All politicians all do it. At least, I can’t think of a single politician who doesn’t do it. Yet in name-calling, they are actually practicing a very primitive form of thinking. Rather it is one that is appropriate for a seven-year old or maybe a 13-year old, but not for an adult. Actually, it is a form of pseudo-thinking that shuts down healthy thinking.
Now there’s a particular kind of name-calling that Donald Trump does. I never liked it, yet it was often funny, and sometimes incredibly entertaining. And what would you expect from a successful TV entertainer and producer (The Apprentice) or from a successful business man who knows how to establish a brand (the Trump Brand)? Mostly during the campaign, he gave names to his opponents, names that typically stuck: lying Ted, crooked Hillary, Pocahontas, etc. This simple kind of name-calling strikes me as what young children do, sometimes for play, sometimes to torment other children. And it also stops thinking. Hence once you label someone in that way, the conversation is over.
Name Calling With Judgment- A Fact Or Only Fiction
A more insidious form of name-calling is making a judgment about someone and then presenting that judgment as if it was a fact. As a result this is what many of the Democrats do in response to Trump. They make a judgment that he is unfit to be president or is mentally deranged or something else and then they use those terms to describe him. While it is also name-calling, it is more hidden. Once they describe him with their judgment terms they do not own that it is their judgment. They try to sneak it in as a fact.
Much as this form of name-calling confuses two levels of information- descriptive and evaluative. Yet when a person cannot make this distinction, that person can never be a professional communicator. Also you can find that statement over and over in the early NLP literature and it was made to introduce the importance of sorting out what is sensory-based (see, hear, feel, etc.) as a description. A description that is empirical versus those that are evaluative based. The first set of descriptions use the sensory predicates.
The second set use the Meta-Model distinctions that are ill-formed– unspecified nouns and verbs, nominalizations, lost performatives, universal quantifiers, etc.
Descriptive Language Predicates
Descriptive language can be immediately tested because it is empirical and available to your eyes and ears. Evaluative language cannot be seen or heard. And it is an evaluation by someone using some values, criteria, and standards. So when you use evaluative language, you are engaged in a high-level and subtle form of name-calling. “You are rude.” “She is very gracious.” “He is hateful.” “She is a racist.” “They are blind to their prejudices.”
And all of that is just name-calling. Hence it is using and imposing evaluative judgments on someone. All that it accomplishes is to prejudice people against someone that the person doesn’t like. To the question as to why someone thinks, say, or does what they do, this is the answer. Consequently it gives people an answer and thereby enables them to stop thinking. It fallaciously “explains” the person’s actions that they dislike. So this kind of name-calling offers a false answer that shuts down further inquiry.
The word (as a map) is then assumed to be the real thing (the territory). It is as if the word is the reality. In addition, the strange thing about this is that if the person reacts to this name-calling by vehemently reacting- that very reaction then encourages more name-calling. Whilst the reactiveness fuels the person doing the name-calling because it works in that if it galls the person, upsets him, and “gets” him.
So it is stereotypical thinking that feeds name-calling. We make a judgment about someone based on a stereotype about some classification assuming that “everybody in the class is essentially the same.” Furthermore, that stops any fresh thinking that considers the person based on his or her uniqueness. Malcolm Gladwell spoke of this in his book, Blink (2005) by quoting psychologist Keith Payne:
“When we make a split-second decision, we are really vulnerable to being guided by our stereotypes and prejudices, even ones we may not necessarily endorse or believe. (P. 223)
Therefore this map-territory confusion can seem “magical.” Because we don’t question the name calling, we take it as real. It is a negative form of reframing.
While reframing puts a positive spin and meaning on what we would normally find challenging, name-calling puts a negative spin and meaning on what we might otherwise value. In this way, name-calling creates dis-value as it attempts to set a negative anchor.
Finally, the next time you hear name-calling, whether it is overtly in the way Trump does it or more covertly as others do it- remember it is designed to stop thinking and to make robust inquisitive thinking in short supply.
When you coach, there are a few basics that you want to know. The starting point is always, “What do you want?” To make sure the answer is relevant and important, you want to know “Why is that important to you?” Then to make sure it is grounded in reality, you want to know when and where the person wants it. From there you will want to know if the person knows what to do. “Do you know what to do to get what you want?” If the person does not, that’s great! It means that you, as a Meta-Coach, have a job! Now you get to earn your fee. Let there now be a chorus of hallelujah!
Now along the way, you will be identifying blocks and interferences. “So what stops you? Could anything stop you from getting what you want?” There usually are blocks. If the person says “no, there’s nothing to stop me,”
then look confused, scratch your head, shift around in your chair, pause …
Then look your client in the eye and ask:
“So if nothing stops you … then why are you not out there doing what needs to be done to get what you want? Why are you sitting in my coaching chair?”
Usually the person will now start to get real with you. This makes, “What stops you?”, a truly great question. But you have to work it. Sometimes you have to repeat it several times. And when they tell you what stops them, don’t just buy it on first hearing. They are most likely to give you a list of superficial excuses. Question them. “That stops you?” “How does that stop you?” “How much does that stop you?”
Two Things To Distinguish – Get The Assumptions!
At this point you are going to hear two kinds of things that your client asserts which stop him. You are going to hear facts of the world and you are going to hear internal beliefs and assumptions. The “facts” are actually the real life factors that will occur, or could occur, that you’ll have to deal with. These are actually not what’s stopping a person. A person may use them to excuse themselves from acting. Yet the fact that others act, and do not let these things stop them, show that these are not the actual interferences.
I don’t have enough money for this (or time, personnel, energy, etc.).
Because they will (or could) laugh, say no, reject me, think I’m stupid, etc.
Since the project could fail, be difficult, take longer than expected, etc.
The internal beliefs, assumptions and frames are what’s actually stopping, blocking, and interfering the realization of the goal.
Self: I’m not adequate, not skilled, stupid, unlovable, have low self-esteem, etc.
Ideas: My ideas don’t count, aren’t creative, never work, etc.
Others: People with power and money control things; managers never listen, bosses don’t care, even the experts can’t figure it out, or are divided, they are too competitive, etc.
Change: You can’t change an organization, change is hard, only those at the top can create change, trying to change things means conflict which is bad, etc.
Consequently once you get the block or interference out on the table, you’re ready to ask meta-questions and invite the person to step-back to find the interfering block and it will always be a limiting belief, decision, identity, understanding, etc. It will be some frame that creates the limiting or fallacious interpretation.
What are you assuming that stops you?
What limiting belief, decision, understanding, identity, etc. stops you?
Therefore these beliefs, decisions, understandings, identities, etc. almost always operate as an assumption. That is, they are just assumed and not questioned. Functionally that makes them unquestionable which explains why the person can’t get beyond the block. She assumes “that’s just the way it is” (e.g., they are, I am, etc.). Then, assuming this limitation, he just accepts it, resigns to it, and/or never even thinks that it could be otherwise. This, in turn, eliminates any critical thinking. In fact, it stops thinking.
Now you are in a place where you can intervene and there are many ways to do that. One way is to reverse the assumption. “What would be a positive opposite assumption?” Typically, just reverse it.
Limiting assumption: “I’m not able to handle conflict, so I can’t be assertive at work.”
Reverse assumption: “Because I am able to handle conflict, I can be assertive.”
Turn into a question: “If you knew that you could handle conflict, what would you do to reach your goal?” Or, “what ideas would that generate in you?”
Limitation: “I can’t stand failing, I need to get things right, being wrong means I’m stupid.”
Reverse: “I don’t have to get it right the first time, being wrong lets me learn.”
Question: “If you knew that you can always learn even when things go wrong, what would you do, what ideas would that stimulate in you?”
So as you flush out the hidden assumptions in the back of the mind, turn them around, and put them inside a meta-question, you are setting up a new hypothesis and giving your client a chance to try out a new way of thinking. It sets up an experiment for life (the tasking).
1) Detect limiting assumption.
2) Reverse it and turn into a liberating frame.
3) Attach to the person’s goal (well-formed outcome).
4) Ask as a tentative hypothetical meta-question.
5) Ask the question repeatedly and in different words.
When you do this, you enable your client to think imaginatively beyond their old fears, limiting beliefs, excuses, and model of the world. Often what you are doing is designing a Torpedo Question for your client.
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Whenever I lead the coach training, one thing I say over and over is, “The Coaching Conversation is not a normal conversation!” There’s a reason for it. I want to drive home the point that as a Meta-Coach, you need to shift your thinking, listening, and responding when you are in a Coaching Conversation from what you normally would do.
This has actually been an ongoing theme since the beginning of Meta-Coaching in 2002. One of the things that have always stood out to me is that the coaching conversation is not a normal conversation. In fact, if it was a
normal conversation, then it would be worth a whole lot less. If the coaching conversation is just another conversation, one that you could have at the morning breakfast table, at the pub after work, or with friends when
you are at a sporting event- there would really be nothing special about coaching as a profession. But it is different. And part of that difference is that it is not a normal conversation.
Here’s the problem. If you, as a Manager/Leader/Director/Meta-Coach, think that coaching is basically a normal conversation, then you will not be able to tap into the uniqueness and, shall I say, the weirdness of the coaching conversation.
So what’s so different about coaching from a normal conversaton? Over the years, the fact of the coaching conversation’s non-normalcy has grown in my understanding. At first I would only identify two items that made it different. Now I can identify five or six, or even nine.
1) It is not normal in its direction.
The conversation of coaching is a one-way conversation, and not like the way normal conversations work wherein both persons equally share and talk about their lives. The coaching
conversation is all about the client. This makes the “dialogue” unique in that it is not back-and-forth about each person, but only about the client’s outcome and experience. That is also why there is so little disclosure on the part of the coach.
2) It is not normal in the use of acknowledgments.
When you repeat a sentence in a normal conversation, it calls attention to itself and so seems out-of-place. Yet when you repeat a sentence of your client, especially a semantically significant sentence, the effect is that they person actually feels heard.
3) It is not normal in the use of the meta-comment for meta-awareness.
In coaching, you will probably say something like, “Let’s step back from this conversation for a moment-how are we doing?” “Let’s take a meta-moment- what are you aware that’s happening here?” If you do that in a normal conversation- that make bring the conversation to a screeching halt.
4) It is not normal in its intensity.
The coaching conversation is a very personal one as it seeks to go to the heart of things. You quickly, and without apology, get personal with people as you ask for the person’s deepest beliefs about things. “And what do you believe about being insulted?”
Now true enough, some conversations are challenging, but they are the exception, not the rule. Coaching, how the other hand, is all about challenge- inviting a person to stretch, to step up and be one’s best self, about not selling oneself short, and even bringing up things that might be unconformable (confrontation).
6) It is not normal in its call for experiential learning.
In fact, it is the very nature of coaching that you are facilitating a person’s learning. This is not the purpose of most normal conversations. Yet this is the design of coaching- enabling learning. That’s why in coaching, you sometimes “coach the body” and do other things to get the person to embody an idea or process.
7) It is not normal in how intensely and actively you listen.
Normal conversations, in fact, are notorious for not involving high quality listening. This is one reason most people are not good listeners. Normal conversations are often plagued by people multi-tracking several things, answering their phone, interjecting comments to other people, etc. Not so with the coaching conversation. And this often stands out to the client as so incredible and appreciated- to be listened to with one’s full presence and attention.
8) It is not normal in giving feedback to the person while conversing.
Furthermore, this can happen in normal conversations, but again, it is the exception, not the norm. In coaching conversations this is one of the key skills that the coach learns- to pay attention to everything going on and to bring many of those things into the conversation. “I noticed that you have been looking up and to your left while you have been describing that event … are you making pictures?”
9) It is not normal that you set frames before and during the conversation.
And so normally we do not start a conversation by saying, “Now if I interrupt you it is because I want to catch things that might indicate a limiting belief.” Nor do we, in normal conversation, say, “Thank you for those tears, it means we are getting close to something really significant to you.”
So, what’s the point? Don’t treat the conversation you have when you are coaching as if it is a normal conversation. Nor when you are in a normal conversation, let it slide into “coaching.” If coaching becomes a possibility, stop and punctuate what you’re going to do as very different from just a talk. Prepare your clients for the very special and unique conversation called “coaching.” And finally, prepare yourself with your own unique and best style for coaching. It is special – so let it be special!
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~ Article written by L. Michael Hall PhD ~
Do you ever talk about attitude with someone? Do you ever long to have a conversation about someone’s attitude in order to help them develop a more positive or constructive attitude? If so, that’s another one of those “difficult conversations” that we often need to have, but don’t. Why not?
Typically a lot of people quickly get very defensive if you talk about their attitude. It seems personal. It seems intimate. And it seems foreboding. To understand all of this, we have to understand what an attitude is, how we create our attitudes, and how we can update them or change them.
The dictionary indicates that what we mean by an attitude is that it is a disposition and position of mind, emotion, and body. Ah, so we’re dealing with something that is systemic. At the mental and emotional level it is a disposition- an orientation of thinking and feeling. And at the same time it involves a physiological position. In other words, it shows up in the body. An attitude is a whole piece. It is an experience that we are simultaneously developing and creating by what we are thinking, feeling, and somatizing in our body. That tells us a bit about how we create an attitude.
For sake of understanding, let’s pull these facets apart and talk about them. Then we can put them back together again as a systemic experience.
It begins with what you are thinking. And in saying “thinking,” this includes what you are representing, understanding, giving meaning to, semantically loading, valuing, etc. In the next Neurons, I’ll describe the conversation itself.
If your attitude is determined, stubborn, or persistence- you are probably thinking that something (X) is important, right, the way it should be, what you should do, etc. Think in that way, and then you probably feel focused, excited, committed and that comes together as a determined or stubborn attitude. And with those thoughts and feelings, you probably tense your body, focus your eyes, make firm your voice and take on the physiology of determination.
Hostility and Aggression
If your attiutde is one of hostility and aggression- you are probably thinking that something is wrong, violates your values, not the way things should go, hurtful, etc. Think in that way and you probably are strongly feeling frustrated, angry, upset, hurt, fear, etc. and with those thoughts and feelings, you are probably somatizing them in your body with a quickened heart-beat, stress that shows up as muscular tension, tension in your movements and throat, etc. Now you look and sound “hostile” or aggressive.
If your attitude is one of gratitude, joy, and appreciation- you are probably thinking that something is good, wonderful, delightful, the fulfillment of your values, pleasurable, etc. Think in those ways and you are probably feeling contented, happy, joyful, delighted, loving, thankful, etc. Send those thoughts and feelings to your body to feel and your physiology is probably relaxed with some muscle tension that you call excited, you are smiling, eyes glistening, face relaxed and alert, body open to others, perhaps humming a song, and rhythmically moving to it.
How Are Attitudes Created?
An attitude grows out of your thinking and emoting about something which your body then actualizes and makes real in multiple expressions in your physiology. If this is your first time to think this, the emotion is new and fresh and you are just finding your way to express it. If you have been doing this for a long, long time, the emotion is by this time your basic mood. Your body knows it and is beginning to default to that emotional state. Now it is your mood. People know this about you, recognize it in you. And if you have done this for years- your body knows it so well, that it has become an attitude. Now it has dropped out of your awareness and you no longer are consciously thinking and emoting, it is now automatic in your body.
Thinking-Emoting -> Emotional State -> Attitude
An attitude then is a long-term habituated state that has been well-conditioned into the body as its automatic and systematic response to some regularity in life. It has also become unconscious in that how you create it and maintain it is now mostly outside-of-conscious awareness.
Today you are no longer mindful of what you are doing or how. It is your neuro-linguistic program for responding to something. That’s what it is.
We could say that every attitude that you have, you have trained yourself thoroughly and systematically to develop it at a moment’s notice. That makes it a pretty high level skill. Now you are well-trained and thoroughly skilled in accessing a stubborn attitude by just the word “authority figure.” You are highly skilled to access an attitude of joyfulness when you think about going dancing. From this perspective we could say that your attitudes are highly developed skills! Your depression, procrastination, obstinance, prejudice, hostility, etc. are highly developed skills.
The next question is whether your attitude does you good or diminishes you?
Does it sabotage your best efforts to be successful? Does it get in your way of taking risks, learning, being more loving, etc.? This is the ecology question. The attitudes that we bring to a situation are often the wrong ones for that situation. Now we ought to change it if we want to enjoy life more or succeed in reaching an important objective.
This is where the attitude conversation comes in. Now you have to make conscious what has become unconscious, catch the process of how you create the program in your neurology and physiology, back up to the thinking that’s created it, and do some reframing of the meanings that’s driving the attitude.
You would think … okay, well, I would think … that the simplest thing in the world would be a conversation. To talk! After all, we all engage in conversations every day. So I would think we should be pretty good at it.
And we’ve been doing it since we first learned to talk. But no. It is not simple and we are not good at it! It is actually very difficult and it is full of complications.
In his book, Clues, Steve de Shazer wrote, “The best way to design a failure is to establish a poor definition of the complaint” (Clues, 1988, p. 118).
And similarly, a great way to create mis-understanding and to mess up communication is to not define your terms clearly. So this is why in the Meta-Coaching system we always emphasize that when you begin a conversation, do not assume that the other person is using words the same way you are.
You think you know what “leadership,” “money,” “discipline,” “openness,” “belief,” etc. means. Don’t assume that your meaning is the other persons’s meaning. Do that and you can pretty well guarantee the lack of understanding.
While it is true that we have “a common language,” and while it is true that we have a dictionary (or actually, many dictionaries) that we can consult, we also each have our own history and learning with words, so that we use different referents when we use words. Since my use of “authority figure,” will have in common with you and most others some reference to someone who has some “authority” to do something. But beyond that, what has been your experiences with someone or many someones who you put into that category?
What were your early experiences with mom and dad, teachers, a principle, a policeman, a judge, a boss, etc.?
Neither you nor I can fully define the term “authority figure” by reading a definition in a dictionary. I need to ask you about your life experiences with that term, the people that you have met in person, met in books, seen in movies, talked about with others, and the connotations that you have loaded into that phrase.
“How are you using the words ‘authority figure?'”
First of all, if I don’t ask, if I assume that your experiences are the same as mine, I am entering into a mine-field semantically … not knowing at any given point where I might step onto a meaning, a memory, or a old connection that will explode and suddenly put you into a very unpleasant state. That’s the way words are- they are anchors for previous experiences. And none of us have the same referent experiences. So our meanings are always going to be different.
In this vein, S.I. Hayakawa, (1941, Language in Action) said that “words infect us everyday.” Ah, the infection of words! Words are not neutral.
Language Is Not Innocent
And there’s assumptive frames in the words we hear and the words that we use. But what assumptions? What is being presupposed by our words and language? That is the question! If someone asks, “Can we cure our words and our language of presuppositions?” The answer is short and simple: No, we cannot. Hence you cannot not presuppose. And nor can I. Finally, there are assumptions and presuppositions in just about everything we say. The only solution is to be more mindful and conscious so that we expand our awareness as to what’s being implied. Because then we can clean up our language, at least to some extent. Finally, we can make our assumptions as explicit as possible, say what we are presupposing, and ask others about their assumptions. That will also change the conversation for the better.
So words are, by definition, unpredictable. And in writing, you can predict more or less accurately what your general style and your language structure will do to your readers, but you can never predict what a given word will do to a given reader. Therefore each reader will use his or her reference experiences to understand the words and so the same word will have many connotations to various readers.
We have to remind ourselves: Words don’t’ mean anything
First of all, it is the reader or the hearer who attributes meanings to the words. So context will help to confine and define a word, but even then, it is the listener who constructs the meaning. So the listener does that from the context, from the sentences within which they are embedded, from the paragraph, the book, the country, the time period, etc. Actually, reading itself is pretty much a miracle! After your eyes have seen the words, your mind assigns to these words a provisional meaning, “good only until further notice,” you construct a meaning.
Here then is a basic problematic fact about language– no word ever means exactly the same thing to two different people.
Hence, each word, term, and/or name means what it means to you depending on many variables. Your background of experience with the word inevitably gives it a twist and feel unique to you. And the more experience you have with that word, the richer and more complex the meanings that it has for you. In many ways, it is a wonder that any of us understand another! Given that no two persons live exactly the same life, not even twins, every word will mean something different. So this is the unpredictability of words. And the dictionary is no arbitrator. Hence it is just the record of how people have used and are using a word, generally.
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~ Article written by L. Michael Hall PhD ~
When I listen to some conversations, they seem and feel thick. It is not only difficult to have some conversations due to the assumptions that are built within them and the unpredictability of words, conversations can be difficult due to the density of words. Here is another language problem that makes conversations difficult, namely-
The Density Of Language
This refers to the fact that some words and some phrases are exceptionally dense. The density or compactness within some words make it very difficult to unpack the meaning and to understand. Density arise from how words can carry a heavy load of ideas. That is, a lot of thoughts, a multitude of ideas, and multiple levels of meanings can be packed into a single word or phrase.
Horne Tooke (1832) discovered and wrote about this fact regarding language back in the nineteenth century. What he wrote about was the structural parts of language- the prepositions, conjunctions, prefixes, suffixes, etc.
He noted that these parts of language, which once referred to full-fledged, ideas are whittled down to little symbols.
Condensation and Abbreviation
Furthermore Tooke said that over the centuries, through a continuous process of condensation and abbreviation, people cram more and more meaning into fewer and fewer words. What once took a whole sentence or a clause to express, came to be compressed it into a single word or phrase. He talked about language as “full of clever devices that make for more and more speed.” “A single participle or complex word can take the place of a cumbersome word-combination.” (p. 132).
Abstractions And Density
To illustrate, he used radioactivity as an example. “Most of the long, complex words in modern prose are not labels for things in the world around us – like radioactivity- but condensed expressions of abstract ideas that can be expressed just as well in two or more shorter words.” (135)
Here’s A Contemporary Example
A statement that was issued from the Veterans Administration. While it sounds like legalese, it is a description to employees about their compensation. How clear are you about the message that someone is trying to communicate?
“The non-compensable evaluation heretofore assigned you for your service-connected disability is confirmed and continued.”
Now try to discern the meaning in that one! The trouble is that the thoughts are bunched together in tight little bundles like “non-compensable’ or ‘service-connected.’ Talk about dense and compact! Yes, lawyers tend to write that way, politicians talk that way, and so do people who think in general or global ways. Here are some things I’ve heard in coaching-
“I really want to achieve success in my assertiveness when I speak with my colleagues and confirm the union of our joint commitment.”
“Getting into the serenity of the present will give me more flow for a benevolence of connecting that I haven’t had in the past.”
If there is any language form that is dense it is nominalizations and when a person speaks with multiple nominalizations, the density of the sentences makes understanding and comprehension increasingly difficult.
“Threats to my self-esteem have been destructive to my relationship and needs to be corrected.”
Furthermore the italicized words are nominalizations– verbs that have been reformulated into nouns. But they are pseudo-names. It is not really “a person, place, or thing.” Yet it is a process and set of actions that are coded as if it were a thing. But it is not. So the person is either threatening himself or receiving a threat from someone that he is interpreting as against his process of esteeming (appraising) himself of value and he is saying that this process is destroying how he relates to someone. That brings up lots of questions:
Who or what is threatening? What is the threat? Is it legitimate or just words?
How are you valuing yourself as a person? Are you doing this conditionally or unconditionally? What criteria are you using in this appraisal that you are making?
When you hear the threat, how is that related to the valuing or dis-valuing yourself as having value? How are you using it to destroy how you relate?
Who are you relating to? How are you relating? How does you’re accepting of the threat to destroy your value?
Some words and phrases are really loaded and have to be unloaded. Most noteworthy is the conversation cannot really continue unless we take time to unpack the meaning to actually understand what someone is saying.
Take the word “truth” for another example. Originally it meant, “that which is trowed.” And “to trow” meant to think, to believe firmly, to be thoroughly persuaded of. Implied within the term “truth” is the assumption that some person is thinking or believing something or thoroughly persuaded of. But what? What is the person thinking or believing? And who? Who is doing the thinking?
Finally, we have to unpack and that’s one of the functions of all conversations. We unpack from each other what the other person means by the words and gestures he is using.
Learn how to unpack words through Coaching Essentials, delivered regularly at The Coaching Centre