Questioning, deepening, questioning
That one important, complex or precarious issue. You feel: somewhere there is a sting, a contradiction, a 'don't know'. You want to deal with it carefully, because the interests are big. For yourself or for your company.
For these issues I use the method 'Socratic dialogue'. Gaining insight is central. Finding answers is an afterthought.
Socratic dialogue: this is when you use it
The Socratic dialogue is for those situations in which rules or values clash and in which there are dilemmas and doubts. And in the day-to-day practice of organizations there are a lot of these situations.
In a Socratic conversation, I'm not helping you get from A to B. I'm helping you find or investigate your A. My role during this conversation consists of 3 elements: questioning , questioning and questioning. Until you get to the core of the issue or dilemma. Until you have found the answer in yourself. Where it has been all along.
When do you benefit from a Socratic conversation?
When you need to choose a direction
"What is the right choice?"
Imagine you want to expand. That requires a well-considered decision. Do you really need to expand? Is it what you want? How do you know? Why do you want that? What happens if you don't expand? What role does your ego play? Why are you in it like you're in it?
In case of purpose and meaning issues
“What is enjoyable work?"
You notice: My work is costing me more energy lately. And you're hesitating. Why are you doing this work anyway? What's behind your drive? What is your desire or need in life? To what extent does this job help? Can meaning still play a role?
To find or sharpen beliefs
“What do I think about this subject?”
Your vision on rewarding, ethical business, or that other hot potato in your organization: What thoughts do you have on the subject? Where do these thoughts come from? What points of view and interests do you see? What happens when you explore them one by one?
- You learn to approach a question from multiple angles. It prevents tunnel vision and gives you a broader perspective. It makes it easier to connect with others who have a different point of view. From connection you get further together.
- You expose possible fallacies in your thinking. And experience that you have a better grasp of a subject. This enables you to create a better lived and well thought-out story with better arguments in interaction with others.
- You know better who you can hook into the organization for another look. You get more support and better solutions.
Frequently asked questions about Socratic dialogue
Where does the term Socratic dialogue come from?
Socrates was known for asking his conversation partners to the very bone about their beliefs and ideas. Subsequently, he asked their interlocutors to show for themselves that their statements were actually untenable. This created space to explore new ideas. And from there to grow to insight. Acquiring insight through self-research was central to Socrates.
He challenged the rulers of ancient Athens gladly and frequently with this conversation technique. He overturned many of their beliefs in this way. It did not make him popular. He was convicted in 399 BC and died by the poisoned cup.
As a coach, I'm happy to take over Socrates' role. Although, for safety's sake, I do drink tea or water during our conversation.
What is Socratic coaching?
Most people I coach are at point A, want to go to point B, but there's an obstacle. They use my coaching conversations to overcome that obstacle and reach point B.
In a Socratic conversation, it's not about getting anywhere. It's about being somewhere and investigating what you find there, and if that's what you need. You temporarily pitch your tent at your point A. Feel what ground you are standing on: shaky or firm, poor or nutritious. Investigate why you are standing where you are. And find in yourself the knowledge, conviction and ultimately the peace that you can take root. On point A, or rather somewhere else if you find out during the conversation that you fit better somewhere else.
Is a Socratic dialogue an isolated matter, or is it part of a coaching process?
ery rarely does a Socratic dialogue stand on its own. Usually it is a work form that I use during a coaching conversation. It is then a stopover during coaching. Because if you have tested or changed your convictions and vision through a Socratic dialogue, it may turn out that you want to change your course in leadership or career.
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