A man is on a subway heading home after work. It is very late, he is tired and just wants to read his paper and zone out. At the other end of the train, he notices a man and two children. The children are younger and running around being loud and unruly. The dad is sitting there looking out the window, not paying any attention to the kids. As the gentlemen is trying to read his paper, he is continuing to be annoyed that he must listen to these two kids. His body tensed up as he was getting beyond irritated at how totally disrespectful this father was of not keeping his two children quiet. What kind of father lets his kids run around a train, yelling and disturbing other passengers? This father obviously does not care how other people feel and has absolutely no regard for teaching his children manners. Unable to focus on his paper and getting really perturbed that he cannot have the silence he is looking for, he gets up and approaches the father. “Excuse me sir, but your children are running up and down the train and disturbing the other passengers, I really think you should get them under control.” The man looks up at him in a somewhat puzzled look and says” I am so sorry, we just came from the hospital where their mother is and I do not know how to tell them yet that she is dying. I am not thinking very well, and I think my kids are acting out because they are just confused right now, but I will talk to them.”
How many times have we found ourselves in a situation where we create a story in our heads about an incident or a situation that we watch unfold? How often do we then come to find that the basis for our story is not the reality of the situation, but some piece of “fiction” that we have put together out of our own speculations. Stories that we make up are just that. Until we ground them with facts, they are only assessments of what we find to be real.
We make assessments all day long. It is what we do. We assess that the coffee is too hot to drink, or that the light is yellow – do not cross the sidewalk. What does not serve us well with assessments is when we begin to string them together as the man did above in the story. If the passenger had asked the man the question of” Sir, your children seem to be making a lot of noise, I was just wondering if there is something going on?”, the passenger would have not subjected himself to the emotion of frustration and the body of anxiety. Those missing conversations often are the difference between our assessments being grounded or ungrounded.
Coaching gives us the ability to begin to observe how do we hold our assessments? Do we create stories, or do we have those conversations that support our assessments? And when we begin to form assessments, how can we move out of them into a place that is more helpful to the outcome we want.