If you’ve ever experienced coaching you know that your coach asks a lot of questions… That’s a coach’s expertise. Their questions trigger your thoughts and allow you to expand your self-awareness. As you expand your self-awareness more options open up to you and you can begin to challenge subconscious beliefs that may be limiting you. New options and thoughts are exciting, compelling and can often just make so much sense! How hadn’t you thought of that before, right? This is why I love being a coach.
So why is your Success Coach often so insistent on narrowing down on the details? Well we call it ‘chunking down’, it means getting down to the nitty gritty of things. It’s an insightful strategy, because when we experience things we delete, distort and generalise our experience. The information we take on board runs through our unique filter of the world and we interpret the information and store or don’t store it as we see fit. Don’t stress – this is all on a subconscious level. Your mind is amazing. If it didn’t do this, you would be so overwhelmed with information that you probably wouldn’t be able to function!
Here are some examples of deletion, distortion and generalisation and how honing in on detail can unlock your thoughts around the missing information…
Generally we don’t actually mean to delete information, it’s just that we’re so busy focusing on one dimension of our experience that we don’t even notice what else is going on.
When we use linguistics (language) to communicate our interpretation of our experience we shortcut and delete information there too. One example that comes up regularly in coaching sessions is how we often delete the context of what we’re comparing things to, for example a client may come to the session disappointed because their outcome ‘wasn’t the best’. Without exploring the missing detail in their concern (aka what is the best in your eyes? Is it your best? Someone else’s best?), how can the coach help them move beyond their disappointment? Details can unlock empowering ideas.
Often we assume information, which leads to a distorted truth. For example if someone bumps into me and I immediately assume they’re being thoughtless and rude I may respond either internally or externally out of anger. My reaction is likely to be very different if I had investigated the truth rather than acting on my assumptions, particularly if the truth is that the person bumped into me because they were feeling faint and dizzy. In which case I’d likely respond with care and concern for their welfare, the bump becoming a non-issue. The point here is that assumptions distort the truth and we react based on this distorted view. Your coach will often work with you to explore details you may be generalising and distorting, because when you see the other alternatives to what you believe to be then you can open up your mind to alternative reactions and responses to a situation. If a limiting belief caused by distortion is at play in the client’s life then challenging it by honing in on the detail can be particularly ground breaking and refreshing to your thought life.
We all do it, we naturally generalise from a number of experiences (sometimes even just one if it’s intense enough) and we draw a conclusion. These conclusions become our beliefs, for example ‘what goes around comes around’, ‘treat others as you’d like to be treated’, ‘young drivers are all hoons’ and so on. Often we’re so quick to generalise things that we don’t challenge them. This why your coach comes in handy. For example a client may make the assumption that if they go to uni they’ll get caught up in the party scene. This isn’t necessarily true and can even be a good opportunity to point our how our generalisations can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If that client isn’t challenged on that generalisation they may get to Uni and think ‘oh well, everyone else is doing it and this is what happens when you’re at uni so I’ll join in’. Where as your coach is likely to challenge this notion and dig deeper to get more detail on this before accepting your generalisation as the truth. By doing this, the coach challenges your thinking and gives you the opportunity to break free of your generalisation, empowering you to regain control and not get lost in a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The thing is….
Although deleting, distorting and generalising our experience has a purpose (allows us to take on enough information to function without being overwhelmed) and happens more often than not entirely subconsciously - sometimes it doesn’t serve us well. This is why your coach , when appropriate, can be so insistent on the details. They’re bringing that subconscious deletion, distortion and generalisation of a particular line of thinking to your conscious mind so you can explore it and see if there’s a way that your perception can better serve and empower you.
WHERE TO FROM HERE?
What to do with this new self-awareness of deletion, distortion and generalisation…
You can start to question yourself in a healthy, thought provoking way. If you spot yourself deleting, distorting or generalising experiences in your life either in your thoughts, conversations with others or whilst journaling then challenge yourself to dig a bit deeper on the detail. It will either affirm what you already understand to be true or it will open you up to a new way of thinking entirely, unlocking you from limiting beliefs. Both can be incredibly valuable!
If this all seems very interesting and inspires you to want to increase your self-awareness further then get in contact with us and find out how we can work with you one-on-one to leverage your unique potential, or learn a bit more about the process of Success Coaching in your own time.
Steph Edmundsis SESC's Certified Professional Life Coach, Speaker & Facilitator.