Thursday, August 25, 2011
friendship vs coaching
I was having a conversation last week with someone who has told me for years that he wanted to change a couple of major issues in his life. It was not a new conversation. We've spent time, over dinners and coffee, over the phone, talking about the same thing for a couple of years now. He's read a lot on what it will take to make that change, and he talks convincingly and with passion about his desire to make those changes. Two years into the conversation, however, nothing has changed for him.
I would be frustrated with that lack of progress. He seems to be OK with it. That is something I have had to learn, and it's not been an easy lesson for me. Not everyone who says they want X, really want to do what it takes to get X. That lack of progress in other people's lives who spoke of wanting this or that or the other used to drive me crazy when, months or years later there was no visible movement towards the goal. Just more talk. More books. More coffee shop conversation.
I have had to get over that frustration with friends and and colleagues who say they want certain changes. To not mistake what sounds like passion and conviction for real conviction. To not mistake the reading of books, the time thinking and angsting, the long discussions of possibilities for meaning they are ready to work on actual change. And honestly, at times, it is hard for me to tell when someone is and someone isn't. Only time and seeing the patterns in their lives tells me whether they really are.
I've talked to enough coaches and counselors and pastors to realize this is pretty common. I used to feel kind of stupid about it. Now, I realize that we humans are pretty good at talking the game, but less good at acting on it.
One of the things that is a must, if we want to move forward, is a certain amount of self honesty. And it would be easy to say to ourselves - that person is lying to me when they talk and talk about something, but never actually move to accomplish it. But I don't think that is the case. They are not lying to me, they are lying to themselves. I've done it myself, so I recognize it. They are telling themselves that they are X or Y and that they want X or Y, but they aren't. They would like to be, perhaps, or feel they are (I don't use think here, because I think this is am emotional belief, not a thinking one.), or have been told they are. In short, they believe they are because they feel they are.
I have spent a lot of time lately wondering what my job is as a friend vs as a coach. As a coach, it is pretty clear to me - my job is to help people move themselves towards certain life goals. That means at times, pointing out the ugly truth that what someone is saying is not consistent with what they are doing. Gently perhaps, but still, if they want to get somewhere they have not been able to get on their own, something has to change. That's why they come to me.
But when friends come to me, I wonder hard what I should do when I see the inconsistencies? Call them on it? Let them be? Simply listen? Accept?
Acceptance is what I have learned most people want in a friendship. Not challenge or being pushed, but acceptance. To someone who is a chronic "fixer", that has been a hardish lesson to grasp. But at fifty six, I am getting there. I feel that I am more a safe haven for people to express their frustrations with themselves, without adding to it. Unless they ask very specifically what I think, I tend to offer advice less often than just listen. I think in the end, that is what people most often want - a safe place to share their minds and thoughts.
I am curious what my other readers think. Am I off on this? Dead on? What do you think?
PS - the picture is of a couple of bookshelves in my library. You can click on it for a larger version.