatize you. Now, is that possible? Is that just for the super-human or can any man or woman learn that? What makes that possible for anyone, for you and for me, is that whatever event occurs, it is just that-an event. What you do with that event in your mind and emotions is an entirely different thing. 

Here you have choice.

And the choice goes to your thinking. What kind of thinking are you doing about the event? If you use the thinking patterns of childhood, what is called the Cognitive Distortions, you will make yourself miserable. That’s because by those thinking patterns you will make yourself a victim of the event. You will over-generalize it, jump to conclusions, put it in an either-or framework, personalize it, awfulize it, emotionalize it, etc. No wonder you will come out the other end feeling like a victim.

Because the choice always goes to your thinking

When you engage the highest levels of your brain functioning, your executive pre-frontal cortex, and engage in executive thinking, you can refuse to turn the event into a trauma. Ultimately, your experience, your resilience, your ability to stay flexible is a function of the meanings that you give to the event. Oprah did that when she was raped as a child. Frankl did that when he was forced into a Nazi concentration camp. The meanings you give determine the life you live. The meanings you give and the thinking that you engage in determines how you can complete what you start.

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making it count
Mis-Use Coaching

Article by Dr.L.Michael Hall and Mr Shawn Dwyer  

When it comes to doing something right and/or muddling something up, there are many, many more ways to muddle something than there are ways to do something correctly. Mis-use coaching. That’s the way reality is set up. Do you understand why it is that way? Gregory Bateson entertained that question from his daughter in one of the metalogues. On that occasion he offered this explanation. There are lots of ways to mess up your bed, there’s only one basic way that it is properly “made.”

Similarly we can say that it is easier to mess up the Well-Formed Outcome Questions than to ask them correctly. There are many ways to mess them up, and only one or a few ways of asking them correctly. In the following, the proper way to ask the question is in bold. The questions under them are actual attempts at asking the question which I’ve heard.  Some are funny, some are ridiculous, some are redundant, some are boring. While supervising coaching sessions, I have often stopped the coach and asked, “Are you trying to ask question x?”  When I get a yes, I said, “And what is that question?”

If you ask it wrong, you will probably get wrong or at best, unuseful information.

A common problem is losing track of the subject. You begin with one thing and it slowly shifts to something else so that the later questions are on a different subject. That’s failing to hold the frame.


1) What do you want?            

Wrong: What do you want to talk about?  So, what’s up with you these days?

What issue would you like to talk about?  So what’s your problem?

2) What will you see or hear when you get what you want? [For tangible objectives]

Wrong: What does that belief look like?  What will you hear when you reach that level of fitness?  So what will be your emotional state?

3) Why is it important to achieve that? 

Wrong: So, why do you want that?  Why did you do that?  Why are you that way?


4) When do you want to achieve this outcome?

Wrong: When will you start this?  When could you begin?  When does this occur?

5) Where will this goal occur?

Wrong: Where do you want to be a better parent?  When you are at the gym, where do you want to do this? [Redundant]. 

6) With whom will you do this, if anyone?

Wrong: Who is involved in this?  Will they need to sell this to?  Who will your parenting be for?  Who can help you with this?


7) What do you have to do to get what you want?

Wrong: Do you know how to do this?  Can you do that?  How will you reach your goal?

Client says “I don’t know what to do?”  Wrong next question: “Okay, so how do you do X?”  Do you think you can do that?


8) Is this goal within your area of control?  Can you initiate this action and sustain it?

Wrong: Are you powerful enough to do this?  Can you control this?  How much control will you need to do this? 

If given a “no” answer, “Well, would you like to try it anyway?”

9) Can you? Do you have the skill or the capacity for doing this?  If yes, what?                  

Wrong: What skills will you need to do this?

10) Have you ever done this before or something like it before?  If yes, when?

Wrong: When have you done this before?  When have you solved this before?


11) How many things do you have to do?  Are there steps and stages in reaching this goal?

Wrong: How many steps are in your plan? Are you aware that there are 3 steps to X?

12) Do you need or have a plan or strategy?  If yes, how do you best like to plan?           

Wrong: So what’s your plan?  How much of a plan have you got so far?

13) How will you monitor your progress?  What milestones will you set up in your plan?

Wrong: Have you ever monitored a plan?


14) What, if anything, could stop you?

Wrong: What problems do you see with the plan?  When would something stop you?  What will probably stop you?

15) Do you have the external resources?  Do you have the internal resource you need?

Wrong: How many internal or external resources do you have?  How do you feel about those resources?

16) Is it ecological, holistic, and realistic?

Wrong: So it’s good for you to do this?


3) Is it still compelling and attractive?          

Wrong: How compelling is your goal from 0 to 10?

17) Are you going to do this?  Are you ready to make a commitment to this goal?

Wrong: When will you make a decision about this?  How do you feel about that decision?

18) How will you know you have achieved it?  What evidence would convinced you’ve of success?” 

Wrong: How will you know you’re done?  Are we done now?  Can I go home now?

If you are frequently asking these questions and would like to understand how to more effectively communicate, contact Shawn and have a chat on how we can support your best performances

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Article by Dr.L.Michael Hall and Mr Shawn Dwyer  ~


Because meaning is constantly changing, as I noted in the last post, it is unstable. Being unstable, meaning and the construction of meaning allows you to form, unform, and reform it. Meaning is co-created between you as a Meta-Coach and your client engages in the coaching conversation. Because of this, you discover it. Yet it is not discovered in the sense that you happen upon it and, Eureka! you found it, as if it were a thing. It’s not
like that. Meaning is discovered in that you and your client discover your meanings and each other’s meanings in the process of the conversation.

The same thing happens to writers.

As a writer I am often discovering meaning- what I mean and the meaning of my own words- in the very act of writing. I discover what I mean by writing and as I write. I know that sounds strange. But sometimes when I am trying to articulate an idea, I begin writing, then in the process I discover another idea, or an idea that had been on the edge of my consciousness, an idea that I had never fully “thought” before. In this, writing for me is often like a living conversation, as I imagine my readers and consider their thinking,
perspectives, needs, etc. ideas emerge in the process of writing.

It happens similarly to readers.

For the reader, meaning is forever being delayed. You are always waiting for the next word to make sense of the previous. Steve de Shazer wrote that meaning is deferred in reading because understanding itself is an emergent property which arises through a cumulative process. As a reader, it is natural and inevitable that I often create misunderstandings in my mind. Read anything new to you, foreign, challenging, and it will happen to you. Yet by embracing your misunderstandings and continue to read, you will slowly find those
misunderstandings being corrected and new understandings developing. 

Coaching Conversation

And while the ongoing development of meaning happens in both reading and writing, it happens much, much more often in a coaching conversation.
Because the conversation is so dynamic and because we both are trying to understand the client’s wants, desires, hopes, fears, needs, values, etc., the conversation is a joint search for discovery. The way language works in the conversation is one of experimenting with possibilities, testing out hypothesis, experimenting with another possibility, etc. The questions and answers going back and forth co-create the direction that we go and the
areas we explore. 

You coach not only to meaning, but for meaning- to discover and/or to create

The coaching conversation is also both personally intimate and at the same time, a social event. It is inter-communication and inter-action between the players.  If as a coach, you momentarily pretend that you are not part of the conversation., what happens to you? What happens to the other person? Does it not sabotage the entire effort? As a social event, the coaching conversation provides a crucible place where new and exciting
meanings can develop in the dialogue. It is from that crucible that meaning emerges. So welcome the exploratory discovering of meaning that you and your client are engaged in. Give up any and all illusions that you are supposed to know all the answers. You don’t and you won’t. You are an explorer in another’s reality. As you have been invited in, you have the privilege of being a co-creator.

Where To Find Meaning

We order our phenomenal world of meaning with language in all of its forms (linguistics, gestures, movement, kinesthetics, etc.). That’s why we have to look inside, behind, beneath, and within language to discover a person’s meanings. Yet in this there is a tricky element. That’s because words themselves do not mean, people mean. Words do not have strict and precise meaning definitions. Instead they are mired in and dependent upon contexts. It is context as a semantic field which often determine meaning.

Next time you coach, consider how long it takes you to truly come to understand your client’s meanings. Consider also how that the very process of seeking to discover this meaning enables your client to also discover his meaning. Notice how that this discovery process is itself an intervention even though we don’t call it an intervention. Finally, notice how in the discovery process the meaning is or becomes more fluid and unstable and because of that, transformation becomes more likely.

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critical thinking and communicating

Article by Dr.L.Michael Hall and Mr Shawn Dwyer  ~

Here are core distinctions of every professional communicator. Given that mastery involves making critical distinctions, how well do you make the following seven critical distinctions? 

1) Map and Territory                   2) Person and Behavior

3) Meaning and Response          4) Sensory and Evaluation information

5) Frame and Feeling                   6) Advocacy and Inquiry 

7) Current and Desired state

I began this series of articles by identifying these set of communication distinctions. You can think of each of those distinctions as presenting one aspect of critical thinking-a distinction which if you ignore, or don’t know how to make, would doom your communications to be vague, imprecise, and sloppy. Consequently, you would be more likely to create mis-understanding rather than deliver a clear message.

That’s why critical thinking is important

It enables you to be more precise and with precision, therefore clear. It also enables your communications to be more mature rather than over-simplistic, naive, and childish. Given the cognitive development stages of childhood, children cannot engage in critical thinking. Only after puberty, with the development of formal logical thinking, can a person’s thinking mature enough to begin to learn how to think critically. Yet even then it does not automatically happen and that’s why many adults (perhaps most) do not know how to engage in the advanced thinking competencies called “critical thinking.”

One of the fascinating and disappointing things I learned when I researched the field of Critical Thinking was that not a single writer in that field knew or quoted the NLP Communication Model – the Meta-Model. And yet it is perhaps the very best critical thinking tool of all. Having read extensively in that field, I never came across a model that was half as good as the Meta-Model. That’s why I put the Meta-Model in the book, Executive Thinking (2018).

Messy Communication

It is the lack of critical thinking that makes most communication messy and lacking important distinctions. So that lack also makes for a whole host of ways to mis-communicate and, of course, with mis-communication comes mis-understandings and conflicts. All unnecessary if a person knows how to think and communicate critically.

The original Meta-Model (1975) provided eleven (11) distinctions to make when using language to communicate. The extended Meta-Model (1997) expanded the list to twenty-one (21) distinctions- all of which enable critical thinking and precision in communicating. As a result, when you learn how to use the Meta-Model, you learn how to think about your thinking while you are communicating. Futhermore, today we call that level of meta-cognition- mindfulness.


That quality of mindfulness is a function of your higher brain functions, your pre-frontal cortex. It is from there that you are able to think things through with a quality of precision and specificity that comprises understanding and clarity. That quality of mindfulness enables you to know what you are doing with your words, your language, where you are sending the brains of those who are listening to you. When you don’t know that- you are guessing. You are crossing your fingers and hoping and guessing that your words will make sense to others and will transmit whatever message or meaning you have in mind.

The critical thinking, or perhaps more accurate, the executive thinking of your pre-frontal cortex, enables you to be mindful about what you are doing when you speak. Hence you can be more strategic. Now you can treat words and language as tools for achieving your ends. Now you can use the communication distinctions mentioned earlier to help you navigate the territory of communicating as a professional.

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