We’ve all heard more than once: “take a look at something from another perspective.” Or “have a fresh look,” or “think of something from a different angle.” A piece of advice from somebody friendly enough. A suggestion that something like this might help understand an issue we face. More often than not, it’s a good piece of advice. Taking another angle of view can show how complex life is. But not only this. Even better, it shows how the complex life has positive sides. This includes situations in which we are. Issues and problems have some hidden potentials. Uncovered opportunities. We can convert them into hope. Such sort of transformation is not obvious at first sight, but we can see it later on.
Redescription – a Philosophical Background
There are some pragmatist philosophers who suggest that such a redescription can change us and the world. Not that we change something in us or in the world. Rather, by redescription we change ourselves and our way of seeing the world. Let’s forget the world and let’s focus on ourselves in it for a moment. To do it, let’s change the exercise from the above in this way: “Try to describe your problem from a different perspective.” Even better: “Try to tell your story as if from different perspectives by means of other words.” Not to evoke your story-telling skills. Not to make your narrative long. Rather, to see if we can find out some positive aspects in a new description. Some promising options in a new narrative. A way out in an alternative story. Some potential for a progressive action in a rethought way of talking about it. This is what ‘redescription’ is about. Why should we use it? I will explain one big reason for this.
The Idea of Redescription in Life Coaching
We can apply this philosophical idea into life coaching. Especially, if we follow the main assumption that problems, issues, and conflicts usually have also a positive potential for us. Not only bad aspects. Not only the definite negative character. Not only problems. They have something positive needing exploration. The only condition is to know how to do it. Of course, there are tragic situations in which we can’t do anything. No one will deny this. But they aren’t so frequent as many people think. Most of them have also some good sides. According to some philosophers, we need to explore in our efforts to do something when in trouble. There is nothing definitely tragic about losing the job when you know how to use your competencies in new contexts. There is nothing definitely tragic when your partner says goodbye – there’re so many new around.. There is nothing definitely tragic when you feel lonely – only doing something instead of lamenting might be a good option. Yes, it’s banal and trivial. But people need it. And, it can work at some point. Not in a moment, though.
Redescription – a Narrative
Let’s assume, a life coach has a client who complains about the problematic relationship with his or her partner. Difficult to see the main issue at first sight here. So, the life coach asks for something like a biographical narrative. Not of the whole life. Only the part of the common life of the client with his or her partner. It can be a homework if there is more time to do it. But it can also be an exercise that needs half an hour or so. After some moments of reflection, thinking about this part of life comes out. It is possible to do it in some ways. For example, by the narrative with metaphors. Metaphors are very helpful when we want to use something else to describe the issue. There are so many metaphors at hand. Let’s assume, the client uses the metaphor of a victim. Or, the coach can convert the client’s narrative into the narrative of a victim. It’s when victimization is the main ‘tone’ over there and the client’s passivity dominates the story. It’s possible that the client describes himself or herself as a victim and acts according to this metaphor. It can be true that s/he is a victim of something that happened some time ago, but this doesn’t mean that it should last forever. It doesn’t look pragmatic.
Redescription – Change the Metaphor and Words
It’s not that you change the metaphor into a more dynamic and life becomes more dynamic in a moment. It never works like this. But, in the bibliographical narrative there may be many dynamic words and metaphors. Maybe, they appear in a clear way. Not so much important. Important is that we can redescribe the biography anew by focusing on these optimistic places. For example, it may appear that there are many points that do not make you a victim. Something similar happens with words. The use of particular words in the description of the life situation can matter a lot. They reflect our views on many things. But, again, things and persons are not definite. We can describe them by using many alternative words. If, for example, we accept putting new words in circulation it may appear that they will be like vehicles for our new perspective. A fresh taking a look at an old issue. So, you can describe your partner by use of words: ‘boring,’ ‘common,’ and ‘conventional,’ first. But, in the bibliographical narrative, there may be some situations thanks to which, the redescription could turn into ‘protective,’ ‘reliable,’ and ‘trustworthy,’…. and this would be a nice material for exploration…
Take something to write and try to describe your present professional life by using metaphors. It may happen that you are willing to use such words as, say, ‘battlefield,’ ‘conflict,’ ‘fight’, ‘failure,’ ‘victory’ and similar. If so, you see your work by the metaphor of war rather than anything else. Do you like it? If not, think, if it’s possible to redescribe it by means of the metaphor of…’adventure’? ‘exploration’? ‘discovery’? ‘self-development’? If so, how the description would like? And, would it tell you anything about what you’d prefer?
I have a 25 year-long professional experience. It’s mostly as a university professor, but also includes coaching, consulting, and teaching. 35 years of karate as a hobby and the best way of learning self-discipline.