Originally published in Coaching for Transformation
Listening to parts is usually very simple as long as we hold respect. Perhaps the trickiest part of the process is noticing when a new part comes into the system. But how do we know if it’s the same part or a different part? The telltale sign is a shift in emotion or energy. The body or the voice might shift too. When a part expresses a radical change in its belief or shifts to holding a new set of values, that’s usually a sign that another part has decided to speak.
If the Strict Parent part suddenly says, “Well maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to give the children more freedom to make their own choices and mistakes,” that’s not the Strict Parent part having an epiphany, it’s the Lenient Parent wanting to be heard. Or if the Perfectionist suddenly sighs and says, “Perhaps I’ve been too controlling; maybe it’s okay to make the decision before we have all the data,” we can be sure another part is speaking. Occasionally a part does want to change strategies, but it continues to hold its values diligently.
Why is it important to differentiate between parts? Each part needs to be heard. If one part interrupts another, and we let that slide, we lose the trust of the whole system. We can step in and say, “I want to hear from you too,” but first, I’d like to let the Perfectionist finish speaking. Once one part gets heard and appreciated, many more parts start lining up to be heard. It’s very common for clients to be completely unaware that a new part has taken over, so we need to be vigilant about holding space for each part to finish speaking before another starts.
When in doubt, we can ask, “I hear a change in what you value. Is that a new part that has just spoken?”
Avoid the eager beginner’s mistake of starting with, “Hello critic. I’m here to fix you.” Good luck getting that part to show up or even talk to you again. Instead, get to know the part. Ask about its role, its purpose, how it feels and what it needs. The part will let you know when it’s ready to make a change.
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