Nails on a blackboard.  The screech of tires.  A flat note sung out loud.  Having someone project their own experiences, fears or failures on you.

They all make me cringe, but the last is worse by far.  My first reaction involves a nose scrunch and a step back.  I can’t really tell why it feels icky, it just does.  I feel defensive and can’t figure out why, or I just flail about, or I let it pass but can’t shake the feeling that something is amiss.

When I’ve had time to process it, I realize–hey, that wasn’t even ABOUT me!  It happened recently, in a coach-the-coach session, and experiencing it as a client taught me volumes about how it feels when anyone you count on loses their ability to be present for you.  It’s related to the blind spot I mentioned in a previous post, but this time I was on the receiving end, in the clients’ shoes.

I know the temptation.  In an earnest desire to help, it’s easy to forget that helping might just mean a quiet, patient presence.  It’s especially difficult to do in the face of a particularly stubborn limiting belief–as coaches, we get addicted to the magic of watching a client’s face go from storm cloud to sunshine, so we try to find answers that will jump-start the magic. Unfortunately, sometimes those answers have nothing to do with the client’s journey, but are a reflection of our own fears and beliefs.

I always want to witness the moment of truth so I know “I helped!”  That is the Achilles’ heel of coaching, and friendship.  A dear friend once taught me to recognize this.  When we found ourselves doing it to each other, we would exclaim in our most innocent voices, “Pick me!  Pick me!  I want to help!”  Then we’d dissolve in laughter.

The heart of the learning comes from my wise friend and life coach Leslie Bixler, who says that when and if your belief shift happens, “it will be on your time and in your true way.”

I’m grateful for these lessons, and invite my clients to recognize and question whatever doesn’t feel like it came from them.  I don’t intend to force them to tap-dance in anyone else’s shoes, which are sure to rub a tender spot raw.

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