One of my favorite tools to use when I’m feeling stuck and unable to make a decision about something, I turn to Robert Dilt’s Logical Levels. I also use it as a coaching tool. Sometimes I even write out the levels on 5×8 cards and lay them on the floor and physically step through the levels.
Basically, it’s a language tool. You can tell on what level someone is operating on by the language they use to discuss their problem or situation. If they continue to operate on only one level, their problem or situation can seem unsolvable. But if they can change the level of their thinking, they can change the problem or at least their perspective on the problem.
The six levels break down like this:
Environment is about the external conditions in which behaviour takes place, and in which we operate. A person operating at this level will probably be explaining what happened, who was there and so on. In general, the ‘story’ will not be about the person telling it, and the energy will be in explaining how something happened. This may involve complaining.
Behaviour is actions and reactions by an individual within the environment. A person operating at this level will be describing what they thought and did, and what effect that had. It also includes what they might have done, and what effect that would have had.
Capability or competence might be considered the ‘how’ level. Competences drive behaviour through a personal strategy, involving skills and their development. A person operating at this level, is talking and thinking about ‘how’ to achieve something, including what skills they might need to develop to do so.
Belief might be thought of as the level of ‘why’, and is sometimes also described as ‘values’. It is about the reasons behind the behaviour, including any underlying values. Beliefs and values can either reinforce or undermine capabilities. For example, a belief that you are ‘no good at drawing’ could undermine any attempt to learn to draw well.
Identity is about ‘who’ you are, and could also be considered as the sense of self. Conversations on this level are often about personal self-actualisation, such as ‘What do I like?’, ‘What makes me tick?’, ‘What is my passion?’ A person suffering from stress and burnout often engages at this level.
Here’s what a series of questions might sound like when you use the logical level: what it might look like in practice:
“Why do you think he’s behaving like that?” [Beliefs/values]
“How could you respond differently?” [Competence/capability]
“How could you change the situation, to try to prevent this happening in the first place?” [Competence/capability]
“Do you think he’s trying to assert his sense of self a bit?” [Identity]
Next time you’re working with someone who finds themselves a bit stuck, pay attention to their language. See if you can identify on what level they are stuck and then ask questions that will move them off of that level to get a better perspective of the problem and find a useful solution.
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