At Agile Coach Camp I conducted a small session on balancing advocacy with inquiry when debriefing or trying to defuse tense situations. Olaf Lewitz gave a very kind write up of the session (with pictures!) in his blog post Test-Driven Conversations and explains the learning he took away from the session. Thanks, Olaf — and I love the title!
I did have a tweaks to the explanation, having to do with the example of Joe seeing Jim throw a plate on the floor, where Jim says “…if I was doing that I’d have been crazy.”
That’s an example of a judgmental statement couched in advocacy/enquiry language. The judgement there is “you are crazy” and the interaction is tending toward the implication that there is some fault on the part of Jim.
If Joe were truly approaching the situation with desire to find out Jim’s internal motivation and wished to balance advocacy with enquiry, Joe might have said something like:
“I saw you throw that plate on the floor (fact), and I was frightened because to me throwing things is a sign of anger (advocacy). Can you help me understand what was happening? (enquiry)“
Advocacy requires that you expose your own internal frame/motivation, which doesn’t necessarily mean keeping your emotions to yourself — it just means that you expose them directly by stating what they are, rather than indirectly through tone of voice, gesticulating, etc.
Of course, being able to do this requires that you know what’s going on inside your own head too… not always easy to be aware of when emotions are high. :)