February 28, 2014

Are progress-focused skills just conversational tricks?

In a recent training group I had been teaching participants about several progress-focused techniques such as the NOAM 7 steps  approach, the progress-focused circle technique, the positive no technique, and progress-focused directing (which is a way of making your expectations clear in a motivated and constructive manner).

On the second day of the training, one of the participants made a remark which was something like this: "First of all, I really find all of this interesting and useful but I am wondering about something. If both we employees and managers learn progress-focused skills aren't both parties just becoming better at conversational trickery? First my manager will try to make a clever formulation to try to get me to do something and then I will counter that will some clever formulation of the positive no technique. It feels just like we are just applying tricks? I just don't think we will still be able to be honest and spontaneous!"

I listened carefully and after she finished and I asked her: "Am I assuming correctly that you are implicitly asking what I think about that?" She replied that she was not asking for my view on the topic and she reiterated her point. With a smile I replied: "Okay, since you are not asking me for my views I will give you my unsolicited opinion."

I told her that I thought that the question whether both managers and employees are just getting better at conversational trickery is a good question. Then I explained that I don't view these progress-focused techniques as tricks at all. At least not in the sense that they are intended for misleading or manipulating people or for playing opportunistic games. Instead, I view them as skills which can help managers, coaches, teachers and employees to communicate about what they think is really important in a very specific, clear and respectful manner. They help them to explore and express what is really important.

Just saying.

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