Coaching Behaviors: Listening

 
Photo credit:  NeONBRAND

Photo credit: NeONBRAND

 

One of the structural flaws of our minds is that it is hard for us to think deeply and coherently for any length of time. We keep losing the main thread the same way we lose our keys on the way out the door. Competing, irrelevant information has a habit of darting across the mental horizon and jumbling our shaky insights. Occasionally, consciousness mysteriously goes blank for a moment, like we’ve lost our streaming connection. These mental glitches distract our attention, chipping away at our potential for finding creative flow in our work, and reinforce doubt in the value of what we are trying to make sense of.

“Why am I doing this? Why did I embark on this effort in the first place?” we think.

When this kind of thinking happens, we can experience overpowering urges to check the news, social media, gossip, walk around the office to distract others or search out a snack. All unproductive behaviors. All behaviors with external focus. As a result, some of the topics we most need to examine—our inner state, our interpersonal relationships; our goals; our skill development; the triggers that bother us so much about the way our colleagues do or don’t do their work—sink into to the mental sands, at great mental cost.

What helps in our attempts to know our own minds is, surprisingly, having another mind present. For all the appeal of independent learning, thinking usually happens best in tandem. The curiosity of someone else gives use the confidence to remain curious about the things we are most intimidated to confront about ourselves, the dogs in the basements of our minds. It is the application of a light pressure from outside us that helps give structure and perspective to some of our jumbled impressions. That coaches require us to verbalize our thoughts mobilizes us toward greater discipline in our concentration.

Occasionally a friend might be unusually attentive and ready to hear us out. But it isn’t enough for them  quietly sip their coffee or cocktail and hear us out. Listening means more than merely not interrupting. To really be hard means being the recipient of a strategy of ‘active listening’.

From the start, the coach will use a succession of very quiet but significant prompts to help us develop and stick to the points we are circling. These suggest that there is no hurry but that someone is there, following every word we say, sigh we take, and flinch of our voice and posture as they encourage us to “go on” and “say more.”

One flower, one gardener

When a coach listens actively, our ideas, memories and concerns don’t have to be well-formed. We are given a wide birth to stumble, backtrack, and get confused. But the active listener contains and gardens the emerging confusion. They can see the difference between a weed that will distract us and the seed that we need to learn to nurture. They help us plough old ground covered too quickly prompting us to address a relevant point that we might have skipped. They will help us chop away at a disturbing issue while continually reassuring us that what we are saying is valuable. All the while, they will note minor changes in our facial expressions, tone of voice, breathing, posture, and eye movements. They will be interested in what words we choose, and attentive not only to what we actually express but what we might have said instead.

They do not treat us like ineffective communicators; they are simply immensely alive to how difficult it is for anyone to piece together our blind spots.

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This blog post is part of a series related to The Little Book of Coaching pending publication.

COACHING BEHAVIORS: SUPPORTIVE

 
Photo by  Neil Thomas

Photo by Neil Thomas

 

Leading others, at any level, isn’t easy. It’s an invitation into an uncomfortable place filled with doubt, constraints, difficulty, and struggle. When we accept that invitation we find within ourselves truth, strength, and resilience.

Coaches enter into an ecosystem and understand our position in that system. They share our concerns and convey empathy with our situation. But they do not take on our anxieties or solve our problems. Coaches are independent thinkers while working interdependently with us to confront our challenges constructively.

Coaches are not there simply for understanding and insights. They demand our willingness to enter into a maturing process that helps increase our resiliency. They require us to take action, learn from our experiences, and set new goals for action that lead to a stronger sense of our leadership presence. The stronger and more robust our presence is—our ability to sit with our own discomfort and the discomfort of others—the easier it will be to integrate practicing the ability to identify reasonable goals, manage ourselves amidst our own discomfort and that of others, increase our tolerance for reactivity, and be candid with our experiences. Mastery of these practices is a lifelong commitment.

While those around us are sporadically annoyed, frustrated, jealous, bored, vindictive, keen to prove a point or distracted by their own set of concerns, coaches bring a focused, generous attention to our situation. They create a safe, no-consequences conversational space, separate from day-to-day pressures. They are genuinely sorry if we have suffered reputational damage. They understand that it must have been worrying to get a new boss right before they were promised a promotion, enraging to be overlooked after delivering a key project, or exciting to have acquired a new team. They know we didn’t do whatever it is we are there to discuss on purpose and assume some logic on our part if we did. They do not flatter us, but they do strive to enter into our experience, shoulder to shoulder, and help us make sense of our experience so that we can see a broader set of choices than the one we originally picked. They look at reality through our eyes so as to start offering an alternative point of view and become an effective sounding board for future decision making.

Such support allows us to exhale and breathe a sigh of relief. Day to day survival in corporate politics (and everywhere else) requires that we constantly weigh the impact of our words and actions on others. We have to consider their priorities, take a genuine interest in their lives, and make room for their concerns.

With a coach, there is little inquiry into their personal experience. The coach inquires what is top of mind for us, not the other way around. The relationship is as one-sided as the parent-advocate who doesn’t expect the child to worry about their sleep, but who provides ground rules to live by.

 

Leading others, at any level, isn’t easy. It’s an invitation into an uncomfortable place filled with doubt, constraints, difficulty, and struggle. When we accept that invitation we find within ourselves truth, strength, and resilience.

 

However, the coach does not sacrifice equality in the relationship. They’ll show us understanding while holding us accountable to our goals. They give us tough feedback so we can see reality with greater clarity. They are fully present to help us find what is best for us, understood on our terms.

Support is not just pleasant. Support is structured, and essential to us tapping into our own reserves. Knowing that we have someone in our corner is designed to lend us the courage to face up to experiences we normally avoid. In a sufficiently calm, reassuring and attentive environment, we can look at areas of vulnerability we otherwise lack the courage to tackle. We need to learn to confront our managers unproductive interventions that derail project priorities. We need to make key leadership decisions resulting in team restructuring and strategy shifts. We have to be able to deal with toxic team members in a way that doesn’t blow back on us. With a supportive advocate in our corner, we can summon the vulnerability needed to reflect on our own behavior—that perhaps we were wrong correcting someone in front of the team or that we have been angry with a peer for long enough, that it might be best to outgrow our justifications.

The support of another person gives us the emotional safety needed shine light in a constructive way at our crafty, mysterious, evasive minds.

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This blog post is part of a series related to The Little Book of Coaching pending publication.

Coaching Behaviors: Proximity

 
Photo by  Markus Spiske

Photo by Markus Spiske

 

Coaches know a lot about the unembellished truths of human nature. They have close-up experience, proximity, working with people who have experienced serious traumas—harassment, layoffs, discrimination—as well as the smaller pains and paradoxes: a grudge provoked by a side look at a person in a meeting that took up the better part of three years; an otherwise amiable person who punched a wall in frustration after a meeting; a smart, capable manager who is no longer performing well; a senior director in midlife at the same level for ten years and getting anxious about retirement; a corporate vice president incapable to confrontation.

Because of their orientation, coaches grounded in psychology know that inside every adult there remains are feelings of confusion, anger, hurt and longing to have their say and their reality recognized. Coaches appreciate that we need to know what we know and feel what we feel in order to really know ourselves again. They know we will want to be heard, perhaps through tears or the grit teeth of frustration, which might be at odds with the surface maturity and self-management normally associated with executives and high performing managers.

Coaches have sufficiently adapted themselves to the reality of what people are like. They do not to need to censor or deliver judgments. This experience does not come from theory or books, but by being courageous about knowing their own nature. Coaches may not share our fantasies and anxieties exactly, but they accept that their own are as colorful and as complex. They are just as well acquainted with the powerful and peculiar fears that hold us all hostage.

 

Coaches have a broader view of what it means to be normal.

 

Coaches can start to help us because they have a much broader view of what is actually normal versus what we insist on pretending is normal. They don’t require us to be any particular way to protect their fragile sense of self or of reality. Their only requirement is that we admit, without too much defensiveness, to some of what is going on inside us. They as us to feel what we might have been suppressing or know what we might have been lying to ourselves about in the pursuit of greater self-awareness. Greater self-awareness leads to deeper insights.

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This blog post is part of a series related to The Little Book of Coaching pending publication.

Coaching Behaviors: A Self-Differentiated Witness

 
Photo by  Dawn Kim

Photo by Dawn Kim

 

One of the most important skills a coach has, and they undergo significant training for this, is the ability to maintain their own experience in the presence of others’ anxiety. Self-differentiation sits squarely in the middle of taking a firm stand on our own point of view (our judgment, our decision, or a boundary we set), and remaining connected and attuned to those with whom we take a stand.

 
gyroscope2.jpg

It’s sort of like a gyroscope, where all the parts tilt, move and roll, but the center remains firm. Applying this metaphor to our relationships, we maintain an interactional equilibrium: the ability to maintain yourself and your relationships in the face of forces like fear, conflict, judgment, and anxiety.

Coaching without a high degree of self-differentiation can lead to a high degree of reactivity where the coach and the client can lose their balance, responding in automatic, nonconstructive and ineffective ways.

The power of the witness

It’s easy to look at someone else’s decisions and pass judgement. Coaches with a grounding in psychology get trained not to judge and to remain separate yet connected as they intervene with a client on a challenge. Curiosity, genuine nonjudgmental interest, is a quality that needs to be constantly cultivated and practiced.

The witness sees the good, the bad, the terrible, and the mundane. Witnessing a family member, friend, partner or associate’s experience gives it meaning. How we witness one another’s experience makes that experience constructive and positive, or devastating and painful.

In our families and at our work, we hide most of who we really are. There is more than enough judgment to go around and we can almost feel our knuckles being rapped when we play outside the lines. We know how quickly we’d be kicked from the campfire if people could read a ticker-tape of our mind.

Much of our inner monologue might seem foolish: how we felt a strange impulse to burst into tears during a touching commercial of family re-connection; how often we wish we could travel back in time and correct the missed opportunities of our youth, or even just take back what we said to a colleague in our last meeting. Using a harsh lens, some of what is inside can be pretty pitiful: how worried we are about asking a stupid question; how needy we feel for the attention of someone in our group; how much we worry about our appearance. There is also a part of our mind designated for the illegal. This is where the death wishes hang out—our fantasies about a work colleague, or our very plain plans for what we would like to do to a bad boss. But some of what have to contend with is substantial, as we reckon with the vulnerability we feel in undertaking scope with which we have little experience or initial understanding, like leading a team, a division, or a whole company.

When we are under stress, our thinking becomes myopic. We return to what we know works and that knowledge turns into our most powerful hammer. The problem is, not every challenge requires a hammer and our coach can help us acquire a broader perspective so that we can see and learn to develop new tools for the problems that confront us.

Not everyone knows when they need a helping hand. When our world becomes small, we are often counseled to reach out to friends and colleagues (and sometimes coaches!). But we know, deep down, that the social contract in our relationships dictates that we do not burden them with more than a mere fraction of our insanity. There is only so much, we think, we should tell a friend, colleague, or boss before we appear weak, damaged, or put ourselves at risk for being sidelined. All this contributes to our sense of feeling like an imposter, a fraud, or generally undeserving of what we have genuinely earned.

As a safety measure, we filter ourselves. In every interaction, we ensure that there remains a wall between what we say to people and what is truly going on inside our minds.

An exception lies with coaching. Here, remarkably, we can say pretty much anything we want—and expect it to remain confidential. We don’t have to impress the coach or reassure them of our sanity in a particular situation or confirm the insanity in which we operate. We need to be up front, candid, and tell them what is going on. There is no need to stop them thinking we are not completely qualified to do what we do, not worthy of our roles, or just plain terrified. We can gingerly hint that we have some qualities we wish to work on, those shadows in the dark corners of our minds. And, we will find that the coach is not horrified, offended or surprised—only calmly curious. We will learn that we are not frauds, imposters, or undeserving of success. Eventually, we arrive at the opposite of isolation.

A good witness, someone grounded in a science of inquiry, is a model to us on how to become our own advocate.

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This blog post is part of a series related to The Little Book of Coaching pending publication.

Key Principles of Coaching

 
Photo Credit:  michael podger

Photo Credit: michael podger

 

Components of being results-driven, a good thought partner, engaged in the challenge, and a connector of insights are important for an effective coaching engagement. How that is delivered requires certain qualities.

A few key principles fair better than long lists of models, worksheets, and tactics—no matter how road tested they are. We use the term guiding principles for a reason, because they literally guide us when we over overwhelmed by emotions that come up in stressful work situations, like anxiety, boredom, frustration, resentment, anger and disappointment. Guiding principles apply to when things are going well, too, like joy, euphoria, and happiness because they dictate what we do next. They guide us when we are under pressure and the stakes are high, like when our team doubles and our scope increases overnight and we are now responsible for teams in three geographic regions. Achieving personal and professional mastery at being, doing, and learning with attaining actionable results…in front of others, when our career is on the line—is hard work.

Coaches use the following principles:

  • Note their whole experience

  • Adopt a systems lens

  • Use their own experience and a systems lens in their coaching method

 

Note their whole experience

Often referred to as “signature presence”, “executive presence”, or one’s “whole self,” it is really about understanding what is it about that coach that we can’t get from any other.

Everyone has a unique presence that gives everyone else they come into contact with a particular experience they can’t get anywhere else. This isn’t to say that we can’t be replaced, but at the same time, we are unique beings and have unique perspectives to offer. A coach should not be performing techniques on clients. No one likes that experience, and it’s not helpful. A trainer, for example, who performs the same training in three cities is not a coach. They are giving a cookie-cutter experience to a high volume of people. I mentioned partnership as a key quality in coaching because it is a value I hold deeply. A coach is a sounding board, peer, and shoulder-to-shoulder collaborator presenting their unique perspectives on a client’s most intimidating challenges. This requires the coach to be candid, the ability to be truthful and authentic about oneself.

The coaching relationship is built on trust, the ability to provide candid feedback, and a genuine presence. The coach’s ability to be authentic helps elicit authenticity in the client. In this way, the coach helps the client bring their full self to their goals, challenges, and relationships crucial to their success.

Adopting a systems lens

Think of a system like a spider web, where the action of one person can impact the experience and potential reactions of everyone or thing else within that web. Coaches require a system lens to understand where their clients where their clients work. A systems view is by definition nonlinear. It enables the coach to spot patterns of interaction and interdependence within and across specific areas of the system.

A coach looks at the system both inside-out and outside-in. At the center of the web is the leader and their personal work. This is where the coach and the client reflect on the client’s values, motivations, goals, strengths, and core challenges. Next out is the client and their team(s), departments, vendors, customers, and strategic stakeholders or partners. The further area from the client is the market, the economy, the natural environment, and political shifts.

This last phase used to seem academic but is coming into the foreground now more than ever. When tariffs increase, whole revenue models need to be re-calibrated—as is the case with cars. When natural resources are recognized as finite, whole product lines and supply chains need to be reconsidered—as is the case with the paper coffee cup. When a company is questioned about their ethics and their impact on elections, how people approach launching their service requires more rigor in thinking through unintended consequences—as is the case with social media services. All of these external factors (and more) impact how we go about our day to day business and how we feel about our work. And, how we feel about work impacts how content we are ourselves and how we treat others.

When the coach focuses too narrowly on the client (their goals, challenges, and inner difficulties), the whole ecosystem in which they function is lost. And the client is influencing and being influenced by the interrelationships of that system (their team, departments, vendors and customers) all the time. Also important is the global area in which they operate.

Combining our experience and a systems lens with an approach to coaching

Combining the unique qualities the coach brings with a systems lens is what makes the application of the coaching method unique. Depending on how they’ve been trained and their professional experience, each coach will identify, emphasize and reflect something different from the systems in which we operate. This is one of the reasons we need to pay attention to what resonates with us when we choose a coach.

Coaching follows a predictable flow of contracting on what goals will be done, planning how to go about achieving those goals, determining how the coach intervene with the client and what interventions the client will then practice, and debriefing on what progress occurred and what next steps the client should take. This is an action research approach seeking business results while building client capabilities to identify, practice, and review their skill development across multiple contexts.

While these steps appear linear, human reactivity and responsiveness are not. A client might be on the verge of landing a vision and mission with their team or organization when they reach out for coaching. Another might be planning a big change initiative. Those projects will continue forward without the coach’s ability to influence it. The coach will instead focus on the heat and chaffing that arises in and between the individual, team, and larger ecosystem of the “web.”

 

 

By linking the coach’s whole experience with a systems perspective to the coaching approach, the coach brings ideas, particular filters and perspectives, and abilities to constructively challenge their clients. Coaches can take a strong stand in stating a position that might not be popular while remaining connected and engaged in the coaching dynamic, even when there is conflict.

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This blog post is part of a series related to The Little Book of Coaching pending publication.

How coaching can tend to the present and future

 
 

Now that we’ve reviewed some of the fundamentals of psychology—specifically how family systems work, our lopsided natures, and the impact of denial—it’s important to underscore the stance of the practitioner you want to engage, and why you want to engage them. Chemistry and philosophical alignment matters when it comes to making progress.

A therapist will diagnose your lopsidedness, and dwell with you in reviewing past experiences to heal or help reduce your emotional pain. They do this by reversing the suppression of memories and emotions; by talking with you and getting you to talk.

Coaching dips into the past and attempts to help you frame your experiences in a way that provides insights about your present and future. Specifically, coaching helps you gain awareness of yourself as an individual, how you influence and interact with teams, and how well you negotiate shifts in market forces.

It is here we come to a fork in the road and will focus exclusively on the practice and value of coaching.

Coaching is a tool; like all tools, it has been designed to help us overcome an innate weakness we came by naturally and to help us learn to nurture, augment and extend our capacities. A bucket is stronger and more secure than holding water in our hands. A knife is more helpful to us than tearing meat with our teeth. Both tools make up for innate deficits in our natural abilities and help us do more with our resources.

What is distinctive about coaching is what it is a tool for: at its core coaching is an invention us interweave results and relationships. It sounds like a simple concept, but it is not easy to pull off.

Coaches claim a wide spectrum of specialties—from coaching skills for management, to building block skills from scientific literature, to a billion dollar self-help industry helping you figure out “what to do when you grow up”—and this book doesn’t claim to cover such a broad range of topics.

Here, we take a flyover view of view of how executive coaches leverage principles from psychology and effectively model them with clients as the navigate their environment and finding those educatable moments when they will be able to link being, doing, and learning with attaining actionable results. In this way, clients leverage coaches as a true business partner helping them face distinct challenges in achieving results and gain clarity on what is hindering their progress.

 

Coaches find educatable moments by linking being, doing, and learning with attaining actionable results.

 

While coaching can initially be focused on a single individual, coaches take a bi-focal view of client within the context of their larger system. They look at the forces that shape and influence the client. Clients subconsciously react to the field in which they operate with their own emotional responses, which propel them forward or hold them back. Clients react within that field and this sets off a chain of reactivity around them. Coaches need to be able to see the how the system impacts their clients in order to see how their interventions succeed or fail. Without the systems perspective, coaches have limited impact.

Coaching has been devised to correct the otherwise substantial difficulties we face in understanding how we operate as individuals, our impact and influence on others, our ability to participate and lead high-performance teams. Done well, under pressure, in front of an audience—are all demonstrations of fully integrated skills such as self-love; radical candor; awareness of what motivates us and others; and, self-management. To perform well under stress requires us to trust ourselves first, then others, and communicate successfully, honor our potential, while feeling adequately calm, confident, authentic, direct and unashamed.

For many of us, that is a tall order.

For such an important invention, coaching is still low on overt signs of innovation. Much of the training and information on the market has been updated and repackaged.

However, there is new emphasis on neuroscience, brain development, creativity, and consciousness. There is increasing interest in making coaching more readily available to all members of the organization. Technically speaking, it requires only a quiet room free of interruptions, fifty minutes, possibly twice a month, and some thoughtful conversation where both people are fully present. The level of training a coach grounded in psychology needs to undertake requires a period of extensive education in the workings of the mind, which – in more responsible institutions – has a similar cost, rigor, intellectual ambition and periods of hands-on experience as getting a pilot’s license.

To deliver on its promises, coaching relies on distinct components. Here are four.

1.       Results Driven

The outcomes a client is there to achieve should be the sole focus of a client engagement. To lose site of that is to waste the client’s time, money, and energy. The organization needs the client to be as effective as possible on the goods or services that contribute to the organization’s success. Coaching support that drive for results.

2.       Partners on the journey

The coach stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the client in gaining personal and professional mastery. Together, they detangle and assess the issues, pressures, and problems they face. The coach observes, inquires, motivates and challenges the client to perform optimally.

3.       Engaged in the challenge

This process helps the client gain awareness and insights about what forces they might be succumbing to that take them off course, and what they avoid. In the confines of the coaching dynamic, the coach confronts and challenges the client on how they might be getting in their own way.

4.      Connects key concepts to gain insights

The coach makes the connection between behaviors to outcomes, keeping the leaders focused on outcomes but widening their lens on how to get there. This is an essential aspect of coaching where coaches help clients to understand which behaviors are linked to which business goals. It’s important for the client to understand that they are not an island, and that the responsibility remains central to the leader achieving results through their behaviors with the team.

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This blog post is part of a series related to The Little Book of Coaching pending publication.

Markers of emotional intelligence (and health)

 
Photo by  Alex Blăjan

Photo by Alex Blăjan

 

Coaches with a background in psychology are grounded in theoretical perspectives of family systems and the impact a family template can have on adult development; how our lopsided natures can hold us back from the progress we wish to make; and, how denial can lead to blocking learning and remaining stuck—among many other aspects of human development.

It is a great myth, and one that we have bought into, that we are one person at home and another at work. The fundamentals we just reviewed—how families work, how our lopsided natures are formed, and how we become stuck—give us a very high level, basic understanding for why “conscious leaders” and “emotionally intelligent leaders” are so highly prized in the work environment.

One way to start understanding just how lopsided we have become from our earliest experiences is to identify a range of markers of emotional intelligence and general emotional health, visualizing how we rank in comparison. In therapy we would direct most of our repair work and attention toward healing those early experiences that generated the most hurt, and therefore contributed to the greatest gaps in our emotional health. In coaching, we recognize that these experiences occurred, gain awareness and insights about how they contribute to our present, and determine actions that will increase our effectiveness and performance.

At least five qualities come to mind.

1.       Self-love: the ability to like oneself, wholly.

Before we can empathize with other’s experiences, we must learn to empathize with our own internal experience—the emotional reactivity and interior monologue that is generated when we are under stress.

Self-love is the quality that determines how much we can be friends with ourselves, learn to become our own (caring) advocate, and commit to constructive choices that suggest we are on our own side.

When we observe a stranger having things or experiences we don’t, how quickly do we feel less than or resentful? How long is it before we are making assumptions of how they came by those things and experiences or questioning the fairness of things? When another person irritates or demeans us in some way, can we let the slight go? Can we see the action for what it was (senseless spite) or are we left brooding and lose ourselves in overwhelming sadness, indirectly agreeing with the verdict of those judging us? How much can the disapproval or neglect or public opinion be counterbalanced by the memory of the steady attention of a few significant people in the past?

In relationships, do we have enough self-love to leave an abusive partnership? Or are we so down on ourselves that we carry an unspoken belief that mistreatment, disapproval, or outright abandonment is all we deserve? In a different vein, how good are we at apologizing to a lover, a family member, or dear friend for things that actually might be our fault? How rigidly pious do we need to be? Can we dare to admit mistakes, or does an admission of guilt or error bring us too close to a sense of complete insignificance?

How do we regard our desires? Therapy will venture into family histories and the bedroom for those answers. Coaches will seek to understand how we define and self-edit our desires for success. Are our desires clean and natural or alternatively disgusting and sinful? are we a little off, but not bad or dark, since they originate from inside us and we are not wretches?

2.       Candor: the ability to be truthful and authentic about oneself.

Candor is about being “real” when you might feel vulnerable to judgment and open in the face of difficult ideas and troubling facts. It determines the extent to which you can consciously open your mind, to thoughtfully explore and accept facts without denial—without lying to yourself (and then others).

One question both therapists and coaches get equally: “Am I normal? You’ve seen this before, right?”

The fact is, there is no normal. And, yes, we’ve seen it before.

The essence of candor is intimacy, with ourselves. How much can we admit to ourselves about who we are—even if, or especially when, the material is unflattering? How much do we need to insist on our own normality and sanity in order to accept ourselves and admit our inner natures? Can we explore our own minds? Can we, as one psychology professor challenged, confront “the dogs in the basement”? Can we shine light in those darker and more troubled corners without flinching too much? Can we admit to foolishness, envy, sadness, confusion, and galactic mistakes?

Around others, how ready are we to learn? This matters for parents and partners as much as it does for newly minted managers and CEOs. Do we need always to take a criticism of one part of us as an attack on everything about us? How ready are we to listen when valuable lessons come, painfully, over and over again through multiple contexts?

3.       Social Skills: the ability to communicate, persuade, influence, and listen.

Can we patiently and reasonably put our disappointments into words that, more or less, enable others to see our point? Or do we internalize pain, act it out symbolically or discharge it with counterproductive rage?

When other people upset us, do we feel we have the right to communicate or must we slam doors and retreat into sulks? When the desired response isn’t forthcoming, do we ask others to guess what we have been too angrily panicked to spell out? Or can we have a plausible second go and take seriously the thought that others are not merely being nasty in misunderstanding us? Do we have the inner resources to teach rather than insist?

 4.       Motivation: having an interest in learning and improving oneself.

Do we have the strength to keep going when there are obstacles in life? Motivation is about setting goals and following through with them.

When something deeply interests us, we take initiative and demonstrate the commitment to complete a task. If we are truly passionate about our goal we will persist through adversity, boredom, frustration and find creative ways through setbacks.  

Embracing better health, taking steps to advance our career by attending graduate school, saving for retirement, and paying off loans are examples of goals that motivate us internally and result in self-improvement.

Marrying at the “right time”, getting the best grades, having the latest gadget or car are examples of chasing goals that flaunt wealth or status and can represent a slippery slope. Failure in the face of these kinds of goals is unlikely to result in a constructive learning opportunity. More than likely failure to maintain the perfect house, keep the kids in private schools, avoid divorce and poor performance at work will result in increasing self-doubt, and reducing one’s ability to be their own best advocate (and friend).  

5.       Self-Management

How do we react in the face of risk? And, how do we manage our impulses in relation to those risks? Do we think before we speak/react? Do we express ourselves appropriately?

How well would we perform a challenge in the form of a public speech, a romantic rejection, period of financial strain, immigrating to another country or lengthy physical illness? Sometimes a small cold can set us back in ways we didn’t expect. How close are we, at any time, to financial, professional, or personal disaster? What mettle are we made of?

Is the stranger dangerous or benevolent? If we lean towards be a little more direct than most, will they accept us or ghost us? Will unfamiliar situations end in a disaster? Around love, how tightly do we need to cling? If a lover, parent, sibling, friend is distant for a while, will they return? If a boss neglects regular touch points, stakeholders go silent, or direct reports fail to check in are they sabotaging us or will they still support our efforts? How controlling do we need to be? Can we approach an interesting stranger or colleague to connect on some interest or other? Or move on from an unsatisfying relationship?

Overall, do we think the world is expansive, safe and rational enough for us to have a genuine shot at fulfillment, or must we settle, resentfully, for inauthenticity and misunderstanding?

Our first answers to these questions are not our fault, or anyone else’s. They are merely the first responses that were wired into us during a galvanizing experience. Many of these questions are so hard to answer sincerely in a positive light. But, by considering them, we are at least starting to know what sort of impact our primal wounds have and, therefore, what we need to do to address it.

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This blog post is part of a series related to The Little Book of Coaching pending publication.

  The emotionally healthy childhood

 
Photo by  Annie Spratt

Photo by Annie Spratt

 

An emotionally healthy childhood can’t be idiosyncratic, dependent on a particular environment, or come down to good luck. There are distinct themes to identify. With optimal development in mind we can start to form a map. From there, we can see with greater clarity where we are taking a left turn, what we have to be grateful for, and where we feel our greatest shame. At a societal level, this map might serve as general direction toward what there is to achieve in order to create a more emotionally stable and therefore slightly saner world.

An emotionally healthy childhood could give us the following:

A lifelong advocate. Someone will put themselves profoundly at our service. If as adults we have even a measure of mental health, it is undoubtedly because, when we were small and dependent, there was a person (to whom we essentially owe our lives) who pushed their needs aside for a time to focus wholly on our own. They understood our babble and heard us into speech; they gave us their best guesses on treatment when we were sick; they calmed our fears, consoled us in our insecurities, and protected us from harm. They provided a protective barrier from the chaos of the world, showing us just enough of it—carving up our experiences for us in manageable pieces. Without thanks or sympathy, they didn’t expect us to ask how their day went or how well they slept. They catered to our needs, so that we would later on be able to submit to the rigors and slights of daily life. This lop-sided relationship was temporary, but by modeling with consistency, made certain our ability to form a healthy one.

We generally think of egocentricity a quality resulting from too much love or attention. But it’s actually the opposite. An adult who is ego-centric never got their fill as a child. Self-centeredness has to have a clean run in the early years if it isn’t to haunt and ruin the later ones. Those we regard as narcissists are simply unfortunate people who never got the chance to be exceedingly admired at the start.

In an emotionally healthy childhood, our advocate is there to give us the benefit of the doubt. They offer us a positive spin on our behavior. We are assessed by what we might be one day, not by what we are right now. From this we learn kindness and charity.

If our advocate is a harsh critic, for example, they might say that we were ‘attention-seeking’. They imagine that what we most need is a hug and some encouraging words. We might have acted meanly. Our advocate adds that we must have been feeling threatened. If we dropped something accidentally or were negligent; our advocate remembers that tiredness could have explained it, or they were distracted by a new visitor.

Our advocate constantly searches for the story behind the story. They look under the surface for more compassionate explanations. They help us to be on our own side, to like ourselves. If we actually like ourselves, we learn not to be too defensive about our flaws. We learn there is always something to work on, constructively, and we learn to accept ourselves as we are.

In a healthy childhood, the relationship with our advocate is stable, dependable and long-term. We have faith they will be there tomorrow and the day after. They aren’t explosive or fragile. They are almost boringly predictable—so much so, we might start to take them for granted. As a result, we project this trust on to other relationships we develop throughout our life. We are able to believe that what has gone well once can go well again. This belief influences our choice of friends, adult partners, bosses—everyone. We aren’t fascinated by people who are abrupt with us or unreliable; we don’t relish being punished, judged, or mistreated. We can pick out influences who are kind and nurturing, and don’t view them as weak or deficient for being so.

If trouble strikes with our kindly partners, we don’t go into an instant panic. We don’t immediately try to defend ourselves by turning away, avoiding or cutting them off. We can confidently set about trying to repair a love we know we deserve.

In a healthy childhood, we aren’t always required to be wholly good. We are allowed our emotions. We can get angry and sometimes be disgusting. We can say ‘no more, absolutely not, no way’ when we disagree, or settle a dispute with ‘because I feel like it’. Our advocates are adults and know we all, no matter what our age, have our own flaws. As a result, they do not expect a child to be fundamentally better than they are. We do not have to comply at every turn to be merely tolerated. We can let others see our see our shadow sides.

This kind of freedom within our family systems prepares us one day to submit to the demands of society without having to rebel in unproductive, self-defeating ways (rebels being, at their core, people who have had to obey too much too early). We can tow the line when it’s in our long-term interest to do so. At the same time, we’re not overly cowed or indiscriminately obedient either. We learn to find a sound middle point between being completely submissive and self-destructive defiance.

In a healthy childhood, our advocate isn’t jealous or competitive with us. They can allow themselves to be overtaken and superseded. They have had their moment in the spotlight, or else are having it elsewhere beyond the family. They can be proud rather than resentful of the achievements of the (usually same-sex) child. It doesn’t need to be all about them.

The good advocate doesn’t live through the child’s accomplishments. They want them to do well, but for their own sake, and in their own way. There is no particular script that the child has to follow to be loved. For instance, the child doesn’t need to become a doctor or a famous soccer player because that is the path their parent chose. The child isn’t required to support their advocate’s self-doubt or pump them up to others.

In healthy childhood, the child learns that things that break can be fixed. Things that spill can easily be picked up. Plans can go awry, but new ones can be made. The advocate models for the child how to self-soothe, calm down, keep going, and remain hopeful. A voice of resilience, originally external, becomes the way the child learns to speak to themselves. There are alternatives to panic.

Notably, even emotionally healthy childhoods suffer from thins going awry. No one has hung their reputation on the notion that anyone’s childhood could ever be perfect. The advocate does not see it as their role to remove every frustration, pad every sharp corner, or remove every obstacle. They sense that a lot of good can come from having the right, manageable kind of friction through which the child develops their own resources and individuality. Having contact with bearable disappointment, the child is prompted to create their own internal world, in which they can dream, generate new plans, learn to self-soothe and build up their own resources.

Even emotionally healthy childhoods suffer from things going awry.

The child can see that the advocate is neither entirely good nor wholly bad, and therefore is worthy of neither idealizing on a pedestal nor casting out in disparagement. Just as the adult accepts the child with its faults, the child learns to accept the adult with theirs with a blend of melancholy, maturity and gratitude. They learn that, like their advocate, they need to accept that everyone they come into contact with will be a mixture of positive and negative, and that the presence of negativity or flaw is not cause for banishment. As adults, they won’t fall deeply in love and them (becoming fast friends or quick lovers), nor will they become furious at the first moment of let-down (by ghosting or giving off a vibe of being cast out). They have a realistic sense of what can be expected of life alongside another human who is, like them, good enough.

Unfortunately, despite all our advances in technology, education, and material resources, we are not much more advanced in the art of delivering emotionally healthy childhoods than previous generations. The number of breakdowns, inauthentic lives keeping up with some external image of success shows no marked signs of decline. We are failing to offer one another tolerable childhoods not because we are malicious, apathic or uncaring but because we still have so far to go before we know how to do that most apparently simple yet infinitely complicated of things for ourselves: emotional intelligence.

One tool that might just get us there is coaching.

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This blog post is part of a series related to The Little Book of Coaching pending publication.

Denial, blocked, and stuck

 
Photo by  Tomas Tuma

Photo by Tomas Tuma

 

Our childhood experiences are the single greatest cause of how we function emotionally as adults. Therefore, what is surprising and unfortunate is how little of the past we can really remember. We can recall the basic facts and a few occurrences here and there, but in terms of grasping detail with camera-like precision, how our present is influenced by the figures and events of our early years, we are often beginners or simply skeptical as to the point of examining the past. In many cases, it would not be too strong to speak of kind of willed mental block.

The tendency, and sometimes desire, to forget the primal wound of childhood is not hard to understand. To be presently impacted by events so far into our past feels implausible and crushing, but also humiliating. To subscribe to the notion that our personalities might remain forged by incidents from before our sixth or seventh birthday leaves us feeling helpless. No amount of blunt (“just get over it”, “let it go”) or cliched-sounding mental health determinism (“think positive”, “reach out to more people”) denies our hopes for a more dignified life of adult autonomy. We would like to make sense of our moods in terms of what is happening in the present. If we feel angry with someone, we would like to believe the cause lies with them and their actions, rather than something tripping a low-lying frequency laid four decades ago rendering us especially sensitive and flinty.

Over time the lens on the past softens. What was a challenging norm becomes and endearing exception or quirk. This is aided by family photos, almost always capturing happier moments, even if they were staged. There is much more likely to be an image of one’s mother going down a playground slide with a carefree expression than of her yelling at her children about the misery of everything she gave up for her current predicament; there will be a shot of one’s father genially posing with the children or family friends in very on-trend plaid pants, but no visual record of his long, brutal mealtime silences. A lot of editing goes on, encouraged by all participants, anything to be remembered as a softer version of themselves.

As we age, we lose the idiosyncratic and peculiar perspective of a child and instead view the world through the pragmatism of an adult. An adult observing a toddler’s tantrum in a bookstore is judged as frustrating, dramatic and bad-tempered. While that one perspective has merit, it might be harder for us to access the support or empathy and attempt to recreate the strange inner world of a small person (an inner world we once had) in which he might feel tired and confused, exasperated that naptime is so far away (even though admitting that he’s tired is admitting some kind of defeat), or lonely and shy by being the smallest person in a large store with beige carpet and books that have no dragons in them, far from his teddy bear, left by mistake in the car outside.

When an adult locks the door to the spare bedroom to ensure silence for an hour-long business call, we don’t typically picture the scene from the perspective of the young child on the other side, for whom this repeated exclusion may seem proof that everything magical and good has suddenly gone. Or when the parent has after-hours obligations that help raise her profile at work and she misses opportunities to support after school activities. Or when the parent is incessantly on his phone, laptop or other gadget—checking in on it like a digital pet—ignoring the needs of the small child seeking connection in the here and now. Adults’ professional responsibilities are no small thing, they maintain a livelihood and enable opportunity for each member. At the same time, these slights to our self-worth and self-esteem, if too numerous, have a cumulative effect. It becomes difficult for us to keep in mind how much in our respective personalities was marked by what are (from a grown-up perspective) almost laughably minor yet hugely potent incidents.

It is not merely that we have forgotten the past. We could in theory re-enter the mental spaces we once occupied. We have our reasons for pushing aside, ignoring the memories and willfully limiting contemplating on our histories.

We maintain a safe distance from our inner selves because what we might learn about ourselves or the people the hurt us will likely be uncomfortable. We might learn that we were really angry with, and resentful about, certain people we were only meant to love—or worse yet, that our anger has been misdirected toward innocent people trying to protect us. We might discover how much ground there was to feel deeply anxious, inadequate and guilty on account of the many errors and misjudgments we have made. We might find that, we held illusions that went in other directions. We might come into recognition just how much happiness was nauseatingly compromised and needed to be changed about our relationships and careers. And we would be faced with needing to take responsibility for our current outcomes.

So we hide. It is part of the human tragedy that as such creative beings, we are such natural self-deceivers of our own unique greatness. Our methods for camouflage are many and we do much to escape being noticed.

We become addicted to the kind of numbness that comes from opting out—a kind of floating above the surface of life. Our addiction isn’t to drugs or liquor (although that can happen to), but to the mundane, everyday activities that keep us busy and distracted. We watch television or clean the house, exercising or continually start mew projects at home or work. We might cook or can food at odd hours, or reorganize the garage.

We tell ourselves we are being productive. To the world, it might even look that way, but our compulsiveness has motives. We watch the television to focus on news or narratives to avoid learning about news and narratives about ourselves; we take on projects around the house or raise our hands for new projects at work as a way to avoid really losing ourselves in something we are passionate about—as much as we crave meaningful work, we run from it. Addiction is not about what someone does, it that they do what they do avoid feeling what they feel and knowing what they know—about themselves. We are addicts whenever we develop a twitchy reliance on something—anything—to keep us from encountering the dogs locked in the basement of our minds.

We lie ourselves first, and later others, by being overly optimistic and cheerful. There is a fine line between optimism and happiness that is hard to detect. Optimism doesn’t contain any remorse. It is insistent and upbeat, aggressive even in its persistence but doesn’t necessarily fulfillment. Optimism can’t tolerate any other emotion, especially sadness. So negative emotions are left unexplored to the point where they have the power to overwhelming us with disappointment and grief.

We lie to ourselves first, and later others, by going on the offensive. We attack and demean what we love, virtually guaranteeing we don’t get what we so deeply want. We let go of the people we once wanted or even had as friends. We watch the careers we hoped one day to have pass us by. The lives we tried wanted to match and learn from fade into a fog in our consciousness. To prevent ourselves from feeling the loss of what we might never achieve, we allow desired but painfully intangible goals to erode.

We lie to ourselves first, and later others, by embracing cynicism and calling it pragmatism. We are preventing, we believe, future misery and disappointment. To preserve our dignity, we tell ourselves that all humans are terrible and every activity is likely to fail so that the specific cause of our hurt does not attract examination and feelings of humiliation.

We lie to ourselves first, and later others, by filling our minds with lofty ideas, putting our intellect on full display in such a way that suggests we have little left to learn, thereby stunting what development our personalities may require.

We write dense books on big topics. We earn advanced degrees. We seek positions on boards. Our minds are crammed with esoteric information—facts interesting at cocktail parties and dinner conversation. But we don’t remember much about our own lives, how things really were, back in the old house, when dad lost his spark, mom stopped smiling, our sibling started exhibiting anxious behaviors and our ability to trust in happiness broke into tiny pieces.

Our great tragedy as human beings is that we are such natural self-deceivers.

We acquire and share knowledge and seek new ideas that garner respect but also protect us against the essential knowledge from our emotional past. That knowledge that, if left untended might attempt to interfere in our path. That knowledge that bubbles up and inopportune times threatening us to wake up. We bury our sensitive, personal stories like a time capsule beneath a mountain of knowledge and skills. The possibility of a deeply significant and intimate enquiry is consciously judged as weak, frivolous, and inconsequential compared with an allegedly more impressive task of securing an executive for an important meeting, or addressing a conference.

We prop ourselves on the glamour of being knowledgeable ensuring we won’t become too knowledgeable about ourselves. We learn about anything outside of ourselves to avoid the pain of self-awareness and true wisdom.

We lie to ourselves first, and later others, by suggesting that people are really just simple beings. We tell ourselves that too much psychology might be just a little too much static and complexity. We rely on a version of robust common sense denying ourselves deeper connection our own awkward complexity. We imply that not thinking very much is evidence of a superior kind of intelligence and elevated emotional state—when really it is the blankness of ignorance and lack of deeper thinking or curiosity.

When we are with others, people who will judge us, we vigorously ridicule more complex perspectives on human nature. We discount personal investigation as unduly fancy, bizarre, or weird. The very desire to lift the lid on our inner life could never be yield anything of value or good. This kind of sprightly self-ordering is most likely at the start of the week. Our sense of practicality is most keenly felt at 9am on a Monday morning as we muster our aggressive optimism toward our goals. But this energy eventually softens in the late evening when we are confronted sometimes harshly, sometimes by surprise, with more complex insights as when the path we have walked through our life and the choices we have made and the impact we have had on others, and the lost opportunities for happiness and contentment come into relief for the first or perhaps the umpteenth time—all pouring through the nighttime window toward you as you stare into the stark moonlight. With an attitude of forceful common sense, we strive to make our moments of radical discontent seem like outliers rather than anchoring moments of insight they might actually be.

We want to believe that our personalities are non-tragic, simple and easily understand so we can reject the stranger, but more useful, facts of our true, more complicated selves.

Being honest with oneself, and eventually others, has nothing to do with morality or righteousness. Seeing reality and ourselves with greater clarity is actually listening to a cautionary tale. We all could use much more of the truth because we pay too high a price for our believing our own lies. Our deceptions cut us off from possibilities of growth. Large portions of our minds end up uncreative, argumentative and defensive, while others around us have to suffer our touchiness, pessimism, artificial happiness or defensive rationalizations. Neglecting our own awkwardness buckles our very being, manifesting as insomnia or impotence, weight loss or gain, stuttering or depression; revenge for all the thoughts we have been so careful not to have. Self-awareness and an increased self-knowledge are not luxuries. They are preconditions for sanity and inner contentment.

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This blog post is part of a series related to The Little Book of Coaching pending publication.

Lopsidedness

 
Photo by  Eduardo Sánchez
 

Experiences we have from childhood leave us lopsided in our reactions—likely to overreact or overcorrect depending on the stimulus. We are too shy or too bold; too firm or too accepting; too focused on getting to the top or infuriatingly apathetic. We are obsessively eager to succeed or painfully wary and nervous in the face of our own desires. We are naive or pessimistic; we shrink from taking a chance or run toward risk with wild abandon; we are fixed in our belief that going it alone is wisest or are desperate for another to complete us; we are in white hot pursuit of knowledge or impervious to new ideas.

The spectrum of lopsidedness comes in many shades, and more are always being added. What is known is that these lopsided behaviors come at an enormous cost. They leave us less likely to make the most of our opportunities, less able to create or find satisfying lives, and generally make us less fun to be around socially or professionally.

Because we are reluctant scholars of our emotional histories, we conclude our lopsided nature is something we cannot change—that they are fixed. “This is just how I am,” we think. I am controlling, or don’t get my satisfaction out of work I get it from my family, or I am not good with people, or don’t trust my peers, or not good at office politics. These stories we hold about ourselves are not initially adaptable or up for consideration.

The truth is things are much more hopeful. While challenging to us in the short term, lopsidedness (by its very definition) is in fact able to be brought into balance. Our lopsidedness is in response to something specific that happened in the past. We are a certain way (controlling, not good with people, not trusting, etc.) because a primal wound knocked us off a more fulfilling course years ago. Having to contend with a competitive parent, we took refuge in underachievement or extreme overachievement. Dealing with a parent disgusted by the body, being seen or noticed, became frightening and hard to negotiate. Being forced to reckon with financial instability, we had to overachieve professionally, seeking economic and social gains. In the face of a distant or dismissive parent, we fell into patterns of emotional avoidance and reactive violence. An explosive parent might have moved us toward extreme shyness and aversion to attention or limelight. Constant hovering when we were young could have encouraged nervousness and, around any complex and intense situation, abject panic. A continually busy, distracted parent might have planted the seeds for energy-draining, attention-seeking look-at-what-I-did-or-learned-today behavior. 

There is a logic to our lopsidedness if we look to our histories.

In the presence of conflict (dismissiveness, explosiveness, hovering/suffocating, inattentiveness, etc.) a trigger was established. A way of thinking developed as a result of how we coped when we were children. And this isn’t meant to be harsh, but our lopsidedness enables a way of being that trends toward immaturity—they take us in the opposite direction in which we mean to move. Our first reactions, therefore, are not our fault. They are merely the remnants of our younger selves’ attempt to deal with something beyond our capability—at that time.

When a child suffers at the hands of an adult, they absorb the result as a reflection of something that must be wrong with them. They think they are not enough. If someone humiliates, ignores or hurts them, it must be because they are stupid, unacceptable and worth abandoning. It can take many years, and a lot of patient inner examination, to understand the truth: that the hurt was undeserved. As adults we learn the importance of context: there were many other things going on, off-stage, in the parent’s interior life for which the child was innocent.

Also, because children cannot leave the big people which they relied upon and were vulnerable to, children succumb to a deep longing to fix the broken person they clung to for security. Children often conclude that it is their obligation to fix all anger, addiction or sadness of the grown-up they love. They aim to please. It could take decades of inner exploratory work to determine that we might feel sad about, but are not eternally responsible for, those we cannot change—and even longer to decide, perhaps, to move on.

Communication patterns are plagued by similar childhood legacies. When something is wrong, children have no language or logic to understand the cause. They lack the confidence, self-management and verbal skill to get their points across calmly and with authority. Children err on the side of overreactions: begging, insisting whining, exploding, screaming. Or, conversely, to excessive underreactions: moping, resentment, silence, avoidance. It might not be until middle age that we start to shed those initial reactions of screaming or sulking from those who misread our needs and more carefully and calmly try to explain them instead.

Another less helpful quality of the family template is that it provokes large-scale generalizations about how people operate. Just as we are unbalanced by those early experiences, so are our heuristics. This happens because we don’t live life in generalities; we live our lives in the particulars. Our wound was formed in highly individualized contexts: with one particular adult who incessantly picked on a certain family member or shouted at their particular partner late at night in one particular three-story house in one particular main road through town. Or the wound may have been caused by one specific parent who responded with fear and disbelief, followed by intense contempt after one specific job loss from one specific company. But these scenarios give rise to expectations of other people and of life more broadly like the partners we choose or the bosses from whom we accept job offers. Over time, we expect that everyone will become violent, sooner or later. We think that every partner will turn on us, eventually. We assume that every money problem will unleash a deep depression and then disgust for the other person. The character traits and mentalities that were formed in response to one or two central actors of childhood become our templates for interpreting pretty much anyone and using those templates prohibits our ability to see alternatives. For example, the reliability, focus and determination to succeed at any task that we evolved to keep a deeply depressed and angry mother engaged becomes our second nature. Even when she is no longer present in our lives, we remain individuals who need to shine at every meeting, who require a partner to be continually focused on us, and who cannot listen to negative or discouraging information of any kind. In these situations, we both in the past and the present. When we work our template with others, our sense of the particulars for a given situation, we are standing in the wide-open doorway of the present, peering through a narrow keyhole at drama of the past. Without awareness of this dynamic we both watch and re-enact that drama over and over.

A child in the presence of parents that fight, for example, can carry that experience well into adulthood. One outcome of that could be a desire to avoid (in the extreme) conflict altogether. While the original cause of our avoidance is no longer in the picture, it can carry a heavy price.

Dealing with our lopsidedness can be thorny because we don’t always know why we have them or how they came to be. Sometimes we explain them away as not affecting us. That marital affair happened between our parents, we think, that did not happen to us. As a result, we might not acknowledge them as having any significance in our own minds. So we don’t know why we run away from a boss who is actually looking out for us to a more abusive boss, or why we get deeply angry at small things we think shouldn’t affect us, or are defensive, or adopt an easy come, easy go relationship to success, believing in the end that it was never really ours to have anyway. Because the meaning behind our reactions remains hidden, we miss out on benefiting from important sources of possible sympathy. Meaning, if we lack the context for why we react the way we do, so does everyone else because we are judged by the behavior and decisions our wounds inspire, not on the wounds themselves. The hurt we experienced might have started by being let down by a parent or bullied by a peer, but today we show up as a micromanager, or demand a kind of loyalty from our teams that crosses a line. It might have started with a competitive mother. Maybe a father had an affair and left the family. It could have been a peer we looked up to or made ourselves vulnerable to and who later betrayed us. Today, it manifests as shyness, inability to make decisions or take a strong stand.

Ultimately, it comes down to us to make our lives easier. Instead our paths are tougher than they should be because of the beliefs we hold that people are incompetent, mean and unreliable rather than (as is usually the case) fellow wounded soldiers of what we have all travelled through, a complicated early history.

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This blog post is part of a series related to The Little Book of Coaching pending publication.