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De-cluttering reality from assumptions

This discussion is for everyone out there. Thinking about your own context and scenarios that you are working in, my big question for April is:

"How do you declutter the reality of the situation from your own beliefs and assumptions?"

  • Is it possible?
  • Is it just about the acknowledgement of them?
  • Is there a tried and true method?

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Replies

  • Some thought-provoking questions! I feel that one of the toughest challenges as a mentor is to put my own judgement...and assumptions...to the back so that I can listen fully, and ask questions from a place of curiosity (rather than one where I think I may know 'the answer' and start tripping over the ladder of inference instead of recognising that I am drawing conclusions!).

    I have found that sometimes active listening will requires me to leave space for my mentee to download what’s on top, without passing judgement or making comment. For example, when working with someone with whom I have developed a strong professional relationship, such that I care a lot about their welfare. They may share a situation in their professional or personal life that is affecting them deeply. I have to be able to listen while keeping my own opinions firmly off the table, while listening to hear what is being said, as well as hearing the ‘gaps’. I then need to be able to summarise, paraphrase, reiterate, and mirror back what my mentee has said, and follow up with questions to help them break from a loop of negative reflection to work toward next steps.

    Sometimes this may require finding just the right questions to support my mentee to move on from the narrative running through their head; toward recognising, for instance, implications of the situation for their own values, beliefs and goals. It is likely to involve bringing the mentee to the point where they identify what they feel is important, and what is and is not possible. I then need to support their exploration of their own perceptions and concerns, and possibly help them identify alternatives. Ideally, by the end of the session(s) the way forward should be owned by the mentee, who should feel heard, supported, positive, and comfortable about the next steps they have chosen to take.

    This is a big ask for the mentor, and requires, I feel, empathy rather than sympathy, and for the mentor to remain as neutral as they can (non-judgemental) and to constantly check whose agenda is being served by their questions. One method I use is to be consciously aware of my thoughts such that I can ignore them. I also use open questions (see video below) to help the mentee set their own direction, rather than more narrow questions where I may (subconsciously?) be trying to guide my mentee.

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