Speaking With Authority

By Chris Chittenden

"Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try."

... Yoda

How often do you hear someone say, "I will try and do that."? When you listen to someone say that to you, what shows up? Do they inspire you with a belief they will do what they say, or do you get a sense they will make a half-hearted attempt that will most likely end up in failure? I am guessing that most of you would come to the latter conclusion.

As Coaches, we seek to develop a conversational and emotional space where their clients may choose to take new actions. Accordingly, we listen to our client's language, and the emotional and physical context in which it is spoken, to assess whether we believe their declarations of action carry any authority. In other words, we listen for the strength of commitment the client has to the actions of which they speak.

You may recall from previous newsletters, that we distinguish between "public conversations" and "private conversations". A "public conversation" is one where we speak and listen to another. Our "private conversation" is the one that goes on within us, which we may or may not make public.

When we listen to someone say they will "try" to take a certain action, we also listen to doubt. We assess their private conversation to be one where they believe they will do their best, but their best may not be good enough. To the Coach, such a declaration may not speak of a strong commitment for action and provides an opportunity to explore this with their client. This does not mean that the client is not fully committed to what they have declared, just that the Coach is not certain of that commitment and, therefore, seeks to clarify that interpretation.

So it is when we deal with anyone in life. By being a keen observer of another's language, emotion and body, we can listen to the authority the person speaking is giving themselves to make something happen. If they are making a promise to us and we do not listen to much commitment, we can do something about it. We can seek to confirm the other person's commitment to action.

We suggest you do this in a manner that seeks to take care of the other person's dignity and your relationship with them. For example, you could create a context by speaking your private conversation that they seem a little uncertain of their commitment and ask them if there are any obstacles, which might get in the way of them taking the actions to which they are committing. This might well open up the space to have a conversation about issues that are hidden to you but which might impact on the outcomes you are seeking to achieve.

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© 2004 Chris Chittenden