Once upon a time there was a monkey that lived happily in the jungle. It was jumping all day from a tree to another. It felt so happy doing that, so it thought everybody should do just the same.
One day, as it was looking at the world around from the heights of a tree, it noticed a pond with some fish inside. They were moving from one part of the pond to the other, moving their fish tales as if they were running away from some danger (at least, that’s what the monkey thought). Since the monkey had a very good heart and was always ready to help, it didn’t lose any more time. One jump, then another jump and another and there it was, right on the shore. Without hesitation it puts its hands inside the water courageously, catches the fish and lays them gently one by one on the shore.
When all fishes were out of the water, getting warm in the sun, it sits right next to them, feeling satisfied with the great job it has done by saving them all…
The Monkey questionnaire
It is, of course, a fictional story with a sad ending and yet it speaks of a reality we meet both in the jungle and in the city, in areas that concern either our personal or professional lives. The reality of people trying to save, choose or decide for other people in ways that might not always suit the other people’s needs and resources. And there are “monkeys” everywhere. They might be our friends and colleagues, our parents, our life partners and, quite often, our managers. You might have acted like the “monkey” a few times yourself.
Have you ever believed that you know what somebody’s problem is better than they do?
Have you ever thought you know what is best for someone?
Have you ever felt like some smart savior of the world about to get to action?
Have you ever felt that people don’t get where you want them to quick enough?
Have you ever believed that everybody shares your point of view, so you didn’t even bother asking for another?
These are just some of the ways that sometimes (or more times) we use with the noble intention of saving the fish. And yet, what happens to the fish in the end?
Have your attitude and behavior enhanced self-confidence in the other people?
Have your way of deciding what’s best for people shown them your trust?
Has the “monkey” approach encouraged people to grow to their potential?
Have you nourished your relationships with authentic communication in this way?
Have you walked the talk of personal and organizational values such as diversity, respect, curiosity and freedom? Not to mention the even deeper values such as the humbleness of accepting that you might not always know it all?
If the monkey could have learned about the coaching approach
One of the great benefits of developing coaching skills for everyday personal and professional life is that you train your monkey (yes, we all have one inside) to replace “I know” with “I wonder”, moving from certainty to curiosity. This simple shift would have opened up a world full of options for the monkey and the fish in our story.
Instead of making assumptions from the heights of the tree, the monkey could first have come on the shore. Instead of quickly labeling the situation based on its previous experience and current understanding of its own world, the monkey could have learned more by opening up a positive conversation and addressing exploratory questions to the fish.
In city world, these skills are called non-judgmental attitude, deep listening, empathy and solution focused mindset. They are different from “I know it all” or “I save the world” mindset and they could definitely have lead to a happier ending. One where both the monkey and the fish could have learned more about the world and about each other, about where they feel more at ease, about what makes each of them happy and about how they could contribute together to a better and joyful life in the jungle, the city or the workplace.
If only the monkey could have thought “I wonder…”