Our ability to separate our challenges from our identity in our coaching conversations is a crucial step in having more meaningful, life-giving conversations. Cultivating a familiarity with each of the 4 parts of identity might just be the step needed to engage more fully in conversations where the truth can be heard.

In his most recent ASCD column, How Not to Hit Land Mines in Coaching Conversations,  Jim Knight discusses tips to raise awareness of the ingredients that make up our identity and how this awareness can move us closer to engaging in more productive, life-giving conversations. Today’s post outlines some guidance from each of the 4 parts described in the article. 

Handling Identity with Care

“Teaching matters a lot, and when you criticize how someone teaches, that teacher’s identity, is often at play. For this reason, understanding the ingredients of identity, and how to work with them, can help anyone have better conversations in schools, at home, or anywhere else.”  —Jim Knight

4 Parts of Identity

1. I’m a Good Person

Every person either believes – or wants to believe – that they are a morally good person.

All feedback conversations involve three realities:

•  What the other person intended

•  What the other person did

•  What we noticed about the impact of the other person’s actions

2. I’m Doing a Good Job

Most of us believe or want to believe that we’re at least competent at what we do, and we want others to see us that way.

Find the good and communicate the strengths:

•  Avoid broad general statements

•  Describe the evidence that proves the overall positive sentiment you want to express

•  Describe a single, specific action someone took that embodies a positive characteristic

3. I Want to Be Accepted

People want to be accepted, or loved, or at least not rejected.

Avoid verbal communication that signals moralistic judgement such as:

•  Blaming or put downs

•  Labels and criticism

• Nonverbal communication like frowns or sighs

4. I Want to Control My Life

Our identity is defined in large part by our ability to make choices.

Let go of trying to control your partners actions or choices:

•  Position your partner as the decision-maker

•  Ask better questions such as “You’ve probably thought a lot about this. What are you thinking you might do?” – Michael Bungay Stanier

•  When your advice is solicited, talk in terms of choice such as “Here are three possible ideas that come to mind; which one do you feel most confident implementing as a teacher?”

Read the full article on the ASCD website >>

The Learning Zone is a monthly column from ASCD, written by Jim Knight.