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Canadian Centre for Brief Coaching

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Model #1: Dialogic Orientation Quadrant (DOQ)

I had a beautiful (and quirky) dog, Cookie, who joined many of the online classes I taught as she practically lived on my lap until she crossed the rainbow bridge at her good old age. People often asked what breed she was and it was a mouthful: Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. It is so long that even the breed name is officially abbreviated as CKC. Each time I introduced her, it seemed rather amusing that a cute little lap dog would have such a serious brand. 

And here I am once again feeling that way introducing the beloved map we've been using in our coach training in the last two years or so. It's a simple (and possibly easy) map with a serious name with somewhat good reasons (see the posts Good Reason #1, and Good Reason #2 for more). 

This map is inspired by the work of the international microanalysis associates, Joel Simon, and Lance Taylor who taught me to focus on making the co-construction visible when I coach and teach by inductively examining how we respond in interaction. 

Observation #1: Timeline of the Narrative

We hear this not only in dialogues that happen in a coaching setting but other ordinary conversations among friends, colleagues, and families. There seems to be an inherent timeline in our narrative. Here's a little excerpt from my conversation with Andrew who was going for a major change in his career. 

I have been wanting to make this move, and now I feel that it's the right time. I used to be very anxious about confronting people but obviously, not anymore. I used to worry about how people might think or feel about me, and that took some time to get over. And now this opportunity came up a bit earlier than I thought and I started to panic a bit. But, oh well, you could never be fully ready, right?  (Excerpt from Surfing the Landslide, 2016)

What might you say here? Wait, before we think about what we might say next, what did you hear? What intrigues your next response - whether a statement or a question or a smile or all of the above? If we were to look at what Andrew said in terms of timeline, what did you hear that he said about his past, and what about his future? Where would you plot them on this horizontal timeline? 

Dialogic Orientation Quadrant - Haesun Moon

Observation #2: Content of the Narrative

In a conversation like coaching that can be a bit more polarized than other ordinary conversations, the content of people's narrative can be mapped on a spectrum between good stuff and not so good stuff. As you can imagine, the good stuff is what people want to see continue, increase, and grow in their life: interactions, moments, experiences, thoughts, decisions, attitudes, feelings, and hopes that people want more of in their life. The opposite end is the not-so-good stuff that people want less of. Borrowing from the work of Microanalysis of Face-to-Face Dialogue (MFD), these can be termed Positive Content and Negative Content. Going back to what Andrew said, how might you map what he said? 

Dialogic Orientation Quadrant - Haesun Moon

As you may have noticed, mapping the content may not be as clear as the timeline. Partially because we are only looking at the written text here void of other audible and visible acts of his meaning, and perhaps we have more room for making inferences when we are trying to map, or judge, if the content indicates good things or not-so-good things in someone else's life. But you get the gist of it. Borrowing from Korzybski (1933), it is a map after all, not the territory. 

Dialogic Orientation Quadrant - Haesun Moon

Putting the timeline and the content together, voilà, we have the quadrant. For now, let's call them: Positive Future (Q1), Positive Past (Q2), Negative Past (Q3), and Negative Future (Q4). Simple enough? 

Observation #3: Orientation of the Narrative 

In coaching, which quadrant(s) should a coach focus on? Which quadrant(s) would be most useful? Without overthinking it, most coaches answer Q1 (Positive Future). Yes, yes, Q2, Q3, and Q4, they are all useful although some may not be necessary. Whether you think Q1 or any other quadrants, the question isn't about which quadrant, but more so about are we doing what we say we are doing? 

One of the most profound lessons I learned from MFD is watching how questions work. As Healing & Bavelas (2011) said, “All questions are ‘loaded questions’; the practitioner’s choice is how to ‘load’ them with presuppositions that will be useful to the client.” Clients often accept our presuppositions and they orient toward what we ask for. 

Let's consider the following popular opening questions that you can easily find on YouTube. What are the presuppositions? Which quadrant are they orienting our clients to look? How might that function?  

  • "What brought you here today?" 

  • "How can I help you?" 

  • "How will you know that this was useful for you?" 

Tape after tape, our clients cooperated by going where the questions directed their attention to. These unchallenged presuppositions were accepted as a mutually understood common ground to stand on. That orientation happens in the beginning, it happens in the middle of it, and it happens throughout the conversation with our gestures, mhms, formulations, and questions. After all, all we can do is orienting, not moving, the client toward what they want more of. That's the hard part of the easy work of coaching.  

Thoughts: Using the Tool for Its Intended Use

As mentioned earlier, the DOQ is developed as a tool with a specific intention. We have found this to be a useful learning tool when used for observation and reflection. Observation needs an object to watch - a conversation in this case - and reflection requires making sense of what we notice. 

Inspired by many practitioners we've met on the way, the quadrants are named this way: 

Dialogic Orientation Quadrant - Haesun Moon

When taught as a concept without practice, this model carries a significant risk of reducing the sophisticated dialogic process to a clunky two-by-two. Pull out your old tape if you have one, record a new one with your phone, and sit and observe: 

  • How are your questions orienting your clients? 

  • Map your client's responses on the map as much as you can preserving their language. 

  • Out of all the building blocks on the map (or not), which ones did you respond to? How come? How did you respond? 

  • After your response (however micro or macro), what happened to the client's narratives and utterances? Does it shift from one quadrant to another? Does it stay? 

  • What are some other ways of responding in each of the quadrants? (See Opportunities paper by Joel Simon and Lancy Taylor for this idea) 

I hope this is useful and usable in your coaching conversations for many of you. 

Now, listen around, you'll hear it.  


Reference:  Healing, S., & Bavelas, J. (2011) Can Questions Lead to Change? An Analogue Experiment. Journal of Systemic Therapies, 30 (4), p.46). 

Haesun Moon