Musings from the Upper Left-Hand Square
By Scott Spoor, MD
To this newbie student in Cohort 9B, the first week brings many firsts and a big shift in focus. Instead of sharpening #2 pencils, I am sharpening computer skills on Blackboard & Adobe Connect. My world is shifting from the rhythm and shape of the usual week to the new life of the student: finding assignments for class, reading assigned books, getting to know my fellow students and getting drenched with new content.
Just like some people are drawn to the cashews or maybe the pecans in a bowl of mixed nuts, or some to the green M&M’s, I find myself magnetically pulled to Support for Thought square. Perhaps this will give my future coaching partner in Cohort 9B a footing, a place to start our journey. I suspect I’ll be hesitant to leave my preferred square for its shadow side: the Challenge for Action square.
In the crucible of the coaching moment, that one-to-one interaction between the two, supporting for thought creates a special space, a space for listening and a space for healing. This is more than just active listening or supportive listening. This is more than just being something akin to “a good friend.” This is creating a space between the coach and client, where clarity and depth in communication can flourish.
Joseph Campbell has called this type of space a “sacred place” for “creative incubation.” About listening in such a space Henri Nouwen says, “To listen is very hard, because it asks of us so much interior stability that we no longer need to prove ourselves by speeches, arguments, statements, or declarations. True listeners no longer have an inner need to make their presence known. They are free to receive, to welcome, to accept. Listening is much more than allowing another to talk while waiting for a chance to respond. Listening is paying full attention to others and welcoming them into our very beings. “
Critical to my favorite square in this Solutions Focused method -- or non-method, as the pioneers of this would say -- is this ability of coaches to leave their own judgments behind -- in essence to park their expertise and wisdom at the door -- and slow down their active minds, so to facilitate the unfolding of the claimants' stories. One phrase for this is “not knowing.”
In the movie “The Last Samurai”, Tom Cruise’s character, held in captivity in a Samurai village, studies the art of Japanese sword fighting. While struggling with this new art, a young Japanese man says to Cruise’s character in broken English: “No mind.” In order to learn the new art, he has to turn off his old mind to create space for something new to take hold.
As coaches focusing on solutions, we adopt a posture of “not knowing.” We are learning to leave behind whatever skills and expertise we bring to the crucible moment, and adopt a stance of “no mind.” In that moment of “nothing” between coach and client, paradoxically, the client finds something: their Self and their first steps to solutions.
Scott Spoor, Cohort 9B
Scott Spoor is a physician with specialty in Internal Medicine and Neurology. He works as an administrator in the field of disability for the Texas state agency that services the Social Security Administration for disability determinations. He is the proud father of two sons; the oldest an A&M graduate and the youngest working on a bachelor’s degree at UT Austin. Scott lists his hobbies as reading, trying to stay fit in middle age, and traveling when he can.