Episode 32: Finding Your Center of Gravity with Dr. Nancy Popp

In this episode, Dr. Nancy Popp goes deep on vertical development based on her 35+ years of studying and assessing where people are on the journey. She is one of the foremost experts on the subject-object interview method, which is how we assess Leader Levels.  

You will feel like you're sitting in on a college developmental psychology class as Keith and Nancy paint a picture of the vertical development journey in language different to the way we have spoken about it so far.

About our guest

Connect with Nancy at Halgren Coaching.
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Nancy is a developmental psychologist, coach, consultant, educator, and writer. She is also an obsessed and passionate gardener. It is not surprising that gardening and developmental psychology are really all about the same process: supporting healthy growth through understanding and attending to the unique needs and requirements of the growing individual before you—whether rooted, winged, furry, or two- legged.

In the human realm, supporting healthy growth is about creating contexts that encourage deeper empathy toward oneself and others, broader perspective-taking, more productive engagement around conflict, a more civil and respectful discourse, and a more compassionate regard for those who are different.

The one important difference between supporting healthy growth in humans and supporting healthy growth in the garden is that in the garden the plants and animals and insects and birds do not strive to be anything other than what they are. The ferns do not strive to be roses, nor do the birds strive to be groundhogs (thank goodness!) This is a great struggle for many humans.

These are the things that fuel Nancy’s work—the small miracles of paying attention, and in that attention, together creating a space in which these wondrous individuals can and do grow and thrive and become even more wondrous.

Other, more academic things also fuel Nancy’s work. She is the foremost expert on the Subject-Object Interview (SOI), the developmental assessment tool developed by Robert Kegan and his colleagues at Harvard. In the early 80s, Nancy was a member of the first and only group to be trained and certified by Kegan, Lahey, and Souvaine in SOI assessment.

As she continued her doctoral work with both Kegan and Lahey, Nancy took the reins of training others in the SOI and she continues that work today. Many of the current thought leaders in the field were among the early training groups Nancy led: Suzanne Cook-Greuter, Otto Laske, Ellie Drago-Severson, Keith Eigel, Jennifer Garvey Berger, and others. Nancy has supported over 40 doctoral dissertations and has conducted and assessed upwards of a thousand SOIs. She has written numerous articles and chapters and a book on the developmental implications of many different topics from conflict to consciousness to ecological decision-making. She works with researchers, graduate students, and scholars to provide developmental assessments for their work.

In her coaching practice, Nancy uses the SOI and other tools such as Kegan and Lahey’s Immunity to Change (ITC) process, Bill Torbert’s Action Inquiry, Jung’s shadow work, and Donald Schön’s reflective practice. These tools help provide some excellent supports, scaffolds, and fertilizer for growing humans.

Nancy lives on the North Shore of Massachusetts with her husband, son, and lots of plants and wildlife.

Episode transcript

Keith: All right, so Dr. Nancy Popp, Welcome to the Growing as Grown-Ups podcast. I am so excited to have you with us and our audience today.

Nancy: Well, thank you, Keith. It's great to be here.

Keith: Do you know, this is one that I told Sara I was -- I'm so looking forward to the audience getting to know you because of the impact that you had in my life, really. As I kind of got moved by Bob Kegan's theory of the evolving self and it sort of redirected my research and my focus, Nancy had trained under Bob and became an expert in the interview process where we assess developmental level and in my dissertation, I had to set it off to the side -- Did I ever send you a copy of this, by the way?

Nancy: I think you did, yes.

Keith: Yeah, so I want to thank Dr. Nancy Popp, who's dialogues about subject-object theory and unbridled bantering about various interviews truly brought the intricacies of this theory to life and also provided a lot of fun during the crunch days. So it was fun to go back and sort of -- I was looking -- I was trying to look something up and I was like, "Well, there it is." I was overt about it. Meaningful now, meaningful then. Folks, Nancy is, I think, probably -- I mean, how hyperbolic does it sound to say "in the world"? -- but it may be in the world, one of the premier experts in and how do we understand and how do we measure what our audience understands as vertical development? We use that as kind of a short, you know, it's how we measure constructed developmental stages, and you use the word "subject-object theory" and "S.O." kind of a lot. So feel free to use your vocabulary and the audience will catch on, but just in general, I know that you have lunch conversations like I do. You have conversations with people that are like, "What do you do?" and when you try and explain to someone in quick layman's terms, what are some of the vocabulary that you use? Like, how do you think about it when you've got to explain, you know, adult development in this way? How does that...?

Nancy: Well, it depends a lot on who the audience is, of course, but generally, you know, I talk about sort of the central kind of...well, I use the term "center of gravity", but that it's kind of what the person's life coalesces around. So for, like, stage two -- what do I call that, "concrete instrumental"?

Keith: Yeah.

Nancy: It's more about, you know, the concrete consequences of what I do, you know, can I get what I want? Do I not get what I want? You know, it's either-or, very dualistic, and then for -- there's so many --

Keith: I know we sort of use --

Nancy: Labels for these things.

Keith: I know. So whether you call it "social" or "interpersonal"...

Nancy: Yeah, socializing, interpersonal...In the writing that I did with the colleague when I was working at Antioch, we called it "affiliative" because it was all about your affiliations but somehow, I mean, I love that term, but with all of the millions of labels that there are out there for these stages, I just, I stopped using it because I felt like it was just getting too confusing, so. But I do like that, but in that stage or level or mindset -- I actually prefer "mindset" -- the person the world kind of coalesces around, I call it the "sphere of relationships". It's like that person is held within a sphere of important relationships, whether it's, you know, family, political party, church affiliation, job, relationship, whatever, that their whole -- that they know themselves within this kind of sphere of that relationship and so they don't know anything -- they don't know themselves outside of that so it's really held within this sphere, which...You know, the way that Kegan talks about this is, "I am my relationships," and so those relationships hold me as a, you know, so it's like I'm held within this sphere.

Keith: Those relationships, those affiliations.

Nancy: Yeah.

Keith: They are the -- will, you go one step further because I love this idea of "center of gravity". When you think of "center of gravity", how do you use that? How do you use that term?

Nancy: Well, I'm a very visual person, so I get these images in my head and so when I say "center of gravity", what I think of is, you know, those toys that kids have that, you know, they're like an inflatable toy that has like sand or something in the bottom that keeps it weighted so you can punch it and it'll, you know, wobble around but then it kind of, you know, it stays. It'll come back to balance.

Keith: That's such a great image! Nancy: So, you know, it's like that. It's sort of like, you know, where is your source of strength? Where is your groundedness? You know, and so for someone in the interpersonal stage, it's those -- harmonious relationships, you know? Mutuality and loyalty, and that's what keeps them balanced, so. You know, I could go off on a whole riff on, you know, why rifts or break ups or disagreements can make them feel so unbalanced, but then I would get way off track. Keith: Even saying that gave people a whole bunch of sort of heart palpitations, so that was good.

Nancy: But then, you know, to continue, so do the self-authoring. You know, that kind of center of gravity is my own sense of self. You know, it's sort of like I have -- I determine inside of me what my values are, what my, you know, we also use the word "internal compass". I know what is important to me, I know what is right and what is wrong for me, so it's very -- whereas the interpersonal, you know, being held within that sphere, it's I need somebody else to tell me, you know, I need my people to tell me what's right and wrong. I mean...Oh there are so many caveats. I'm trying to just stay, you know, sort of on a higher level. But, you know, the self-authoring is all -- it's what this name sounds like. It's "I author my own self", and so that center of gravity is, "Does this...You know, am I right with myself?"

Keith: Yeah.

Nancy: And then, you know, you go to the self-transforming, stage five. I think, you know, I don't know if "center of gravity" -- I'm not sure that really applies because I think of that, you know, sort of my visual metaphor for that is like water, you know, it maintains its essential "waterness", but at full five, you know, in a full inter-individual self-transforming stage. It kind of -- there is -- there's no attachment to me, you know? It's -- one of the ways that I describe it is, you know, "I know myself in context, in process." But there is an essential kind of "me-ness" that, you know, like, I'm still Nancy -- I'm not saying I'm stage five, believe me -- but there's a way that I am not defined by any particular way of being or thought. So, Bill Torbett calls it triple-loop learning, which is, I mean, to have that in context, there's single-loop learning but if you, you know, if what you want to do isn't working, you go back and you change your behavior and you try something different. In double-loop learning, you start to think about, you know, the process. Like, maybe my strategy. Maybe my strategy is not working and so I'll change my strategy to get what I want. In triple-loop learning, you actually change the whole idea of what you're going about. So it's like taking, you know, you're reflecting in the moment, "Is this working?" and if it's not, maybe the way that I'm actually thinking about it is a little off and I need to actually change the way that I'm thinking. So it's that kind of level of kind of being, you know, really -- sort of in the moment and seeing in the moment as you're constructing things, you know? Like recognizing that I can choose to say this thing and it will take us over in this direction, or I could change this and it will take us over in that direction. You know, and it's all about these choices that we face all of the time and how the choices we make create our reality. Create our self.

Keith: Yeah, that's so beautiful. I love that, and you can almost in that last few sentences you said, imagine the wisdom that is often experienced by others. Is there a groundedness? Is there a center of gravity at level five sort of in a value system or an outcome? Or do you not see it that way?

Nancy: Well, I don't see it that way. You know, and I'm describing like a full stage five, you know?

Keith: Right, right.

Nancy: And there's not very many people who are there, but the transition from self-authoring to self-transforming in the four-to-five journey, you know, there's still the "four-ishness" that's going along with the "five-ishness" as you're transforming. So in that, then I think there is some sort of goal-directness and a center of gravity in some value, but -- and, you know, I mean, I'm speaking like theoretically because I'm not full-five, so I don't know. You know?

Keith: So is there a historical example for you of someone who you felt like might have been in that category? Like a Gandhi-esque kind of person or a...?

Nancy: Yeah, I mean, you know, Gandhi is the obvious kind of image. I don't know. I really don't know, because I think, you know that it's such an abstract thing to try to understand.

Keith: Sure.

Nancy: And I have seen, you know, I've been doing this work for 35 years and I have read so many SOIs. I mean, I like to say I've read more SOIs than God.

Keith: And for the audience, SOI is "subject, object, interview", which is the way we measure the levels. Yeah.

Nancy: Yes, yes and I have seen in, you know, all of these thousands of interviews that I have read that you can have -- you can be self-authoring and have a very kind of expansive worldview. You know, and a value system that is, you know, "everyone counts, it's important to include everyone." You know, it's like this very expansive value system, but it's still a value system to which I am loyal or which I will defend. So, someone talking at four can sound very five-ish, you know, because of the openness, because of the expansion and because of the inclusiveness, you know, and they may be a very spiritual person as well. But just that doesn't mean that the ways that they are constructing their reality is at this inter-individual or self-transforming level. Because I'm at that place, I'm still kind of identified with my own value system, and I will defend that value system, and my goal in life is to promote, you know, well-being in the ways that I think are best. So my understanding of the self-transforming of stage five, you know, fully transforming, is that I am not attached or defined by my value system. I recognize how I'm constructing it, but my sense of self doesn't depend on defending that or trying to -- I mean, I can take up a cause and I can work towards that cause, but I am not, I'm not invested in it for my own sense of self.

Keith: Yeah, will you talk a little bit -- because this is one of the things that we have maybe touched on a little bit in previous podcasts -- the idea of subject and object and the reason that I'm asking that I know that you'll be able to talk about this, I think fairly quickly -- but the but is there, is there a subject at five, the way you're thinking about it or is that part of what makes a fully self-transformed -- Again, I don't think I've met anybody, I don't think -- I know I haven't ever interviewed anybody -- but I don't even think I've met anybody that I would say is pure five without some four-ness still hanging on. So it may almost be a theoretical place on the journey more than an actual place, but.

Nancy: Yeah, I wonder. I don't know. I mean, I have never interviewed -- I have interviewed people that, you know, in the middle of that transition, but never...So about the subject and object, I think what people are subject to is what we call the "process", you know, because that's what's important is the process of it and --

Keith: Is there a different process at two, three, four and five?

Nancy: Yes.

Keith: Okay. Nancy:

Yeah, I mean, when I talk about -- the process is what I was saying before about, like, the triple-loop learning.

Keith: Yeah.

Nancy: Where I'm aware that I am constructing my reality as I am doing it, so it's that awareness and the experience of it. So someone that at full self-authoring, in that mindset, I know that I construct my reality because, you know, I understand this theory and blah blah blah. So I know that I am constructing things the way that I do, but it's a kind of intellectual understanding. It's not a moment-by-moment experience. I don't experience myself constructing my sense of self while I'm doing it.

Keith: And then object -- and then contrast that to object?

Nancy: Well, the object is what I can take a perspective on.

Keith: Yeah.

Nancy: So you know, for the interpersonal stage, you know, I can what is object for me are my impulses and my wants and you know, my behavior and what I'm doing and how I'm doing it. At self-authoring, what I can take as object are my relationships, you know, my part in things, and self-transforming, you know, it's pretty much I can take as object all of that previous stuff.

Keith: Yeah, yeah. Even myself. It's so transforming.

Nancy: Yes, yes.

Keith: So in a way, I think what you're saying is the subject is almost what we have to by definition, submit to, in a way. I mean, it's the thing that's governing us that we can't step away from.

Nancy: Right.

Keith: But with the object, it's the thing we can separate ourselves from. So at level three, I can separate myself from the things that governed my reality at level two. At level four, I can separate myself, and then at level five, I would be able to separate myself, even in a way from myself, which is a funny sentence to say

Nancy: Well, yes, from my definition of myself.

Keith: From my definition of myself.

Nancy: Right. But the process that I see myself going through, that I'm still subject to, that's what's driving me.

Keith: Oh gosh, OK.

Nancy: Like, those are the eyes through which I see, you know, I can't see my own eyes but, yeah. So it gets so abstract there that I feel like. I mean, you know, it's so sort of tantalizing, and it's also so abstract that, you know, at some point I feel like it -- well, it does matter because we're all, you know, sort of that's the, you know, one of the things that I don't know if Bob mentioned this to you when you talk to him, but one of the things that he has said in some of the recent talks I've heard is that no time in the history of this of humanity have we, you know, grown this old so that we had the opportunity to keep transforming.

Keith: Yes.

Nancy: And so, you know, so that's who we are as humans, it's like, that's what we do. There's this motion of wanting to keep growing, of wanting to understand more, you know? As soon as I understand something, it's like, well, there's something new to understand. You know, and I think that's one of the things that gets me so excited about working with this theory is, you know, when you have kids, you can see when they're growing, they get so excited. Like, "Look, Mommy! Look, Daddy! I can reach this!" You know, and they're just so exuberant and they want to, you know, so you can see that and, you know, as we grow old, it's like we lose some of that enthusiasm we don't turn to our partner and say, "Look, I understand this now! I see what I'm subject to!" You know, we don't do that to outwardly, but there's still something --

Keith: Some maybe in your and my house, we do but I bet most of America that doesn't actually happen -- Yeah.

Nancy: Right. Yeah, but I mean, what I have said, it feels good to grow. You know, this is one of the things that when I work with one of my coaching clients and, you know, it's -- I call it a logjam, you know? They come up against something and it's just like they can't understand they can't see it and somehow, you know, through my incredible genius, I help -- or they or whatever -- find a way to kind of remove one. I mean, they get a perspective on it and the logjam breaks.

Keith: Yeah.

Nancy: And they see what they could not see before, and it's such an amazing moment I can hear, I mean, I do most of my work over Zoom or over the phone. You can hear it in their voice, their entire voice just, it just drops. Not in a bad way, but into a more grounded place and they just -- and, you know, it just feels so good. So, you know -- Keith: I know exactly what you --.

Nancy: I see this with my son when he finally, you know, kind of gets through something and sees it from a bigger perspective. There's like a relief, there's an exuberance that, you know, as adults and where it's like, you know, we don't talk about that, but we feel it.

Keith: Yeah. Oh, it's so beautiful. Can you turn this into, you and I talked a little bit about the order of the interview, but what keeps us from having those steps of growth? Like, this is the Growing as Grown-Ups podcast. I think the reason, I don't know, but I think the reason most of our audience listens is because they are interested in growing themselves, so what are some of like the -- what are some of the inhibitors to growth at each of these stages? And you don't need to go into huge depth if there's some overarching things, but then also if you want to tie it to it, what are some of the things that we can actually do, take responsibility for, engage in, to break the logjam in a way?

Nancy: Yeah. Well, I think that, you know, I think there's a lot of fear, you know, fear of -- Well, I think each mindset, each level has its own set of fears.

Keith: Right.

Nancy: At the interpersonal stage is fear of losing relationships, fear of losing the connection. You know, if I do something that makes you know, my partner or my best friend mad at me, then I -- then they might just go away. So and then, you know, the fear of someone at a full self-authoring is more about losing my sense of integrity. Like, if I do something I'm not, I'm not right with myself. You know, I feel like I'm -- it's just not right, I feel very unsettled in myself. I'm not going to talk about the transforming because that's way too complicated right now. So your question was what makes us stuck?

Keith: Yeah, I mean, stuck-ness, what holds us in place --

Nancy: What holds us on in place, okay.

Keith: On the journey because you and I both have spent, I think, most of our adult lives measuring people who got to a place on the journey and then they kind of stayed in that space and one of the things that we've always put forward, I suppose, is that the we stay in a place without growing, the more it impacts life satisfaction, wellbeing, effectiveness, influence with others. Things like that.

Nancy: Well, I think that, you know, it's different obviously at every level and the transitions between, but I think, you know, for someone in the socializing mindset --

Keith: Which is level three.

Nancy: Which is level three. You know, it's fear of loss of relationship, fear of being ostracized. So, you know, and there are so many factors that might play into it, most of which I think is the environments that we find ourselves in. Bob Kegan calls it "holding environments", which he got from Winnicott, who said there's, you know, and actually this is really important. Winnicott said, "There's never just a baby. There's always the baby and the mother -- the dyad -- because a baby cannot exist without the mother, the caretaker."

Keith: So that's the holding environment at level zero.

Nancy: So that's the whole environment. Right. Like, it's the social environment within which we find and know ourselves. So, we all have a lot of different holding environments. There's, you know, our faith community, there's our family, our immediate family, there's our extended family, there's our work family, you know, there's our political party. There's, you know, maybe the sports team that we're part of. So there's all of these different social groups that we are part of, and they each have different pushes and pulls on us. Some of them may be more oppressive and hold us back from growing, some of them may, you know, kind of pull us forward. So, you know, one of the things that keeps us stuck is being in an environment that does not encourage -- if you're in the socializing mindset or level three, being in an environment or a social group that does not encourage you to kind of think for yourself. So politically, to step into some dangerous waters here, I think that, you know, part of the, you know, just the polarization that happens is that sometimes you're in part of a group that if you start to question what the group is saying, then you're ostracized. You can't be part of that group if you question it. And depending on how important it is for you to belong to that group, then you're going to comply. You know, some people --

Keith: Seems to be a pretty good explanation for what Congress looks like right now.

Nancy: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. So it's, you know, you separate into these camps. "I belong to this camp. So anything that you say or do because you belong to this camp is -- I'm going to just outright reject it. Even if you say exactly what I'm saying, because you're saying it here, I'm going to reject it because I can only be loyal to one group at a time."

Keith: Yeah. Isn't it interesting? Keep going. Nancy, I'm sorry. I could tell you're about to say something --

Nancy: Yeah, so I think that that is one of the biggest impediments in the three to four transition, is that sense of if I start to question the authority of whoever is, you know, kind of running this show. I risk being ostracized or abandoned or it's being disloyal. So there's that fear and it's a real fear because I know myself within that, that sphere of that, you know, of that group and if I am ostracized, it feels like I am literally being ripped apart. Keith: Wow. Yeah.

Nancy: So, so --

Keith: So let's -- I think the majority of our listeners are at some point in the transition from three to four and if they're fully four, they'll get the point of application. So if I am in between three and four, which is where I bet a lot of your coaching clients are -- I want to shift gears to that in just a second -- how do you encourage people to let go, and if I could just go for one second here and then let you go.

Nancy: Yeah. Keith: It is so -- we find appropriately and beautifully such comfort and purpose and meaning when we become level three by these affiliations, it's the normal -- as a matter of fact, we couldn't actually become four, if we weren't three first because there's nothing to let go of.

Nancy: Exactly. Exactly.

Keith: But so I'm just echoing, I guess, what you're saying about, man, what you're letting go of, what you fear being ostracized from is, like, totally analogous to the losing your mother as an infant.

Nancy: Mm-hmm. Yes, yes.

Keith: Right? Or your primary caretaker. So back to three and four now. So what can we do? How can we -- How do you talk about that?

Nancy: Well, you know, again, it depends on where in the transition you are but generally, I mean, if you're somewhere in the middle, you've got a little bit of self-authoring running at the same time that you have the socializing running. So you've got both things happening at the same time. There's one part of you that is saying, you know, "I have to remain loyal to these people. I can't let them down. I can't hurt them. It kills me to know that I've let down these people that I care about and respect. You know, so I can't do that and, on the other hand, I have to go out and find my own life. I have to -- so a part of me can see myself separate from these people that I love and admire and feel loyal to, and another part of me is still, you know, sort of loyal to -- " I have another metaphor, which is of a cereal bowl for this transition exactly, which is, you know, you're in a cereal bowl with a bunch of other Cheerios and that's level three. You're being held within this bowl and you're, you know, you're just like all the other Cheerios, you're all Cheerios, you're all in the bowl, you're all in the milk, and you're all, you know, getting along fine as long as nobody throws in like, you know, some Wheaties or something. So, you know, when you're -- And the first level of that transition is, you know, you're swimming around in the cereal bowl and you bump up against the edge of the bowl, so it's like you, you start to feel the limitations of that holding environment. And so, so the next thing, you know, then when you get a little bit beyond that, then it's sort of like then you get one leg out of the cereal bowl, but the other leg is still in the cereal bowl, and your balance is still inside the bowl. So you're still, you know, like defined by and held within those, you know, within the Cheerios but there's this other part of you that's outside and that can see, "Oh yeah, there's a bowl that I'm held in, but there's a whole other world out here that I can see that I want to go explore. That, you know, I want to be separate from this, but I'm still -- my balance is still in there, I'm still loyal. I can't, you know, the other Cheerios still have my leg." You know, and then the balance shifts so that you get more balance on the outside and then, you know, when you can become fully self-authoring, then you're outside of the cereal bowl. The cereal bowl never loses the importance to you, but you're separate from it and you can relate to it rather than only knowing yourself within it.

Keith: Are you still a Cheerio or does the metaphor break down at that part? You could still be a Cheerio, I suppose, but you could be something completely different.

Nancy: Absolutely, Yeah. Or you could become, you know, like a Honey Nut Cheerio instead of just a plain Cheerio. But I don't know. There's a danger in extending this too far, but.

Keith: All right. Okay. I knew time was going to fly with you and, in fact, it has.

Nancy: Oh, my goodness, are we at the end already?

Keith: So let's talk a little bit about -- a lot of your world right now is coaching people, I'm guessing largely business people. I don't know if you do much life coaching kind of stuff in the middle of that, but also you coach coaches.

Nancy: Yes.

Keith: And train them in subject, object, interview -- SOI technique -- and things like that. So give us a little bit about kind of what you do in that world. You know, a lot of the people who listen to this podcast are leading others, so is there something that they could be thinking about as they have developmental influence with people who are following them, whether it's their children or whether it's employees or even a group of friends that you're talking through an issue with, right? I bet there's some points of application here. So what are some of your favorite techniques or things that you know, you think might be important for our listeners to ponder?

Nancy: Yeah. Well, I think I wouldn't call it a technique so much, but one of the things that I think is critically important is you don't have to understand every single stage and every single transition, but to know and, to really get it, that people make sense of things in very different ways and so when someone that you're leading or trying to have a relationship with or working with, if you're having sort of an impasse, you know, I think some of us try to convince the other person or try to help them see it the way we see it. I think more important than that is to get curious about how they are seeing it and what's important to them in the situation, because one of the things that I have learned -- I feel like I'm --

Keith: You're not.

Nancy: Taking us in all kinds of different directions, but one of the things that I have learned in all the years I've been doing this is that when people feel understood, they are much more likely to kind of, you know, follow -- not follow -- but they lose a lot of their defensiveness. That if you're talk -- if you're working with someone and you say, "No, it has to be this way," and even in a gentle way, people, you know, they kind of like, get defensive and they back up and they say, "Don't you tell me what to think, how to feel, what to do." When you -- when people feel like, "Ok, they understand me, they understand what's important to me, and why it's important to me, all of that defensiveness goes away and then I'm open to hearing something else." But if a person feels, like, they're just not...Like they're -- I mean, and this is one of the things that takes me back to why this theory is so important to me, is that if they don't feel like their experience matters to you, then they are not going to be cooperative. I mean, they may do what you tell them because they have to maybe, but they're not going to be fully on board and that's one of the things when I, in the first class that I took, I mean, the first meeting of the first class I took with Bob when I was in graduate school, he talked about that this theory was about letting people know that their experience matters. It was about understanding them about standing under, and he was, you know, like standing up on the -- near the podium and just, you know, like pretending like he was holding a baby and saying, "You have to hold this person, let them know that you understand them, that their experience matters," and that has been sort of the touchstone for me, you know, for 35 years in working with this is that is -- that's the first step.

Keith: I almost got choked up hearing you talk about that. I mean, that's a -- that is a, such a beautiful image and what a takeaway. Folks may not do that perfectly at first, but if that was their mindset, my guess is that most people would figure out how to get better and better at it, and there's probably some fear that they would be bumping up against to even say, "Well, if I do that, will they take advantage of me? If I do that, will they quit performing? If I do that, will they not grow up well?" You know, so you are. You're letting go of some control as the coach to say, "I'm going to embrace your understanding."

Nancy: Yes.

Keith: Whoops, keep going.

Nancy: And yeah, I think there's a way to, you know, as a coach to ask questions, to inquire, to be curious without, you know, sort of giving over the control. It's not so much about that, but about, you know, "Tell me what this means to you. Tell me more. What's hardest for you about it?" and, you know, these are all subject, object, interview questions that help to get at how people make sense of things. So when you can understand how people make sense of things, what they cannot take a perspective on, and what they feel like they're identified or defined by, then you can sort of adjust your expectations. You know, it's all in the book that Bob wrote about In Over Our Heads, that we expect people to be fully self-authoring and they're not so, you know, so for someone who has a hard time feeling like they can put out their own opinion in the presence of an authority, you know, to know that maybe helps you to say, well, you know, "I'd like to hear your opinion. No, I'm giving you permission to tell you what you think -- tell me what you think."

Keith: Yeah.

Nancy: And that can help sort of open that door, but I really, I mean, there's all kinds of, you know, of questions that you can ask, but I think that it's a general sense of curiosity and inquiry about, you know, "Tell me more, and how can I support you in that?"

Keith: That is so, it is so good. We would -- we'll see if we can make this work, but I would love to have you back. I would love to invite Sara and I'd love to go down the road you just started on a little bit, how do we start to understand that, but I would also, I mean, like, what's making your world go around right now? Is it mostly coaching and coaching coaches, and if so, are you open -- would you -- is it OK if people reach out to you, if they're interested?

Nancy: Absolutely. Yes. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I have a couple of colleagues in Amsterdam and we are working together. We have a curriculum for --

Keith: Like in Amsterdam overseas?

Nancy: Yes.

Keith: Ok, cool, and you're in Boston or Ipswich, right? Yeah.

Nancy: Yeah and, you know, for the magic of Zoom, it works.

Keith: Yeah.

Nancy: So we have a curriculum for teaching people how to do, how to assess and conduct the subject, object, interview so they can understand where their clients are, you know, making sense along this continuum. The thing that I'm really excited about is that we are kind of expanding this to have a kind of a practicum or a supervisory thing where we will actually be kind of coaching coaches in how to use the subject, object, interview in their practice. So we'll have people -- the participants will bring in, you know, an interview from a client and we'll go through it and sort of supervise their SOI coaching, so --

Keith: What's the best way for people to get in touch with you?

Nancy: Let's see, either LinkedIn -- I'm on LinkedIn -- or --

Keith: Just Nancy Popp?

Nancy: Yeah, yeah. I don't know. I think there's -- there are a few.

Keith: Well, we'll figure it out. We'll put it in the show notes. So folks go to the show notes if you want to get in touch with Nancy, yeah.

Nancy: Yeah, and also, my email with my colleagues in Amsterdam is

Keith: Very good. So I knew this was time going to --

Nancy: Would love to hear from anybody.

Keith: I knew this time was going to fly and it did. It did for me. So thank you, thank you, thank you for giving your time, for sharing your wisdom, for sharing your beautiful visual images. I mean, I had not heard any of them. The punching bag, the Cheerios, the whole thing, big takeaways for me, so way to go.

Nancy: That's great. Well, it was really fun. I feel like I'm all ready to talk for another hour, so we'll have to do it again.

Keith: I can't wait. I can't wait. Thank you so much.

Nancy: Ok, thanks, Keith.