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Transforming Self Judgment

By Martha Lasley, Virginia Kellogg,
Richard Michaels & Sharon Brown

Coaching for Transformation
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Our inner critic is the part of us that generates self judgment. Marshall Rosenberg developed a process of transforming that judgment into awareness of feelings and needs, as behind judgment are unmet needs and pure energy that is waiting to be understood and tapped. We can help clients release that source of energy.

When we support full connection to their needs, we help clients move toward self acceptance, understanding and awareness. Through deep awareness of needs, they come into alignment. Only after that, do we support them in creating strategies to meet their needs. Some common self judgments and underlying needs follow.


Underlying Need

I’m not loveable.


I have nothing to offer.

To contribute

I am unworthy.

To matter

I am not enough.


I don’t deserve it.


Adapted from the work of Marshall Rosenberg, the steps for transforming self judgment are:

Identify the Judgment: A judgment could be a story clients tells themselves, a label, something they think, or anything they believe is absolutely true about themself. As coach, we can ask, What judgment do you have of yourself?

Clarify the Observation: We can ask for the observation or the exact words. What happened? What did you actually do or say that led to this judgment?

Identify the Needs:

Needs they were attempting to meet by the action: We help clients identify what needs they were trying to meet when they did whatever they did. Since everything they do is an attempt to meet a need, we point them toward the need they were trying to meet. We identify the need and not a strategy (which is a way to meet needs). What needs were you trying to meet when you said that? Savor those needs and notice how you feel.

Needs they were attempting to meet by judging themselves: Since self judgment is an attempt to meet a need, support them in understanding their positive intent in judging themselves. What needs of yours were you trying to meet by judging yourself? Savor those needs and notice how you feel.

Needs they are trying to meet by holding on to the judgment: If the self judgment is still alive, find out what needs they are trying to meet by holding onto the judgment. What needs are you meeting by continuing to hold that judgment? Savor those needs and notice how you feel.

Action: We can give clients complete choice in honoring all the needs at stake. Now that you are steeped in awareness of your needs, what actions can you take that would meet multiple needs at once?

Coaching Example: Transforming Judgment

Shanti: I can’t believe I told my sister off. She deserved it of course, but I’m tired of being so mean. I was really mean this time.

Coach: What did you actually do or say that leads you to call yourself mean?

Shanti: She isn’t doing her share taking care of mom so I told her she was lazy. Coach: Those were your actual words?

Shanti: Actually I said, “Can’t you get off your lazy butt and take her to the doctor instead of always assuming I’m going to do it?” That’s not how I want to relate to her. Or anyone else.

Coach: So what needs were you trying to meet when you said that?

Shanti: I wanted help. Support. Some understanding of how hard it is for me to do almost everything for her myself.

Coach: Ah... so just notice how important those needs are for you. Support and understanding. Enjoy those needs for a moment… How does that feel?

Shanti: Yeah. I know that’s where I was coming from—wanting support—but it sure didn’t sound that way.

Coach: So now let’s look at what needs came up when you called yourself mean. What needs were you trying to meet with that self judgment?

Shanti: Argh… When I say I’m mean, underneath it, I want to express myself with love, even when I’m frustrated. I want to care for my sister and for myself. I’d like to be gentler.

Coach: What core needs really matter here?

Shanti: Respect. I want to have an open heart.

Coach: So take a moment and just notice how much you cherish respect and having an open heart. (pause). Shanti: I’m noticing an internal shift, some relief from tension. But I still worry that I have a mean streak.

Coach: What needs are you trying to meet by holding onto that judgment of yourself?

Shanti: You know what it is? I just want to protect myself and my sister from that kind of suffering. I’d like to trust that I can be loving. Ahhh. I feel a lot of energy flowing through me as I imagine that.

Coach: I’ve been tracking all the needs you mentioned. Support. Understanding. Expressing yourself with love. Care. Gentleness. Respect. Open-heartedness. Relief from suffering. Love. Take a moment to savor them all. From this place of self-alignment, what actions can you take that would meet multiple needs at once?

Shanti: I think I’ll call my sister and just listen to her. Find out what her life is really like. And then we can create a way to take care of mom that works for both of us. Tonight maybe. No, tomorrow would be better.

Coach: Anything I can do to help support your intention?

Shanti: Ask me about our conversation next time we talk, okay?

Excerpt from the book Coaching for Transformation: Pathways to Ignite Personal & Social Change by Martha Lasley, Virginia Kellogg, Richard Michaels and Sharon Brown. As faculty at Leadership that Works, they certify coaches who offer personal, organization and community transformation. Check out the free Power of Coaching teleclass.

Coaching is life-changing, world-changing work. The coaching programs at Leadership that Works go beyond theories and models and work with clients on a deeper level. You learn how to coach the whole person: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Whole person Transformation.

Leadership that Works

Transforming the world.
One heart at a time.

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