~ 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.
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.