Curious- Are you a critic or a coach?

Given how life is “opening up” and how our daily interactions are increasing, I wanted to use this month’s newsletter to use curiosity as a tool for to understand communication that is coaching and not criticizing. Although the desired outcome maybe improvement, support, or insight, criticism and coaching are two different actions that will have entirely different results.

Have you ever watched the coach in a sports game? Have you ever noticed how intently he or she follows the players on both teams from a distance? Then during a time out or half time break, players rush back, circle in, and listen intently for his or her feedback so that they may adjust the play, correct an action, and hopefully win their game. Watching the coach, his or her feedback reflects a level of situational awareness for players to learn, innovate, collaborate, or be creative with their next step. The coach’s communication comes from a place of care and situational awareness. The players receive the coach’s actions are collegial, supportive, kind, and respective. As a result, the increases trust from the players, builds their confidence, nurtures a healthy relationship, and ultimately influences the players actions!

Unfortunately, we live in a culture that has normalized electronic communication over in person conversations. As a result, the communicator does not see the emotional impact of their words thereby continuing a tolerance of de-sensitivity. Throughout our culture, there is an inability for people to regulate and be accountable for their emotions, and the prolific use of shame to project our insecurities onto others has become normalized. When you add our collective state of isolation, uncertainty, and anxiety for over a year, cortisol levels are high everywhere and inadvertently we have become a society of critics.

When a boss, manager, leader, parent, colleague, or friend speaking as a critic, they are communicating from a place of judgment, shame, guilt, and, perhaps, projecting their own set of values onto another. In their mind, their actions were well intended.  Their words often come from a place of control over uncertainty, their own fears, or an insecurity was triggered. The person that is receiving their communication may become closed off, defensive, and hurt; the person also may feel abused, bullied, rejected, or disappointed.  As a result, in lieu of constructive influence, the critic’s words or actions may breed insecurity, additional fear, anger, and an inability for either party to listen to another. When these situations occur, I know that is hard, but curiosity can be a tool to understand the other person’s perspective, rational, or state of being to preserve the relationship, to communicate the violation of a boundary, and to begin a process of forgiveness, healing, or recovery from the critical moment.

Here are this month’s articles that can support curious conversations:

Want to Influence: Use Intelligent Curiosity

Curiosity Quotient

Researchers measure different types of curiosity

How curiosity becomes a driver for emotional intelligence

Curiosity is the key to trust, respect, and security

As restrictions on our Covid lives lessen, I hope that everyone can reconnect with family, friends, and colleagues. In lieu of offering summer class, I postponed my next class to the Fall and am prescribing that everyone spends their free time with people they love doing activities they love! 


Robin Barone

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