The basic idea is simple: when we listen to a statement of another person, we assume a certain context, in which we would have made such a statement.
Derek had a nice example: Joe comes home and finds that Jim has thrown the plates on the kitchen floor. They are broken, and he shouts, “why did you break those plates, are you crazy?” The situation escalates…
Advocacy/Inquiry is an interaction pattern you can use in such situations. It’s like a TDD cycle: make an observation (neutral), state your assumption and ask the other person for their motivation. Repeat if necessary.
So, Joe now says (after visiting Dereks session):
I notice the plates fell on the floor,
I’m concerned that if I threw them on the floor I’d have been crazy,
Now I wonder why you did it?
This leads to a much less heated conversation. You keep your emotions to yourself, as in non-violent communication (of which this might even be a good example, now that I think about it). You don’t accuse. We learned in the exercises in Derek’s session how repeated use of this pattern can get down to the bottom of a problem, even if it’s really hard for the questioned person.
I had the chance to use it twice in real-life during the three days since I learned it, and I was impressed by the result. Parents should use this as a standard pattern to communicate…
Derek has published some slides where you can learn details and background: