~ Article written by L. Michael Hall PhD and Shawn Dwyer ~
Modelling to get to first base? What is it that you’re attempting to do when you work with a client? Think for a moment how you would answer that question…
Okay, here is mine. First and foremost, you are working to understand your client. Now what makes this quite challenging is this- you have to understand your client on your client’s terms. Hence, first you want to understand the person sitting before you in the same way that the person thinks about him or herself. If you don’t do that, you can’t get to understanding’s first base.
Modelling For Real Understanding
In the field of psychology (whether it is remedial, therapy or generative, coaching), to “understand” someone in your terms and on your terms- your models and your theories is not to understand the person. This was one the learnings that came out of the Human Potential Movement and that the NLP developers found in Perls and Satir– they started with the person. They went to the person’s model and understanding of the world so that they could speak that person’s language. Today we call that matching or pacing. I like how Shelle Rose Charvet describes this. Metaphorically she says, “Go to their bus stop” and meet them there.
Next, you will want to understand how your client does whatever it is that your client is doing or wants to do. We call that modelling. It is the essential Meta-Model question:
“How do you know that?“
2. “How do you think about that?“
3. “How do you understand that to work?“
Now the reason you ask such questions is to understand what your client understands currently. If you client wants to enhance her leadership, what does she currently understand about leadership? How does she do what she’s calling “leadership?” If your client is wanting to create a consistent habit of exercising to get to an ideal weight and maintain fitness, then you want to understand what he understands about that. So you ask, “How do you do that?” And you may have to ask that question many times about many aspects as various aspects of the experience are discussed.
In terms of the benchmarks this is the level 3.0 “strategy process” in Listening. When you ask multiple modelling questions and then feed-it-back to your client to check your understanding, you have performed a professional competence skill- you have identified your client’s strategy process. Now this is basic NLP and you may have touched on it briefly in Coaching Essentials. Yet for being able to fully do this, take NLP Practitioner training, and possibly several times.
Now For A Secret
In this process of identifying and mapping out a client’s strategy, there is “magic.” Hence it is the magic of understanding because it so often elicits from the client the “Aha!” response. And that’s because as a client works to explain what he is attempting to do and how he does it, he often will experience a sudden realization and insight. “Oh, that’s what I’ve been doing!” And with that, frequently clients suddenly know precisely what they have done wrong and need to correct. I have seen that happen scores and scores of times. And what’s also happening in that mini-miracle is the actualization of the NLP principle– “People have all of the resources they need to achieve their ecological goals.”
And when that happens, you have an excellent moment to
validate the person.
“Ah, so you just discovered something! What?” “And how good is that realization?” “Well done for finding that within your resources!”
Modelling how your client understands something, how your client has been attempting to do something, how she learns and is convinced, how he motivates and persuades himself to take action, etc. gives you an insider’s view of your client’s reality. Feeding-it-back then enables him to feel understood and amplifies his sense of self-awareness. Therefore doing this also empowers both you and your client in finding those leverage points of change. So as a coach, you use modelling as a tool for understanding your client’s inner world. So that makes you, at least in part, a modeller.
Thinking is in Short Supply #4 by L.Michael Hall PhD
Short Term Thinking – Another Thinking Disability
I’ve been writing about why real thinking is in short supply and the various factors that actually stop thinking. Here’s another. Regarding a central time factor that’s involved in thinking, there are two forms of thinking.
There is short term thinking and there is long-term thinking. The first comes easy and quickly for us. In that sense it is much more “natural” to think short term, yet it is also frequently a disastrous form of thinking, one that can get us into lots of trouble. Children think that way, and a good bit of parenting and teaching involves helping a child or young person to lift up his thinking horizon to look out further into the future and consider consequences of today’s thinking.
In his classic work The Fifth Discipline (1990) Peter Senge focused primarily on systemic thinking. In that work, he described six “learning disabilities” which we can also view as thinking disabilities.
Six Learning or Thinking Disabilities
1) Identification: “I am my position.”
2) Blaming: “The enemy is out there.”
3) Reactivity: Automatic reacting to words and first impressions without stopping to think.
4) Single Cause-Effect: Seeing things as static snapshots rather than a series of events.
5) Short-term thinking: Focused on the immediately and not able to fsee consequences or cycles.\
6) Pretending: Believing what you want to see, therefore optimistically saying, “All is well!” Focus on image and appearance rather than substance.
In short-term thinking you focus on what’s immediately in your awareness without extending your perception or vision into future time and/or space.
This makes the breadth of your vision limited so that you do not think in terms of consequences, symptoms, repercussions, etc. Today, this also happens to be the way most managers and executives operate. They focus on the short-term profits, opportunities, changes, etc. They measure things by what’s happening in this quarter. It is short-sighted and it does not really give a new process a chance to take root and grow.
One problem with short-term thinking is that it privileges tactical thinking over strategic thinking. Do that and while you may win a battle you may also do so at the expense of losing the war. Short-term thinking feeds impatience, low frustration tolerance, and a sense of demandingness (“I want what I want now!”). Short-term thinking disregards that things take time as they go through stages of development. It assumes that you can make informed decisions about processes without waiting for the process.
Organizations often declare that a program or an approach doesn’t work after one quarter, hardly giving it time to get started. Consequently, business has been plagued by “flavor of the month” programs for years, going from one fad to the next “big thing” under the illusion that the solution will be a quick fix and doesn’t have to deal with systemic factors.
By contrast, long-term thinking requires patience, asking about what an action will lead to and what will result from that result, and so on.
Long-term thinking requires much more mental effort in seeking to understand things that are hidden from view. Some of this is consequential thinking, another higher level executive function, and one that typically doesn’t even emerge until late adolescence. Yet many adults do not use this as part of their thinking capacities. Some of this is about maturity, the willingness and the ability to wait as you take development into account.
If you have ever said, or heard someone say, “I just didn’t think that X would happen!” you have witnessed one of the consequences of short-term thinking and how it stopped you or someone else from thinking, from really thinking something through. Hence Senge described it as a thinking and a learning disability.
So long-term thinking looks for the system within which an event, experience, behavior, or program is within. “What are the systemic factors that play a role here?” With a long-term perceived, you begin to consider the language system, the cultural system, the economic system, the political system, the religious system, the family systems, and on and on. Finally, you look for the communication loops- the feedback and feed-forward loops so that you can consider how long it takes for information and activity to get around the system loops.
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.
~ Article written by L. Michael Hall PhD ~
Like sex, money, and religion- power is both highly desired and greatly feared and even more, difficult to talk about. Yet we must. Power is everywhere in life, ever-present, and inescapable. But how can we have a decent conversation about it? That’s a problem most of us have. And that problem is amplified by the fact that power is highly misunderstood, shrouded in mystery, and challenging to stay calm about in a conversation. In spite of all of this, we need to learn how to have an open, respectful, and thoughtful conversation about it.
At the simplest level of power is capacity- “the ability to do.” That’s what the word means. Check any dictionary, power means “to do.” If you can do something, you have power. If you can read, you have the power to read. If you can speak, cook, drive a car, fix a computer- you have these powers. And if power is capacity, then your power can be small or great or somewhere in-between depending on the size of your capacity. Power can also grow and develop or it can weaken and diminish. It hardly ever stays the same. As a capacity, you could even measure it. After all, its expressions shows up in the real world of tangible things.
All of that speaks about power individually. It speaks about your assets and resources- these are aspects of power. As a capacity, power is a strength you have to do something and an energy you can expend in doing that thing. Further, it arises from your four innate powers- your ability to think, emote, speak, and act. These ways of responding gives you four dimensions of power- mental powers, emotional powers, linguistic powers, and behavioral powers. [I wrote an entire chapter on this in book, The Matrix Model.]
Then there is your social powers. This refers to your with others- your capacities for influencing other people- influencing their thoughts, emotions, speech, and actions. Interpersonally you have the power to some degree and, surprisingly, it depends on how well you serve others. Dacher Keltner, in The Power Paradox (2016), says that “Power is actually about making a difference in the world.” And you and I do that by stirring others in our social network by improving the greater good of the groups of people that we relate to. We make a difference in the world by seek “the greaer good.” All of this actually speaks to the inherent ethics of power, well, true power and not the false abreactions of power “over” others. Power is inherently with others.
“Enduring power hinges on doing simple things that are good for others.”
(Keltner, p. 35)
“Power is the ability to stir others to collaborative action.” Hannah Arendt
Because power is part of every interaction due to our capacity to influence each other, power is a social dynamic and therefore you can find it in every group. Here’s another strange factor about this kind of power –social power- is not inside the individual. So where is it? It is in the interaction itself. It is across the social network. Instead of thinking that power is grabbed by a person and exercised over a group, Keltner says we should think of power as given or bestowed by the group on the person or persons who advances the greater good. Similar to how it is with persuasion and leadership- power is first earned by the person and then given by the group. That is, you earn power in the eyes and minds of others via enthusiasm, care, focus, openness, calmness, empathy, strength, kindness, and generosity. In turn a group rewards a person with esteem (reputation and status) and trust (position).
The social power of interpersonal relations not only involves influence and control, not only reputation and status, it also leads to power structures-who is given a position to make decisions and to allocate resources. We call this “politics” whether it is in the power structure of a home or an international corporation.
When you bring up the subject of power, you are inviting a conversation about relationships between people and capacities. Do we select individuals to do things based on their capacities? That would be smart and practical. Or do we select people based on who they know, what strings they can pull, how much money or influence they have, etc.? That’s the dark side of “playing politics.” That’s how to create a dysfunctional group or organization.
Giving position, status, reputation, responsibility, etc. to a person without the capacity is a sure-fire way to create a sick organization.
Abraham Maslow once noted that we should give power to the persons who do not want it and do not need it. When a person wants it and worse, when a person needs it, that person is very likely to not handle it well. Then they are not focused exclusively on the greater good or serving people.
Given that, how wise was Jesus to say that the person who would be “greatest” among you should be the person who serves others the best. And, he who would be great, let him be the servant of all. Wise words from a long time ago.
Like the psychology of money and the psychology of food, people can want power for the wrong reasons. Psycho-eating drives people to be either obsese or suffer anerexia because of their semantically loading of food. Psycho-saving and psycho-spending also can suffer from trying to use money for things it cannot fulfill. The Beatles sang it: “Money can’t buy you love.” Psycho-powering is over-loading “power” and all of the expressions of power with meanings that it cannot fulfill. And that’s a conversation that we need to have with many people.
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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Unpacking The Depth And Finding The Critical Things In A Coaching Conversation
If you start from the idea that hidden inside of your client’s statement are much deeper references, then you will more likely to slow the coaching conversation down and do more exploration and more quality exploration.
Would you be interested in this? As far as I can tell, most coaches go far, far too fast in their coaching. They need to slow down. The client also goes far too fast. For that reason both of them miss things- critical things.
One of the sources of this idea is Transformational Grammar. Chomsky’s formatting of T.G. was that into surface statements and the deep structure.
The “transformations” of grammar occur from one level to the next. He used this to describe how the deep structure of experiential meaning is transferred into the statements that we make- which amount to a surface statement. To get behind it, to get inside it, to get deeper inside is to probe into the experiential meaning. In Neuro-Semantics we call this the framing structure and picture it as “meta” to the surface level statements.
This is also the design of the Meta-Model. By identify structural facets of the deep structure- the linguistic descriptions or distinctions (mind-reading, cause-effect, complex equivalence, nominalization, etc.) we can move back and forth from experiential meaning to surface statement.
That is, behind or within the statement are many deeper distinctions- if only you ask.
In Meta-Coaching, we use the sub-skills in a given category of skill to explore and unpack the deeper levels. We use clarity checks of terms, we ask for specificity, we repeat phrases so the client can hear him or herself, we calibrate to a gesture and ask the client to bring it into conscious awareness, we repeat a word or phrase and “hold” it in the conversation and then “work it” to explore its ramifications, we ask about metaphors to find the hidden comparisons, we ask for examples to get a visual-auditory referent, we validate symptoms and back up to find their cause, and so on.
Unpacking the depth that lies behind or within words, gestures, and experiences is not easy, yet it is also not Rocket Science. It typically involves a rigorous discipline to learn how to become competent at it.
“I feel stuck. It’s terrible, I just cannot get myself to stop procrastinating.” A simple statement of three phrases and yet several semantically loaded words within that sentence: “stuck, terrible, can’t.”
Time to unpack.
You are stuck in what? “Fear and insecurity.”
Fear of what? “That I won’t be able to do it.”
You are afraid you won’t be able to do … what? “Success as a coach in private practice.”
And how much fear are you talking about? “A lot, at a level of 8 on a zero to ten scale.”
And what is the fear about? Fear that what threat or danger will occur? “That I will fail.”
Fail means what? “Not succeeding.” (Now going in circles.)
Coaching Conversations – What is the worse thing that will happen if you fail and not succeed?
“Waste money, look like a fool, hate myself.”
How much money will you waste? “$3,000!”
What did you spend that money on? “Training and some promotional materials.”
How much on the training? “$2,500.” How much on the promotions? “$500.”
How are you using the word “wasted?” You got nothing out of the training?
“Okay, then $500.”
Who looks upon you as a fool for investing $500 to pursue your passion?
“Well, I guess me.” You do? “Yeah.”
And you then hate yourself? “Yeah.”
And you do that to achieve what outcome? “Yeah, I know, just self-pity.”
So how stuck are you now in this fear and insecurity? “Well it seems kind of silly now, I guess 4 or 5.”
Will that stop you from trying again, persisting, learning, adjusting?
The very act of exploring and unpacking the depth of meanings inside of words and gestures is often (and usually) an intervention in and of itself.
Isn’t that amazing?! You are just doing information gathering and the way you do that enables you to simultaneously facilitate the remaking of meaning.
How can you learn to do this?
Step into the state of mind of being a detective, assume you do not know what the other person is referring to and ask lots of dumb questions. That will take you a long way. After that, be playful. Play around with what is said to lighten things up. Someone says “I want to be present when I coach, but I can’t; my mind just goes away.”
Oh, your mind just goes away. Pause. Then repeat. Your mind goooesss away. Pause. And where does it go? Did you send it there? Do you want it to go there? You don’t? It is being a naughty mind? Or is it being attracted to something more interesting? Is it bored?
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