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ASK, NOT TELL

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The moment just before



The moment just before... sunrise in Shanghai

It has been a long while since I last wrote.   So much things have happened and there are a lot to reflect on.

 

Let me first reflect on a recent case and thus a piece of learning related to a previous post 'Have a hypothesis finally... then what?'.    I wrote about some thought in applying hypotheses on unconscious processing.   I mentioned a point called - ‘Be opportunistic’ i.e. only share a hypothesis when opportunity arises.  Let me paste the part:

 

‘…For example, in the case with Jon, he recited a recent open confrontation with his boss, after which almost immediately received text messages from colleagues… thanking him to speak out for them. Catching the opportunity, I explored with following line of enquiry:

 

- ‘How did you feel when you receive those messages?’

- ‘How did you feel the moment just before you confronted your boss?’

- 'And at that very moment, what were the others doing or not doing?’

 

I did not aim to establish the hypothesis as is with him. Instead, I tried to build his awareness on cue / signal when the possible unconscious processing (without naming it in the session) was about to ‘haunt’ him. At the same time, I enquired to verify the hypothesis, which one can never 'marry' with….’

 

I came across a very lively example recently.   In a group coaching setting, Samuel (pseudonym) raised an issue for the group to work on – Relationship with his new boss has grown difficult to the extent that he thought of quitting.  The group coaching members enquired into how he may have contributed to the difficulty.  He came to realize that he often played the ‘Rebel’ role in meetings especially to the authority figure in the room.   One thing he explicitly wondered is that whether he asked too many questions, sometimes in sarcastic / attacking way.  He realized it is probably the case but he just could not stop doing so.

 

I asked him one of the above questions i.e. ‘At that very moment just before you asked those sarcastic questions, what were the others doing or not doing?’   Recalling a few recent incidents, he said often fellow colleagues would look at him saying nothing, or even would ask him ‘Samuel, what do you think?’   Gradually he realized that he was mobilized by the group into such ‘Rebel’ role.  Amazingly, the same dynamics was at play in this group coaching setting.  In reflecting with the group, we noticed that he was often the first or only one to challenge me (a coach as the perceived authority figure) whilst others actually shared similar thought but just did not express.

 

He was intrigued with this realization.   Since then he started to catch himself falling into the role in this group coaching setting.  Others joined in and we had fun being playful detectives to help him and ourselves learning to resist group unconscious processing.  It was a beautiful here-and-now learning scene.

 

Reflecting on this, the enquiry into the ‘The moment just before…’ yields the benefit of making a hypothesis easier to be understood and turned into an action / experiment.   It is helpful for the coachee not just be aware of it, but also have something he / she can do about it.  

 

Note: I do not originate this idea of ‘The moment just before…’. If I remember right, I learnt it from Pauline Holland, the consultant of my Small Study Group in the Leicester Conference. Thanks, Pauline!

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