The Coaching Habit by Stanier: Short Take on How to Avoid Crappy Advice for the Wrong Problem

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If you’re like me and have to work with people, at home or in the work place, then you’re looking for ways to improve interactions and relationships. I read Michael Bungay Stanier’s bestseller, The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More and Change the Way You Lead Forever, and I taped a copy of his seven questions on the wall for reference.

International Coaching Guru and Rhodes Scholar, Stanier explains the pitfalls of letting the Advice Monster take over–yes I have one and you do too, we all do–and opting instead for cultivating a habit of curiosity and good listening. This habit helps others help themselves. The old-fashioned way of supervision in the widget economy would involve solving the problem or worse, giving advice and taking on the task of doing it yourself.

Ever feel exhausted from having to take it all on and discover you’re doing not just your job but everyone else’s? Think how they feel: disempowered, resentful and more than happy to watch you fail. The approach which he encourages is to help others realize what the real problem is; the reason they’re talking to you is they have not identified it.

If we let the Advice Monster take over, then we jump in and offer crappy advice for the wrong problem. You’ve seen this, when someone does not know the situation or details or hurdles, thinking only of the brilliant advice they want to share. As friend or coach, you want to help people on the journey to figuring it out, to see what’s really on their mind, the root of the issue, and what it is they want. Getting them there is a result of curiosity and listening, guiding them towards their own answers.

 

Drama Triangle

 

I liked the Drama Triangle which Stanier covers in Chapter 5: The Lazy Question. The book format could be better, with the questions shared up front. But I’m not reading this for the writing; I’m reading it to learn from the Guru. The chapter headings are a bit of bait-and-reveal which does him a disservice. I got over that by going right to the back of the book to learn the seven questions so I knew what each chapter was about. The Lazy Question is, How can I help? and it puts the burden on those asking to figure out the issues.

The Drama Triangle was developed by Stephen Karpman and describes the roles we play when, as Stanier describes it, we are playing less-than-fantastic versions of ourselves. These three roles of the triangle are archetypal: the Victim, the Persecutor, and the Rescuer. Which are you?  Each is as unhelpful and dysfunctional as the other. Most of the clients Stanier helps take on the persona of, yes you guessed it, the Rescuer. He writes a couple pages of dialogue and it’s surprising how much I’ve seen this drama play out, even taken part in it.

Knowing you’re in the triangle is a large factor in escaping from it. For now, I’m careful as a mentor to be curious and encourage others to find their own answers and perhaps even shed light in a dark place so they can find their way.  I’ve included the link to his TED Talk in this letter and the tenets he shares in his book are useful for more than just work. They help me be a better person.

 

 

Drama Triangle — Persecutor: It’s all your fault; Rescuer: Let me help; Victim: Poor me

 

*TEDx video link, How to Tame the Advice Monster

 

 

 

 

Feb 6, 2022

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About the Author

Mylinh Shattan is a writer who has lived on three continents, served in the Army, worked in corporate America, and taught in college. She loves adventures, in the world and in the mind. Literature is relevant and learning is a lifelong pursuit, so you might as well have a bit of fun along the way.

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