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  • Writer's pictureIana Avramova


Being able to detach from a situation or an inner process and to observe it as a “third person” is an important skill. The good news is that we can nurture it with practice. “We don’t learn from experience, but from reflecting on our experience” is a frequently quoted maxim of psychologist John Dewey, which sets a good starting point to reflect on reflection.

Self-reflection can be defined as “one’s ability to witness and evaluate own cognitive, emotional, and behavioural processes”.

Practicing self-reflection leads to benefits such as reduced stress, improved learning ability, a better understanding of yourself, feeling more connected in relationships, and overall stronger well-being. In the context of coaching, we consider self-reflection to be exercised in alignment with the strengths-based approach. At the core of this approach lies the fundamental concept of fostering an equitable partnership with individuals, often referred to as “power-with”, as suggested by the author of the concept, Wayne McCashen. This dynamic principle recognizes that individuals are the foremost authorities in their own lives and should be the primary agents of change in their journeys – what coaching is all about.

Here are two useful exercises you can use:

Idea 1: Self-reflection through “emotional grammar” in storytelling

Observe the difference in how you narrate a story to another person versus the inner monologue you have when you are the central figure in the story.

Take note of the language you use when you recount a successful experience, compared to when you recall an embarrassing moment.

Do you use more verbs or adverbs in one type of story over the other?

  1. Select a recent event or situation that elicited a strong emotional response from you, whether it was positive or negative, and reflect on how it affected your inner peace.

  2. Make three recordings of the story with your voice (up to 2 minutes each).

In the first recording, tell the story to yourself, as in a diary that no one would read but you.

In the second recording, tell the story as if you are sharing what happened with a close, trusted friend.

In the third recording, imagine you are telling the same story to someone who is superior to you, and whom you want to impress.

  1. Listen to the three recordings and make brief notes: on the level of authenticity, truth, length of sentences, saturation with verbs vs. nouns or adverbs, and overall assessment of the “emotional grammar” in each case.

  2. What did you learn about yourself?

 Idea 2: Self-reflection through questioning yourself

Questions are at the core of the coaching conversations. Hence, questioning is another good starting point to exercise self-reflection. In addition to that, questioning ourselves about what matters can even play a significant role in self-care and calming down in a stressful moment.

1. Provide two positive traits about yourself and identify two areas where you would like to see personal growth or improvement.

2. Draw a table or use this one as a template to chart two of your positive and negative traits, in the way you see them.

3. Reflect on what you notice in your answers to the different types of questions (closed vs open). What insights are emerging? How can you apply these questions in your next conversation with your learners?


Assess your progress by looking at the following benchmarks or signs of accomplishment in self-reflection:

1. You can witness a situation or conversation from an outsider’s perspective, observing it from a different angle.

2. You know your mood changes and what causes them.



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