A Coaching Power Tool created by Tim Jordan
(Executive Coach, UNITED KINGDOM)
Although at first glance this power tool can seem simplistic and cliché, it is the fact that it is simple that makes it easy to use for reframing perspectives. In a language worded for communication to the client, outlined here are these two perspectives that can influence our lives.
These two types of perspectives can form our day to day thinking and decisions. Without realizing it, we can easily fall into a rut or routine of regularly thinking a certain way.
When things happen in our lives that are a challenge or difficult it is very common to look at it from a perspective of “What do I do about this problem?” We can very easily see disturbances to our routine, changes in what we had planned, and drawbacks we encounter as negatives that we need to get over or get out of our lives as quickly possible. What happens then is that we put ourselves into a box of what we want we think our lives should be like and we stick to set ideas on how we feel change or progress should come into our lives that we don’t see it when it comes in a different form.
A negative outlook informs our lives in a stifled manner. It can stem from us being rigid in our thinking about how our lives are meant to be, it can stem from our upbringing and what is considered right to us of how our life should be patterned. We feel our lives should be following a certain pattern that we had set for ourselves. We feel that anything that comes into this pattern that “changes the color” “changes the dimensions” etc.is wrong and negative and should be handled like “dirty laundry”.
Criticism in its different forms is a “biggie” for many as it is hard to hear what can be deemed as negative feedback from anyone whether it be friends, colleagues, family, bosses, or strangers. With a negative outlook, this criticism can zap the life and joy from a person’s life. You can feel attacked, you can feel misunderstood and you can feel it is unfair and unjust. You can then lose track of your bigger goals by allowing your thoughts to be overtaken by bitterness, sadness or thoughts of failure.
Positiveness as a differing perspective to a negative outlook, gives us more creative outlook and perspective. It allows us to see anything new that comes into our lives as potential for good and growth and progress. It says “I did not expect this, but what can I do with it now.” When a drawback or challenge or difficulty or change to our plans comes into the picture of our lives, the first question we ask ourselves is, “How can I see the good in this?” This immediately reframes our perspective on the whole thing and we don’t see it as an “attack” on our lives but rather an enhancement that we can use to our benefit.
When we keep the perspective of Positiveness we can use the difficult things and challenges that comes into all our lives as a way to enhance our progress towards our goals and ask “STOP” signs that help us to regoup, re-determine if we are headed in the right direction and renew our vision.
Positiveness in your perspective encourages you to take in all criticism with an element of joy and gusto. It says that you welcome criticism because even if it comes with hard or harsh words, somewhere in there is something you can use to better yourself and enhance your life. Somewhere in the criticism is something you can use and a wise man will do it. Positiveness will help you to separate the person and the words from the communication that can be used as a “Stop sign” and give you a thought of reflection on how things are proceeding.
A negative outlook says
Stop sign? What? No! I have to get where I am headed and stop signs only slow me down!
Stop sign? Hmm…this is a good time to get my bearings and see if I am reaching my goals and where I want to be?
One way to communicate about these perspectives with a client is to ask reflection questions that can help the client to see if they have a negative outlook in their lives.
Some reflection questions to set the stage for the client to explore their way of thinking and their normal reactions could be questions such as;
- What’s my first reaction when something “goes wrong” or is a difficulty that I did not plan for?
- Are the goals in my life set by me or by what I think I should be doing?
- What are my feelings about new things being interjected into my overall plans and goals?
- How do I handle criticism of myself and what I do?
When discussing with a client about these different perspectives, it is important to understand that no one wants to be or generally purposely chooses to be a negative outlook person. No one wants to be put on the spot and pointed as being negative or having a negative outlook. It is therefore more valuable and important that a coach comes from the angle and view point of their self-reflection on how they handle challenges, difficulties, criticism etc and as a coach not give their own views on how they may feel the client’s perspective has been.
Some activities that can be helpful in communicating with the client so that they can understand what perspective they are taking more frequently in their life could be some or all of the following activities.
- Have a coaching session where you use the analogy of driving on a high way. The client would close their eyes and then share something that happened in their life recently that seemed like a “stop sign”. This could by anything in their life that was unexpected or seemed to them like a hindrance or difficulty that intercepted their plans. Once they have been able to identify this, encouraging them to talk about their feelings towards can help them to see how they are viewing it. Hearing from them how they view it is helpful for later on after this session where a coach can review back to the client on how they look at challenges and difficulties and help the client to see how they feel as far as their perspective.
- Play the “Glad game” with the client as an activity, even for an entire coaching session or as the client likes or leads. Start the session with asking the client to list out anything that has been difficult or a challenge or something new that was interjected into their life or goals lately. Once this list is made, go through each one and ask the client to list out any potential possible good thing that could come out of it. Make it fun and light and make it extreme if needed so that rather than the client feeling it has to play out for real in their thoughts and actions, it is more just an exercise at perspective framing for the experience of it. Afterwards you can ask the client how it went and how it made them feel when deliberately listing these things and then determining to see them positively. Ask the client if it helped them to feel any differently towards these things.
- Ask the client to imagine that they are someone else, someone with an outside perspective looking on at the situation. Ask them to imagine that they are that person and then describe how they would feel or view things as that person. This exercise can highlight to the client some important things such as the value of the new interjection or the difficulty and asking the client to describe how another person might see the situation, can help them to reframe their own perspective on things and find something that can enhance their own growth and progress through the difficulty.
In conclusion, having a negative outlook vs Positiveness is a simple reframing of perspectives and understanding where we need a perspective change can help us to keep aligned with our goals and plans. Understanding how we handle difficult or challenging situations can give us goals on how to handle it differently or better next time.