Reflection 9: To Reflect or Reflex? . . . That is the question!

Reflection or Reflexivity . . . is there a difference?

Absolutely . . . and both provide vital information to you, as the coach or mentor, about what is happening in the coaching process and where you need to focus your attention.

Having scrutinised Reflection over the past few weeks, now is a good time to explore its partner concept, Reflexivity. Also to ask the question – reflection or reflexivityis there a difference?

In a coaching and mentoring context, reflexivity is central to ensuring that the coach or mentor has an awareness of anything they are doing which might be ‘interfering’ in the coaching and mentoring process. This ‘interference’ can be helpful or unhelpful. What is important is for you, as the coach or mentor, is to be aware that it is happening so that you can take the appropriate action.

For a coach or mentor the focus of reflection, when applied to self, is on improving professional practice.

This is through a retrospective analysis of your practice and its effectiveness at various stages in the coaching or mentoring process – before, during and after your coaching or mentoring interaction.
Through this analysis you are also able to inform your own development action planning.

Reflection, therefore, looks to the future by enabling the coach or mentor to build on what has worked well, to identify what can be done differently to greater or different effect and to identify where you need to take your own personal and professional development.

The partner concept, which opens up reflection to exploration at another level, is that of reflexivity. Initially applied within conflict resolution contexts, reflexivity is an interactive process that takes into consideration the relationship between self, others and the current context.

For a coach or mentor the focus of reflexivity

. . . is on the interaction in real time between you, as the coach or mentor, and your coachee or mentee. This gives you a tool for simultaneously being aware of your own processes – for example, any underlying assumptions, values, preferences or priorities – that are shaping the interaction and how these are being communicated. In other words, anything that you are doing that is ‘interfering’ in the process.

Awareness of this interference enables you to take action to stop it, or to ameliorate the effect it is having, if it is unhelpful. In some cases it may be helpful – in which case it is important to understand why.

In reflection it is the actions of the coach or mentor that are to the forefront with the context passive. In reflexivity it is the interaction between the coach or mentor and their environment that determines the reflexive process – the context, therefore, being highly active.

Consideration of the impact

. . . of what is being communicated, and what might be influencing it, opens up a space for the coach to use the insights gained to influence or change what is happening.

The following quote gives a useful perspective . . .

Reflexivity can never replace reflection because the two occupy different spheres. However, it does offer an alternative form of introspection that is pro-active in nature”J Newman

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