Hours spent in seminars listening to people going round in circles about difference between training and coaching, vision statements and mission statements or sympathy and empathy is time I’ll never get back.

Overly strict definitions of terminology, in pop-leadership, pop-education and pop-psychology send alarm bells for me. The more someone makes of the distinctions, the more wary I am of the claims. Sometimes it feels like indoctrinating someone in making the categorical antithesis is more important than the actual education value of what’s being conveyed anyway!

But more important, in these cases the confusion is caused by drawing sharp either-or distinctions between two things that actually have significant overlap with one another, and often include one another. So the endless confusion and debate is caused by trying to divide things that are more closely interwoven. Rather than trying to divide apart, better to describe how they inter-relate.

So, as far as I can see, in the end a verb-driven mission statement is one way to set vision… and a description of a desired future is one way to explain the mission. Or most training will have a coaching dimension to it, and coaching will often slide sideways into providing training input. Besides, like with the Socratic method or with counselling: we’re kidding ourselves if we think that the questions we ask can ever be entirely non-directive. We are training in the way we coach, even if we like to think we are merely facilitating. And lastly, empathy and sympathy in their original, positive definitions are very closely related. Was the term ’empathy’ coined to enhance and enrich the best forms of sympathy? Or to react against a sickly kind of sympathy? Ultimately sharp distinctions which praise empathy and put down sympathy are often attacking a straw man of a kind of ‘sympathy’ that has redefined the word by its worst manifestations.

Mikey Lynch is one of the directors of Geneva Push and regularly sharing his thoughts here on this Christian Reflections blog.

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