Get the truth from someone you trust, but brace yourself for what you might hear.
April 24, 2022
Coaches and mentors come in all shapes and sizes. If you are ready for change, look for people who hold a mirror up to your approaches, who ask challenging questions, and who offer you relevant feedback that allows you to stop doing what isn’t working, and do more of what does.
A dear friend once responded to a question with complete honesty. I asked her if she was upset with me because she seemed to be acting ‘different.’ Without a blink, she looked at me and said, “Robyn, everything’s not about you.”
Ouch! At that point in an exchange, it doesn’t come naturally, at least to me, to say, “Please, tell me more.” But that’s what I have learned to do.
After I got over the shock and recovered from the embarrassment, I knew she’d givven me important information. Everything is not about me. My friend was having a hard time for her own reasons, and instead of jumping in to support her, I was worried about myself.
Whether certified as a coach with a title, or someone who cares enough about you to be honest, keep your eyes open for those people who not only help you expand your thinking, but also give you honest feedback.
Another example of beneficial but hard to hear feedback came many years before the situation I just mentioned. A former co-worker also gave me a hard to hear piece of feedback for which I have become deeply grateful.
I commented on how sad a particular person’s life was, and she said, “Robyn, don’t you find it odd that everybody’s life but yours is so sad?”
Again, initial reaction — shock. And then anger, and finally, embarrassment. It took me a little longer with this one to move through the jumble of feelings I experienced. But with a bit of time, I saw the truth of what she’d said. I was distancing myself from feeling anything, looking at the world from a lofty place that was protecting me from feeling awful.
Those examples reflect people who cared enough about me to tell me the truth. They didn’t hold a certification in coaching, but they were able to see, and cared enough about me to mirror, behaviors that weren’t serving me.
We all need people we trust enough to allow them to tell us what they see before we run our lives into a ditch.
Those people changed the course of my life. One helped me begin to get over myself and work on my insecurities rather than hiding behind them. The other reinforced my desire to understand relationships and how we defend ourselves from feelings. That desire set me on a career path that has continued to bring me gifts beyond my wildest hopes.
As an independent psychotherapist and certified coach I am privileged to help clients explore what it means to be human, and how to get the most out of this short blip of a life we have been handed.
Here are five ideas to help you take advantage of the wise people in your life:
1. Use discretion.
It matters who you choose to trust. Sometimes people can be mean. Make sure your ‘coach’ is someone whose values, motives, and instincts you respect. They walk the walk, and you’ve seen their track record.
2. Be vulnerable.
The feedback you get will only be as good as your output. We all have limitations and insecurities. You can’t hide them. The people who know you well enough to give you helpful feedback already see them. So, stop hiding or pretending to be someone beyond who you are right now.
3. Ask for feedback, and then listen.
The easiest way to get the truth is to ask, “Please, tell me what you’re hearing me say or do that’s getting in my way.” Whether what they say is easy to swallow or a punch in the stomach, sit with it. Generally, the punch in the stomach feedback is the stuff that can put you back on a track that will keep you out of a ditch.
Allow yourself to have whatever feelings the feedback generates — fear, anger, frustration, insecurity, embarrassment. Feelings are critical information. My first reaction to hard to hear feedback is usually surprise or shock, then some degree of anger, then embarrassment when I realize the grain of truth in what I’ve heard. And finally, I almost always feel gratitude and relief for receiving information that can help me stop getting in my own way.
5. Take action.
Don’t waste the gift. What good is feedback if you don’t use it, don’t somehow change? If somebody gives you great feedback, don’t simply head-trip with it. Instead, take action to rectify or remove whatever barrier you’ve erected to protect yourself from life. This goes for every area of your life. Look for feedback to become a better parent, friend, sibling, worker, and colleague. And then do the work.
JD, in How To Use A Coach Effectively, adds an important element when he says, “Remember, you change yourself. Your coach doesn’t change you. Your coach is not a crutch — they’re a potential change agent, but change is up to you.”
If you’re lucky enough to have someone you respect in your life, whether they have a certificate in coaching or they are simply someone you’ve come to trust, change and growth are up to you. Keep these five ideas in mind as you move forward so that you keep yourself as far away from the ditch as possible:
- Use discretion in choosing your coaches.
- Be vulnerable and authentic.
- Ask for feedback and then listen.
- Make room for feelings.
- Take action.