By: Kim Green
“Stay with her!” Lynn urged as I shared about one of my two clients. The one who congratulated me for being such a good listener after our first session. The third session proved much harder. My coaching presence came into being and I was compelled to challenge some of her limiting beliefs. I pushed against her belief that what happened in her childhood she’s accepted and “moved on.” Instead of really moving on, she seems to have become emotionally paralyzed. But she’s called it moving on. I can only listen, dumbfounded, hoping for her to have a breakthrough of some sort with my encouragement. Lynn wants it, too, thus the directive: “Stay with her!” I will and let her talk herself into the realization that she has become a victim of her past. But that is just my opinion, which is not needed.
In class, the discussion of needs continued after I took down all of Lynn’s suggestions about how to work with my seemingly uncoachable client , who has a prepared “But” or “because” for everything we discuss. Coaching is hard work. Being silent when you want to say something is not for the verbose!
Monday, I met with my client again and I think a breakthrough may be close. She started the conversation saying she wanted to share something with me about her oldest friend. Let’s call her Anne. I have been hearing Anne’s name for the last 30 years that I have known my old college friend/client. I am also aware that this is a very difficult transition for my friend. She just sent her daughter out-of-state for college, moved herself to a small Southern town to finally have “peace and quiet” after a busy life of being caretaker to her dying mother, aging father, homeless brother and her daughter. The move to the new place was supposed to be her emancipation from obligations and caretaking. Unfortunately, it didn’t go well.
After a mere 6 weeks, she decided to move back to another no-name town in New Jersey, just a few miles from where she had moved. Ann, my client’s childhood best friend had offered her a place to stay when she came back, during the transition. My client jumped at the opportunity to stay with her until she found a new place. She was there for a little over a month.
Well, do things change? People change. And when my client finally left the best friend’s house, after a strained visit, all Ann could offer was a mild farewell. My client hasn’t heard from Ann since. Painful. I know because it happened to me.
What matters is what I heard in the re-telling of my client’s story, even as she joked she called herself “boring” and later an “oddball,” explaining that is what Ann must of thought of her during their visit. I gently questioned her about the use of those two descriptors and it all came flooding out.
“I’m insecure,” she said.
Lynn came to my mind. I should have asked her, “What would you rather feel than insecure?”
I didn’t but I did something else. I was so impressed that she said it. This is the woman who also spoke of her need for validation last week. We are finally getting where we need to go. With my further silence, she eventually said, “I know. I need to let go of the past.” I was thrilled that it was on the table and I didn’t have to say it. I know, I know, that is not my assessment to have. I am coach, so not interested in the past, only going forward. So, I said this, “I invite you to spend the rest of our sessions together looking at the future and leaving the past in the past.” “Yes!” She said, “let’s talk about it next time.” I can’t wait until next Monday.
Thursday’s class we began speaking of values . They are of the highest priority, they define who we are. Understanding a person’s values is the key to their souls. I can see that. Lynn further explained that there are 3 levels of values, superficial which equate to our obligations, standards which are our chosen values and the core values which is who we really are. My client is apparently stuck in a superficial obligatory state: “I just like to help others,” is her mantra. I look forward to working with her to discover her core-self again. I went to college with her, and she was full of life, before Life got a hold of her.
In class, the stickiness of obligations sparked something. Everyone, knowingly, laughed about those pesky obligations that have us all twisted up. There was an excellent example from a classmate of how she and her husband had felt obligated to stay with their in-laws, although their own house is close enough that they could go home after visits. The obligation was to the in-laws who I am sure valued those sleep overs with their grown children, but made her and her husband miserable. I’m sure after many sleepless nights and much deliberation, they got the courage to tell the in-laws that they didn’t want to stay there overnight, anymore.
The inevitable occurred: The in-laws stopped speaking to my classmate and her husband, for months. Sound familiar? When our core values get mixed up with our superficial values, we find ourselves in all kinds of places and beds that we don’t want to be in. The book “Crucial Conversations,” was recommended for helping us help our clients through these complicated situations.
Good news! The in-laws finally came around. Talk about the in-laws experiencing some unrequested coaching! Awareness and Truth are always the best outcomes. Sometimes you just have to wait, patiently for their light to shine. The in-laws came to the realization that they can’t blame anyone else for how they felt. They were choosing to create a rift where there was none. There was only the truth.
Kim Green is a writer and a student at The Institute for Life Coach Training. In this blog series, she has documented her experience as she goes through the Foundational training. To read about Kim's journey, click here.