Wouldn’t it be fantastic if you could bring a coach-like mindset to your life? I believe that this coach-like mindset is connected to how successful we are in every aspect of our lives. I don’t think I would be going too far to say that it is one of the top five things that has improved all of my relationships—allowing me to be radically curious, even when my natural default would have me in full freak out mode. Being coach-like in my everyday experiences has given me a valuable tool to navigate my career, my relationships, my attitudes, and supported my successes in every aspect of my life. It can do the same for you.
What does it mean to Be Coach-Like?
There are significant differences in the roles we play in life. We have role identities around being parents, being partners, good workers, good friends, and even what it means to be compassionate and to have empathy. Often we have a tendency to default to our Advice Monster. And, we often confuse being a whole life coach with the stories we have from sports.
In sports, the coach acts more like a consultant, mentor, feedback giver and yes, even an advice monster. The perception is that they are an external expert. And, to be fair, they can see the misstep or call us out to pass the ball more, bringing us forward with observed feedback. I spent hours in the pool getting direction on my stroke, elbow here, hold your hand like this, the efficiency of movement versus wasting energy.
In “Professional Coaching,” the dynamic is different. You are the expert on yourself. Your insights are crucial to the depth of the conversation. The coach sees you as a whole, resourceful, capable, and creative human being, and their job is to draw this inherent wisdom forward. They are supporting you to access your experiences, insights, and voice in brave ways that challenge you to take action on your dreams. Holding you accountable to what you say is important, by finding out what is essential and imperative to you. Eliciting from you what actions support you moving forward, and getting curious with you when you don’t follow through with what you say is meaningful.
Coaches show curiosity, non-judgment, non-attachment to your outcome, inviting you to choose what topic is noodling around in your mind. Even asking your input on what method you want to use to explore the issue. A good coach wants to learn about you from your perspective. How you make meaning, as well as how you have been successful in the past. Again, drawing on wisdom only you know.
What Skills Do You Need?
- Emotional Neutrality – When you are emotionally overwrought, it’s beyond difficult to get a sense of the bigger picture. It is the old adage, “You can’t see the forest for the trees.” I often ask myself and those I am talking to, to take a birds-eye view of the experience. Maybe visualize the situation on a TV screen. The point is that you may need to distance yourself or help someone else distance themselves from being deep in the swirl of the emotions. Notice what shows up, when you have the clarity of distance. Emotions are great; they are a powerful doorway into the deeper issues, yet, when being coach-like, you need to throttle back and find your centered, grounded state.
- Radical Curiosity – This is not the type of curiosity that’s about being a nosy busy body. This curiosity comes from a real desire to understand. Understand a person’s experience, understand their meaning, to really be curious on their behalf. It shows up as deep listening; it shows up in questions that we ask that are about what’s important and stays away from asking about all the details of the situation. Radical curiosity is about being interested in another persons’ viewpoint. And, then from that place of understanding, noticing the places that they might be ignoring or not connecting the dots and then being curious about what is between where they are and where they want to be.
- Naming the goal of the conversation – What do you want from a conversation? It seems like such a little thing, but understanding what the goal of the conversation is can be crucially helpful. By asking for the goal, we bypass the assumptions. There are many conversations in which this is unnecessary, yet, when we get into difficult conversations, all of a sudden, this is a very useful step. Before we go too much farther, what would you like to have by the end of this conversation? It can focus the dialogue and give us the direction of importance.
I have had many conversations and been on both sides of the assumptive conversation. Recently I had been excited to show something to my husband, and he started giving me feedback on how to make it better. When I looked annoyed he asked, “What were you looking for in this conversation?” I responded, “I wanted you to see how much work I accomplished.” Him, “Oh… it’s amazing!” Me, “Yay, it was a lot of work! LOL”
- What is the meaningful underlying issue? – Most of us are very good at sharing the situational experiences that we have. We can tell you all the players, and who did what to whom. Where we often find ourselves running around the Mulberry Tree is when we don’t uncover what is going on below the surface of the situation. Asking questions like, “What is the most important element of this situation to you?” and “What do you think is driving this experience that you’re having?” These types of questions can lead us to greater awareness about what is really going on.
Often an argument or disagreement can be driven by feeling misunderstood or disrespected. If we don’t name the underlying concern, what is most meaningful, we have the tendency to spin about the who, did what, to whom. Since we cannot change the past, we have to change our relationship to the situation. This relational shift takes us to the space to examine how we want to influence the situation. And we can only do that well when we fully understand what is most important to us.
- Listening with both ears and your heart – St. Benedict had a simple rule. “Listen carefully… and incline the ear of your heart.” When we engage our heart in our listening, we more easily come from the space of compassion. Compassion and empathy reduce the experience of judgment. Non-judgement lends itself to more honest vulnerability. More honest vulnerability translates into real healing. We cannot be fully human without the ability to listen deeply.
It is not our words that heal us; it is our willingness to share them with a trusted other, without shame. This process supports us to move from where we are stuck, towards where we want to be in our lives. It’s all connected, just like the children’s song, the hip bone is connected to the leg bone, the leg bone is connected to the knee bone… Your heart is connected to the ear bone; all you need to do is tune it.
- Keeping the Advice Monster at Bay – I was recently leading a coach training course with Microsoft through my role with inviteCHANGE, and we had an interesting conversation about “Is it ok to share our opinions, to solve problems for others, especially when we know the answer?” Ultimately it all depends. Firstly, most of us have a default setting of sharing our solutions, sharing our perspective, sharing our opinions. And, there are many places and conversations that this default setting is perfectly fine.
Still, there are others where I may be able to empathize with your situation, but there is no easy solution. If we are talking about creating a schedule for exercise, my 2 cents on exercising in the morning before the day get’s going, might be useful. But, if we have gotten to the relationship to the situation, and we are talking about the story of “I hate exercise,” or “I’m too busy to exercise,” I can in no way be an expert on what that means to you. At this point, my advice is a monster, my expertise is ego, and I am not practicing the muscle of the other skills.
Bringing it Together
Being coach-like in our lives is one way to impact our experience and the experience that others have of us. We begin to get comfortable with not knowing. It’s a powerful thing to be able to consciously listen without the chatter of solutions filling up your mind.
It is also one of the most empowering gifts we can give another person. To be able to sit in non-judgmental curiosity and support them to discover their own wisdom. Think about it, how many times have you felt deeply heard and also held as capable of saving yourself? It is a powerful realization when we can see ourselves as a whole, capable, resourceful, and creative human being. This is key to having whole life success. And don’t you and everyone you know deserve that experience?
I would LOVE to hear from YOU!
- What helps you slay your advice monster?
- Consider a conversation that you have had, where you left feeling more empowered, what supported that?
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article originally posted on Dec 2, 2019. Updated Feb 16, 2023.