A Coaching Power Tool Created by Karen Yackel
(Life Coach, CANADA)
Our everyday lives are most often filled with countless interactions with a variety of people from all walks of life (family members, work associates, friends, neighbors, etc.). But how are we really interacting with each other, and is the communication during this interaction clear and accurate? In today’s society, “acceptance” is a big buzz word lurking in the media and in our personal interactions. We are expected to accept everything and everyone without judgment, bias, or prejudice. Often you hear children and teens say, “Don’t judge me”. It is interesting that they think on this level. They say it often flippantly and without really thinking about the meaning. What they are really saying is “Accept me the way I am”.
This brings me to the reason I started to think about my power tool being Tolerance vs Acceptance. I have noticed a discrepancy in the way the terminology is used in daily life, and people using these terms interchangeably. I felt that there was a need to explain further. Tolerance and Acceptance have definitions quite separate from each other yet seem similar at the same time. I think that they are misunderstood on many levels and get in the way of truly understanding and loving one another.
It is important that this power tool be meaningful to me and for what my coaching practice represents. Because I’m a big picture person, I sat looking at the titles of the ICA Power Tools for a long time. I tried to think if there was any common thread that holds them all together. In my experience as a teacher for the past 20+ years, finding a common thread is a powerful teaching tool and a fantastic way to foster whole picture understanding. Of course, the power tools are intertwined at their very essence. Taking all the positives of each of the tools teaches us not only how to live our own lives to the fullest as a coach, but to help our clients fill their lives with positivity as well.
To illustrate my power tool of Tolerance vs. Acceptance I will explain how the ICA power tools (or any power tool for that matter) all work together to take us to the point of acceptance in order to facilitate real change. Reframing perspectives, commitment, responsibility, trust, responding, lightness, action, and truth are the fundamentals of what we do as coaches. They intertwine in and out of each other. At their basic level, they are about awareness, change, and acceptance. Acceptance is the last step that ties our learning of any of the tools together. It is the opposite of Tolerance which takes us away from understanding and back to judgment.
Before I go further in my explanation, I would like to first illustrate some definitions of Tolerance and Acceptance.
- According to the Miriam Webster Dictionary:
a: sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own
b: the act of allowing something: toleration
- According to the Oxford Dictionary: the ability or willingness to tolerate the existence of opinions or behavior that one dislikes or disagrees with.
- According to the Miriam Webster Dictionary
a: the act of accepting something or someone
b: the fact of being accepted: approval
- According to the Oxford Dictionary
a: agreement with or belief in an idea or explanation
b: the action of consenting to receive or undertake something offered
If you look at the definitions of these words they use each other as synonyms. The definitions conflict with each other. Tolerating ideas or beliefs that you don’t necessarily believe in me is a very different thing than accepting and being in agreement with something. Accepting means in agreement. Tolerance means putting up with.
So, what is really happening in society regarding acceptance vs. Tolerance? Are people misinterpreting? Are they truly accepting or are they just tolerating? Of course, the answer to these questions is dependent on many different variables. For example, what is the mindset or perspective of the person, what is the circumstance, what information is lacking? These things and more are at play.
According to the dictionary definitions, Tolerance infers “patience” while acceptance infers “agreement”.In other words, you can tolerate something without accepting it, but you cannot accept something without tolerating it.
It occurred to me after looking at definitions to look at what our thought leaders have had to say about tolerance and acceptance. Here are some examples.
Quotes on Tolerance:
Tolerance is the first principle of community; it is the spirit which conserves the best that all men think. – Helen Keller
Tolerance is another word for indifference. – W. Somerset Maugham
Quotes on Acceptance:
Because one believes in oneself, one doesn’t try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn’t need others’ approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her. ― Lao Tzu
These are the few ways we can practice humility:
To speak as little as possible of one’s self.
To mind one’s own business.
Not to want to manage other people’s affairs.
To avoid curiosity.
To accept contradictions and correction cheerfully.
To pass over the mistakes of others.
To accept insults and injuries.
To accept being slighted, forgotten, and disliked.
To be kind and gentle even under provocation.
Never to stand on one’s dignity.
To choose always the hardest. – Mother Teresa, The Joy in Loving: A Guide to Daily Living
It is very clear that one word invokes more negative connotations and the other brings about thoughts of love and freedom.
As you can see even thought leaders sometimes use these terms interchangeably, but when inspired quotes come from the great leaders and thinkers it becomes clear that they have a good grasp on the meaning of the words.
ICA Power Tools
So, what do the ICA Power Tools have to do with Tolerance and Acceptance?
In this paper I will consider only the positive words from each power tool in my examples because I feel these words grasp the essence of coaching and all that represents change and possibility for our lives and those of our clients.
First, Reframing Perspectives considers your point of view or interpretation. To see something in a different way you need to make a shift from one perspective to another. When you are “stuck” it is often hard to see the opportunity because being stuck is disempowering. The ability to accept the fact that you are stuck and accept that there are other possibilities is empowering. If you choose to tolerate your current situation you will stay in the same place and have limited ability to grow.
Second, Commitment is seen as part of our everyday lives. We build confidence in ourselves and trust ourselves more when we follow through on our commitments. Underlying beliefs play a role here as they drive our actions. Until we discover and accept our underlying beliefs the harder it will be to commit to new action with a fresh heart. If we just tolerate our behavior and continue to make excuses and remain a “victim” we can not grow in the same way as we would if acceptance played a key role.
Third, Responsibility, as stated in the ICA power tool, is “taking on a possible future”. Responsibility is a “perspective we choose to go from powerless to powerful.” It also reads that “accepting choices…leads to freedom”. Tolerating our choices, I believe can keep us in the blame game.
Fourth, Trust is a place where truth can develop. If there is any inkling that you are not sincere in any situation, trust cannot happen. When a client trusts you, they are more likely to take action to sign up for coaching or take action with the problem they are bringing to the table. We know as coaches that our first step is to build trust so that the client feels comfortable that we will be someone who listens without judgment and will believe in them or accept them for who they are.
Fifth, Responding is taking yourself out of the situation so that you can reflect before taking action. For me, this is the power tool that I can identify the most with. When you respond to a client you are valuing them or accepting them. It fosters the trust that has been built. It is about a pattern of behavior. Patterns in communication with others can be of acceptance or tolerance. When we find the triggers in our patterns that are built on certain beliefs this can help us identify those that are serving us and those that aren’t. Again, we can tolerate our own behavior here or accept the possibility that change can bring acceptance.
Sixth, Lightness vs. Significance. I am choosing to address both words here because significance and lightness are important to understand the power of acceptance. The significance we give to something can be empowering and bring about lightness. What would happen if we could let go of tolerance and find acceptance? If we let go of the weight of carrying around tolerant behavior and turned it into acceptance a lightness would surround us. This can be a big reminder to us that we have choices.
Seventh, Action we know is a catalyst for change. It is what is needed to move closer to anything we want. We can choose to take action to move from tolerance to acceptance.
Eighth, Truth is a place of freedom from judgment. Here we live in acceptance of others. When living our own truth, we can be more open to receiving others and build confidence and self-esteem. We know that everyone seeks acceptance. We don’t ask someone to tolerate us we ask them to accept us. We want others to hear our truth and be OK with it.
Ninth, Respect is validating. Having consideration for others is honoring them. It is a belief that transcends culture. It is interesting that we respect people in authority just because they are a person of importance, but in everyone else we place judgment. That was a blanket statement that of course is not true in all cases, but I think that respect and judgment are intertwined. What if our intent was to accept others? An intent to see others for who they really are. How would that change our perspective, foster commitment, enable the choice of responsibility, allow us to respond, create lightness, take action, and choose respect?
It is clear that Tolerance and Acceptance have everything do with coaching. So often in coaching conversations among coaches, we talk about being fully present for our clients, withholding judgment and resisting the urge to fix the situation. I believe that when we fully accept the person for who they are there should no longer be the urge to fix or judge. It just would come up.
When speaking with clients and we hear the conflict in opinion, we should try to be aware of the opinion is based on tolerance or full acceptance. We know that for clients to become fully self-aware they need to understand their own role in tolerance and acceptance. Then and only then can they take action and grow.
Judgment gets in the way of both tolerance and acceptance. We all have our values and beliefs, they are what make us unique and individual. I can’t ask my clients to adopt my belief systems and I can’t adopt theirs, but I can accept that the clients are different than me and choose to accept that what is different makes them unique and wonderful. Not better, not worse, but just different.
To be a good coach means to hold space with our clients in the conversation and not only listen but really “accept” what they are saying. We need to understand the only when you take away tolerance and judgment can you be fully present and accept your client. You can’t “accept” when you put yourself in the mix. You can’t “accept” when you think you have the answer. You can’t “accept” when you are thinking about the next question. When you accept the process and trust in the client because you know they are an intelligent person that has all the greatness within them to be everything they want and when you fully accept that statement as a Coach – then you can “accept” and coach the whole person. Tolerance then, will not be a word that stands in the way because when we embrace acceptance we can take away disempowering perspectives, the excuses of trying, the reasons for blame, feelings of doubt, the urge to react, delaying action, the fakeness of fraud, and feelings of invalidation. Acceptance frees us to be ourselves and become the person we want to see in the mirror. A true reflection of our inner selves shed in a positive light without judgment. Acceptance is the tie that binds and the word that will set us free.