Perspective (2): If can ask questions, and truly understand the opinion of another person, and this does not mean that I agree with them (no collapse).
A person with this belief can listen with the intent of understanding. There are at least three benefits of this kind of listening. (i) ‘Two heads are better than one’. Innovation springs from diversity of thought. Listening will allow better solutions to emerge. (ii) Developing an understanding is an act of empathy, and it will benefit the relationship. (iii) A person is more likely to listen to you if they feel heard first, so you increase the likelihood of being heard.
Collapsed Distinction #3: Equal and Same
It is not only emotions and behaviours that can be collapsed. Concepts can also be collapsed. The collapse of the distinction between two concepts can lead to ineffective behaviours and emotions. For example, ‘equal’ and ‘same’ are two concepts that are often collapsed. Just because people are equal (in value), does not mean you have to treat them the same. But some people have collapsed these two concepts, and they tend to think that it is necessary to treat people the same to demonstrate equality. The distinction between ‘equal’ and ‘same’ must be discovered before the client can move forward.
Let’s examine the two perspectives in more detail.
Perspective (1: ) People are equal, so you need to treat them the same (collapsed distinction).
An example of this is a parent who gives both children a gift when it is only the birthday of one of the children. Organizations demonstrate this perspective when they assign quotas to jobs based on gender. There should be the same number of men and women in a certain job type (e.g., police officers).
Perspective (2): People are valued equally, and their diversity is respected.
Organizations would not look for equal quotas in jobs for men and women, and would respect that the interests of the individual. We may never have a world where 50% of nurses are men, and 50% of auto mechanics are women. In this perspective differences and preferences are respected, and there is the same pay for the same work.
Collapsed Distinctions: General
During the coaching session the collapsed distinctions will be seen by the coach. The collapse of the two emotions/belief/concepts is often a barrier to moving the client forward. By pulling apart the two ideas, and exploring the two different perspectives, awareness is created, and new opportunities can emerge.
There are countless collapsed distinctions that exist. For example, Time=Love is another frequent collapsed distinction. “If you loved me, you’d want to spend all your time with me. Spending time with your friends means that you don’t love me.” The role of the coach is not to remember these countless collapsed distinctions, but instead to remember that “collapsed distinctions” is a powerful tool. The perspectives, with and without the collapsed distinction, can be explored and awareness can be brought to the beliefs underlying the collapsed distinction. Action forward is now possible.
Here is a process that could be used to separate the collapsed distinction:
(1) Coach observes that there is likely a collapsed distinction between two emotions/ideas/behaviours, and that the collapse is likely in the way of the client reaching their goals.
(2) Explore one of the perspectives (e.g., love/ worry) to discover the underlying beliefs and bring awareness. ‘Love’ and ‘worry’ are used in this example, but these two words can just be replaced by whatever the collapsed distinction is.
- What does ‘love’ mean to you? What does ‘worry’ mean to you?
- Does ‘love’ require ‘worry’? If you ‘love’ is it automatic that you will ‘worry’? Is there a choice?
- What benefit do you get from worrying about someone you love? Is this true?
- What is the downside of believing this?
- What would happen if you didn’t believe this?
- Questions to deal with the downside. For example: Are there ways to ensure safety without worrying?
(3) Explore the other perspective (e.g., I can love without worry) using similar questions.
The change in perspective caused by bringing awareness to the collapsed distinction can happen in an instant.
Clients may even inadvertently pick up the tool of collapsed distinctions, and use it to self-diagnose other problems. For example, after supporting a client to understand her ‘love-worry’ collapsed distinction, she understood immediately the power of unlocking the collapse. In the following week she discovered another collapsed distinction that was in her way, and didn’t even need coaching to separate the ideas. She had learned the tool of “collapsed distinctions” herself.
Bottom line: Unlocking “collapsed distinctions” is a powerful tool for coaches.