Marilyn Atkinson is the Founder of Erickson Coaching International and originator of the Solution-Focused Coaching methodology. A former Registered Organizational Psychologist, Marilyn is an NLP Master Trainer and specialist in Ericksonian Communications. Since 1980s she has been helping leading global companies and leaders through Solution- Focused and Outcome-Oriented Coaching. Marilyn has authored eight books, including The Art & Science of Coaching trilogy (Inner Dynamics of Coaching, Step-by-Step Coaching & The Flow of Coaching).
Overcoming Personal Prejudice with Coaching Tools
Inside each of us, we find examples of strong prejudices: young versus old, black versus white, fat versus thin, tall versus short, my team versus yours. These prejudices are largely unconscious. We say we don’t have them and yet study after study shows that they prevail in making key choices (such as who to hire, who to hate, who to buy from, and who to give preference to in a promotion). These prejudices are deep, they are unconscious, and they are habitual.
Using coaching tools and methodlogies, we can notice that such a type of ‘self-protection’ belief system becomes part of our ‘survival basics’ at an early age; providing seemingly useful ad hoc survival beliefs for the growing child. These beliefs then become part of our background of assumptions, like water for the fish and air for the bird. Building a ‘wider assessment base’, a base of valid principles for effective living, takes attention and can powerfully add wisdom to our choices. This is often a key area of self-reflection during coaching. We add self-mentorship to our own basic principles. We learn to build value-focused choice-making!
There are a few areas where we can quickly learn to build the necessary distinctions to move ourselves beyond the power of these ‘ad hoc prejudices’. The main one is the arena of distinction-making. We can learn to build value-based distinctions we can practice them, and they work. In this way, we can learn to mentor ourselves with our own most fundamental principles. Building principles for living provide key areas for self-mentorship and self-guidance.
What are the best areas where we can build principles? The most powerful and useful of these areas are the ‘choice builders’, specific capabilities which open up and develop our skills with Coach Position. We want to learn these, practice these, and live them.
How Do We Use Coaching Tools to Overcome Prejudice?
First, we need to train these key distinctions until we make them automatic. We need to test ourselves with them through time. Gradually they become part of the ‘black drop’ of our mindscape, our unconscious signal system about what is worth paying attention to.
Someone once asked me: “Why are the Ericksonian Principles part of Coach Position? These principles are about preference, and Coach Position is neutral”. “They are needed,” I replied, “because we can only stay in Coach Position if we stay open. If I start with the assumption that you are okay, you have resources, and that you are doing your best, then I stay open to you. I stay curious, and thereby, remain committed and engaged with you as you explore”.
What I’m saying is that self-mentorship is an invaluable aid in learning principles. If you do it in the arena of building openness, we can build fundamental principles both for active choice-making and for effective coaching.
Einstein said: “We must look ‘beyond the level’ that we began with if we wish to resolve problem focus in our thinking.” If you only have a hammer, you tend to treat the world as a nail.
If you build the Ericksonian Principles into your reality system then you open the door to a high-quality toolbox of coaching and living distinctions.
Interested in becoming a coach? Discover how Solution-Focused coaching skills enable you to create transformational change in others.