So, being judgemental is very detrimental to a coaching relationship. As coaches, we need to remind ourselves that we are there to provide observations instead of evaluations. We are there to hold a mirror in front of the client, let the client know what we have heard in a factual manner.
More examples on providing observation without evaluation:
|My boss is procrastinating around this decision.||My boss told us she would announce the decision by last week, but we still haven’t heard.|
|He eats like a slob.||His table manners are different from mine.|
|She’s a know-it-all.||She frequently shares her opinions, ideas, and beliefs.|
|He’s a lazy drunk.||He lives his life differently from me, and he drank six bottles of beer.|
|Susan is the most generous, kind, and loving person I know.||Susan frequently gives gifts and spends her time volunteering in various charities|
|John is such a pain. He’s always bossing me around||John frequently tells me what I should do|
|He seldom agree with me||The last three times I said something, he said the exact opposite|
In summary, if we want to separate observation from evaluation, we need to make observations that are specific in terms of their time and context. One common pitfall in stating an observation is to use the following words: never, always, excessively, too much, all the time, and a lot. These words beg debate instead of connection. A clear observation establishes a common ground, helps us remain open to clarification and serves to keep the doors to communication and connection open.
Questions Coaches can ask to clarify clients’ comments to provide observations:
Often times, we as coaches hear clients making judgemental comment. Rather than taking them as facts, we need to ask for clarifications and paraphrase them back in a non-evaluative manner. By doing this, we can also encourage clients to be more specific and look at their situations from an objective perspective. The following questions can be asked if clients make comments like above:
- What did your boss do specifically? How often did she do this?
- Does he eat differently from you?
- Why did you say that? What did she do specifically?
- How often does he drink? How much did he drink last time?
- Can you give me an example why you said that?
- What do you mean by that?
- Give me some examples why you said it.
Precision in making an observation serves as a reminder to us that our perceptions are often different than the perceptions of others. For example, the difference between,
When you said… and When I heard you say…
reminds us that sometimes we don’t hear things accurately so we want to check it out with the other person. Precise observations keep us from making assumptions that may lead to defensiveness and disconnection.
Here are three ways to become more aware of observations and evaluations.
- As you go about your day-to-day activities at work or at home, be aware of whether you’re observing or evaluating.
- In your conversations, pay attention to your observations and evaluations.
- Think about someone who is difficult or challenging for you or with whom you get along very well. What is your observation? What is your evaluation?
Let’s test your ability to distinguish observation from evaluation. Which of the following statements do you think is an observation only?
- Julie left our meeting in a huff for no reason.
- Last night Linda knitted a sweater while watching her daughter’s karate lesson.
- Tori did not listen to my advice at lunch.
- My mother is a wonderful artist.
- Michell argues too much.
- Zelda is very assertive when faced with conflict.
- Billy was the last one out the door every day last week.
- My granddaughter often forgets to wash her hands before a meal.
- Anna told me that red isn’t my color.
- My friend complains when we get together.
Rosenberg, Marshall B (2003) Nonviolent Communication – A Language of Life, PuddleDancer Press, California
International Coach Academy Learning Module, Releasing Judgement