We all have that person in our life that we can not tolerate. Isn’t that a great opening for a Valentine’s Day post? I think it is.
A few years ago, I decided to walk my walk of coaching. To walk my walk of coaching meant that I would hold the principles of coaching not only when I sit with my clients face to face or meet with them through the phone but also to hold those principles when I am not with my clients when I am not coaching. You see, the core of coaching is to partner with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. If you strip the fancy words ICF used for coaching, the nutshell of coaching is the relationships I establish with my clients from the first conversation. Establishing the coaching relationship is what allows me to have a different conversation with my clients.
What I mean by that is that when we start working together, I get curious about my client’s needs and wants in this relationship. They know better than anyone else (including me) what they need. Of course, I make sure that they don't speak the mantra of shoulds and needs that others put in their head. I make sure that they express what is the heart of their want, not the others' want. But to make sure we both can hear the real want we need to have trust. Yes, trust that thing, that "space" as coaches like to say, that makes you want to share your want with me, even if it is uncomfortable.
What makes people trust you? There are many possible answers to this question because there are many people with different wants and needs. But when you let go of judgment by listening with much curiosity to what they say and shift your focus from what you need or really want to say right now to allow them to talk they trust you because your focus is on them. Also, it is also important that we will ask the person what they need that when we share our feedback or share what we hear, sense or curious about that they will be open to receive our feedback. Think about it, in each relationship the responsibility to give and receive is on both sides. No matter if you are a leader, a business owner or a parent, you are not the only one responsible for the conversation. Think about it, I can be the best coach with the best tools, and you can be the best leader with the best communication skills, but if the other person in the conversation is not willing to receive your insight or feedback, they just won’t! It is not because we did a crappy job, we followed all the rules, step by step, but we didn’t do something important. We didn’t ask what they need and wanted to be open to receive our feedback. We assume that by asking what we need to do differently, the relationship will get better.
Yesterday one of my clients used the metaphor of relationships as a cards game and here is the deal, I see you, I listen to you, I focus on you, but at the end of the day there are rules to the game. I need to get the rules from you, or we will play on the board game without a win for you for too long, that can be exhausting for both of us. What do I mean by that? First I share with you how I work with you, but then I also ask for your wants and needs beyond your goals, I need to understand what kind of conversation, a way of communication you would like to have that will serve you. Some clients need more of quiet time to process, and for me to stay quiet and wait, some clients want me to challenge them a lot, while others don't like if I push too hard, some need to report about their progress in between sessions while others need to process on their own. I dance with each one of them differently while also get the permission from them to be me. There is no one size fits all, there is no recipient there might be a need to switch the dairy with nut milk for one person, and the wheat with almond flour with another. So how do I walk my talk outside the coaching session? I see people as people. This is the heart of a strong leadership. I think in the last few years it became more and more of a narrative in leadership, parenting and owning a business - see people as people, see the human in the other no matter how different they think and behave.
But what does it mean to see people as people? I love to use the explanation that Arbinger Institute use in their books. The core of seeing people as people is to stop seeing them as objects. There are three ways to see people as objects:
1. Seeing people as an obstacle - when you look at people as something that gets in your way of achieving your goal you see them as objects. If a person slows you down and becomes a barrier in your way, you become impatient, when you become impatient you communicate that with your body and with your words. It can happen with the cashier in the supermarket or one of your team members who doesn’t deliver what you need. You stop seeing them as people, achieving the goal becomes more important than the people themselves.
2. Seeing people as a vehicle - you can also stop seeing people as people when they become a tool for you to achieve something, a vehicle. You all experienced when someone used you as a vehicle. It will start when they come to your desk, or stop you on your way and probably flatter you on what you wear and then ask you if you can give them something they need that you have. Did you ever experience being a vehicle for someone else? I sure did….
3. Not seeing people – this is when the other person is invisible, we don’t notice their existence. Have you ever experience sitting in a meeting with another person and they talk about their business/themselves/their mission for 60 minutes and never find the time afterward even to ask you one question about yourself? Would you do any business with that person?
How do you see people as people? It starts with noticing that we all at times see others as objects. Me too. Now, when we are ready to admit that we have our moments when we don't see others as people, we can start noticing ourselves and learn to switch. How can we switch? We move our attention from focusing on our needs and wants to the needs and wants of the other person. A little example from our current flu season. Like many of you, our family hit with the flu as well. Since Thanksgiving every week I had one or two family members sick in our house. A few days ago while my two older kids stayed home with a cold and a fever I drove my youngest to school. My husband was on a business trip, and I was tired. My little one got into the car and said: “mom I have a headache and I feel like I am going to throw up” It was the sixth time that he used that excuse in the last month. Twice he did have something but this time like the two other times the week before he did not have a fever or anything else. I was tired. I was ready to just go to my meeting with a client and get some peace and quiet from all the germs in my house, so I did what sometimes parents do when they get tired. I yelled. Remember this is a messy blog. I yelled that enough is enough and he is going to school. There was more yelling from my hand, but the underneath the yelling was my try to say to the world to let me be. My youngest gave me the unhappy nine years old guilt look, and we both stayed quiet until we were one minute away from his school. That's when I noticed myself. I shifted from seeing my son as a barrier, being in my way of achieving peace to a child that might try to communicate with me a need or want. “Hey little guy," I asked him "is everything is okay at school? Do you have trouble with your friends, teachers?”,
“yes mom,” he said, “I have some trouble with the assistant teacher.”
You see, stop seeing people as people, is something we do more than we think, not only with our team members, or with our clients, but also with our family, or when we go to the supermarket or at networking events. Don’t be upset with yourself, just notice. The more you notice yourself, the more you will open your heart.
People can sense when you see them as objects, think about it, see me as a person someone compliments me, see me as an object someone compliments me, do the compliments feel the same?