From: L. Michael Hall
2013 Meta-Coach Reflections #38
September 11, 2013
DIFFERENCE OR JUDGMENT?
As you well know, effective and professional Coaching is non-judgmental. Clients do not hire you, as they would a consultant, for your professional judgments and advice. That’s simply not what coaching is about. Accordingly, in Meta-Coaching we emphasize this on Day One of Coaching Mastery as we do the Releasing Judgment pattern, focus on Sacred Listening, and do the De-Contamination Chamber to get our ego-investments like “being right” out of the way. The design is to get into a state of pure listening–and–supporting without any of our own agenda for our clients.
In the rest of your life, however, judgment is not only important, it is crucial. You could not survive a day without your judgments! When you cross a street, drive a car, step from the platform onto a train, etc. you need to use good judgment. And I hope that you have good judgments in those areas of life.
But what about “difference?” What’s the difference between making a difference and making a judgment? Coming from Gregory Bateson’s work, NLP has emphasized finding differences and in fact, finding the difference that makes a difference. That’s because, as Bateson wrote, what gets mapped onto the map is difference.
As a Neuro-Semantic Coach, one of your fundamental skills is that of scanning for difference. At least that’s what those of us in the training business seek to facilitate in people and especially in Meta-Coaches. In Coaching Genius or APG, you learned the difference between self-esteem and self-confidence and that distinct enables you to hear— really hear— a person and whether they have that distinction or whether they suffer their “self-esteem” going up and going down instead of being unconditional.
You also learned the distinction of the different kinds of powers that each of us have— mental, emotional, linguistic, and behavioral powers. And with that distinction, you can hear a person speaking about what they can and cannot do with their powers. You can distinguish when a person accepts and owns his or her own powers and when a person does not.
You can also scan for difference between what a client says at one time versus another time or what a client says and then does. In other words, you scan for incongruence. If a client is shaking his head side-to-side while saying he really wants something, you scan for that difference and then mirror it to your client and ask about it. “Is your side-to-side movement indicating ‘no,’ or does it indicate something else?” Scanning for difference in this way does not make a judgment, does not judge the client, it notices a difference and brings it to the client’s awareness.
Now of course, you can scan for difference and instead of presenting it cleanly, you could make an evaluate (judgment). For example, you could notice a meta-program difference, a person trying to offer details while using abstract and generalized terms and present the difference as a judgment. Then instead of saying, “The term ‘alignment’ is general, a nominalization, and in using it you have not informed me about what are the items that are not aligned.” You say something like, “‘Alignment’ is too abstract, you have to be more specific if you want to communicate clearly.”
Now the ability to scan for difference is the ability to be in a state of sensory-awareness and a purely noticing state (observing without judgment). And when you do, then you will tend to be “put on alert” when “news of difference” comes your way. This put on alert means that when difference arises, you notice it and to that noticing you may experience confusion, surprise, ignorance, or wonder. These are the states that typically are induced when we are operating at the periphery where we interface with a client without our filters. So instead of “interpreting” and “making sense” of things with our filters, we experience the information or the difference and so not-knowing what to make of it – we are surprised, confused, ignorant, etc.
It is the know-nothing state that allows this. If you already know and expect things (use your judgment filters) then you will see nothing and hear nothing other than what you already know. So to that extent you will be blind to the difference.
How can we make distinctions and notice differences without judging?
1) Periodically review your perceptual filters. Review the meta-programs that you most often use, your belief filters, your value filters, your motivational agenda, etc. As you “know thyself” with regard to these, you can recognize when you are using your filters rather than purely noticing differences.
2) Practice looking for counter-examples. When you think you’ve found a difference, explore the possibility of counter-examples, suspect that a filter may have blinded you. Check with others. This is where having an “external check” is very useful.
3) Constantly ask, “What am I missing?” because you are missing things! We all do.
Every NLP and Neuro-Semantic model gives you a set of tools for analyzing and modeling an experience and so each gives you a set of distinctions to pay attention to. Do you know the set of distinctions that are within the Meta-Programs? The Meta-Model of Language, the Meta-States Model of Reflexive consciousness, the Representational Systems, Sub-Modalities, Strategies? These sets of distinctions create new perceptions enabling you and me to see into the very structure of experience. to see into the operational functions. Thereby enabling identifying leverage points of change and development.
L. Michael Hall, Ph.D.
Neuro-Semantics Executive Director
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