The Extraordinary Use of Ordinary Words
Jan 19, 2023
Introduced by Julia Mines
My copy of Haesun Moon’s new book is waterlogged (from soaks in the tub); scribbled in (with notes, stars, and exclamation points); and now, it also has dog-eared pages (the ones I’d like to come back to soon).
I’m a fan.
If you’ve read all the SF books, this is entirely, utterly unlike them. (And, unlike most ‘educational’ or coaching books, overall.) And for those new to SF who haven’t yet read through the canon, it’s both admirably accessible and very sophisticated. Case in point: It’s sold in airports, and Haesun reports she gets frequent notes from travellers—and their children!—telling her how this book has already positively impacted their conversations. I suspect this may be a breakthrough book, not just for Haesun but for putting SF on a larger map. And still, there are gorgeous nuggets here for even the most seasoned practitioner, I suspect.
These aren’t lengthy chapters. They don’t unpack extensive coaching dialogues. It’s not a book of theory. Or history. Or case studies—or not in the traditional sense, anyway.
It’s a book of moments, really. The exact moments when change takes place in the conversation. And it offers even better language to be more masterful. Divided into short chapters from A-Z, each is a concept, or SF idea or phrase, distilled to its SF essence. Recognisable staples such as “Already,” “Difference,” “Hope,” “Instead,” “Opposite,” “Suppose,” and words you wouldn’t necessarily say, “oh, that’s SF,” like, “First,” “Good,” or “Just.” And kudos to her for finding words for the pesky end-of-alphabet letters, X, Y, and Z. (“X on a scale, “Yet,” and “Zero.”)
It’s like a how-to at life for anyone with a beating heart.
Rarely have I read a coaching book and felt moved. But this book reads like literature, like a memoir. Her and her clients’ humanity are everywhere on these pages in story form and those of her parents—the true stars of the show; courageous, wise, generous, and joyful, who might just prove to be the best educators on life and SF, ever. And, Haesun the best synthesiser of real life into SF.
And yet, it’s still an educational book—a coaching manual. An alphabet on the how-to of rapid, meaningful change using Solutions Focus work.
In her own words, this book is like “a conversational GPS.” And a “masterclass in coaching conversations.” When I first trained as a coach—through the lens of Positive Psychology and some related strains—I was given lists of possible “powerful questions” to use and directed to use metaphor. But the deeper I get into SF work, it’s nearly impossible to use anything but the more utilitarian and even more powerful SF questions. In this book and her hands, I’m reminded why these work-horse staples are not only so powerful but are also profoundly respectful of the client-as-expert. Her writing demonstrates the nuance in these questions (and their timing)—and the deep compassion embedded in such simplicity.
This is well worth a read. In a tub, on a plane, with an e-reader. She demonstrates in words and deeds the inherent possibilities that come from listening well and choosing questions wisely.