Thursday 15 December 2022

A Mistaken Attribution

It happened again, the other day. Someone was drawing the threads together at the end of a coaching conversation, and said that one of the things she was taking away, was my contribution X.

Which was interesting, in that I had not said X. Neither had she.  Indeed, it was clear to me that X was an insight that had arisen for her, in conversation with me, that was both important and useful; but that she had not actually articulated it at the time.

And yet now, reflecting on the session, she recognised it as one of the key take-aways that she was going to act on and think further about.  And possibly because she knew that she had not said it, she assumed that I had.

And as I indicated at the start of this post, that is not the first time that this has happened. It is quite frequent for me to listen to someone work through a difficult issue, with my offering a Thinking Environment (qv) to help the person take their thinking further than before; and for that person to reach some insight or revelation, or develop a plan of action; and then to close the session by thanking me for my advice, which is always so valuable - even though I have given none.

When that happens, I sometimes accept the thanks, assuming that what they really mean is thank you for creating the space in which I gave myself such good advice; and sometimes I laugh and point out that I haven't given them any, but I am glad that they have found the session useful.

But this case was a little different, in that she attributed directly to me a very specific insight. And partly because she did this in the middle of a paragraph, as it were, and went on to list other important ideas and actions that had arisen, I did not comment. I strive not to interrupt people, and sometimes that means that the moment passes. However, I suspect there were other reasons for my silence, not least of which was surprise, and not being sure what to do. 

An interesting pattern...
On the one hand, I didn't want to distract her from the useful activity she was engaged with - planning her actions and continuing learning - by reopening the session, discussing who had said what. But on the other hand, I was uncomfortable with the attribution to me of a thought that wasn't mine - and that applies whether it proves valuable or disastrous!

Reflecting on all that, I think what I will do is watch out to see if it happens in a future session, and if it does, draw her attention to it as an interesting pattern.  And if it does not - well the moment has passed now; I'll just have to hope that it isn't, in fact, a disaster.


With thanks to Lesli Whitecotton for sharing this photo on Unsplash

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