Sunday, September 18, 2005

To Know How to Suggest

“To know how to suggest is the great art of teaching. To attain it we must be able to guess what will interest; we must learn to read the childish soul as we might a piece of music. Then, by simply changing the key, we keep up the attraction and vary the song.” - Henri Frederic Amiel

This is one of those rare moments when I come across words of wisdom that combine my ‘two lives’….musician of the past and coach of the present. That’s not to say that my roots as a classical musician aren’t a part of everything I do and how I think, because they are. Music has a way of reaching a person’s soul much faster than any words can. Suggestions of what hadn’t been thought of before is another way to show someone how high they can fly. In music, as we all interpret it differently, connect to music in different ways depending on likes, moods, moments in time, it allows us to bypass all inhibitions and let go in ways known only to us.

David Whyte, the writer and poet has said: “Art is the act of triggering deep memories of what it means to be fully human.” That applies to all the arts….an expression of one’s self without rhyme or reason. It also applies to leaders who teach by inspiring that kind of passion in others. Suggesting a perspective so far out of the realm of what was thought of or possible in the past is one way to stimulate the imagination and allow us to see the depth and breadth of what life can offer us.

One of the suggestions a coach can pose to a client is, “What are you assuming that you’re not aware that you’re assuming?” The question is not that you’re making false assumptions; it’s that you might be making assumptions at all, even if you’re not aware you’re doing so.

Take the well known puzzle challenge….one I’m sure most of you have seen….to connect the 9 dots using 4 lines without lifting your pencil from the paper.

Once you’ve been told or shown the answer you know you were making an assumption…. that being you had to stay within the imaginary box the 9 dots formed. That wasn’t one of the rules. It was assumed.

Years ago, when I was doing a group workshop, the class had homework assignments to do every night that would give them more insight into their behaviour, and/or ‘programming’ or, as coaches love to say, a ‘POS’ ....their personal operating system that is buggy or out of date.

One of those assignments was to journal three full pages in their loose leaf binders, writing about what they became aware of through the day, things they learned, were reminded of, discovered etc. The only instructions given were to write three full, single-spaced pages, filling the pages completely. They were to write from the top down, side to side, filling the pages completely. They had to put the title on each page, the date and page 1 of 3, 2 of 3, etc. Other than that the rest of the page had to be filled completely.

Not one of the attendees heeded those instructions. Each one of them wrote the title on top of the first line and the rest was hand written single spaced from margin to margin. Even though the instructions were explicit, the words ‘filling the pages completely’ repeated with each direction, they ignored them. It was assumed they should write between the margins, even when it went against every instruction. They had a buddy who was to check to make sure the homework was done properly. The buddies didn’t pick it up either. In school, each attendee was trained to always write between margins and leave the white space at the top of the paper empty.

It’s time to change your personal operating system, especially when it no longer applies. A teacher, coach, leader….anyone who asks you to challenge the status quo will do the best teaching when they encourage you to expand your level of thinking to another level….way past the expression “thinking outside of the box”. In this case, there is no box to begin with….no ceiling. The height one can go is infinite.

What have you been assuming that you aren’t aware you’re assuming when it comes to ideas, work, life, experiencing, concepts, relationships….all that programming you’ve had over the years that is no longer serving you well?

No ceiling….no sky…..just endless possibilities.

Donna Karlin

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