If you are a coach or someone who is passionate about human growth I suspect that you are the person in your family that sees the unseen, hears the unsaid and speaks the unspoken. The muse, mediator and delegate all in one. Many people who move toward coaching as a career are just this sort. It bodes well for us professionally but can stir the waters personally even though it is always with great intention for peace, love and harmony.
Danger: Do not bring your Coach Self in the front door! Whether you are hired in as a coach to work with a client or you are the company’s internal coach (HR) there are many factors that weight the experience toward one of success that may not necessarily be present when approaching personal relationships. In the corporate culture the client, even if not initially “open” has imbedded incentive to get “open.” If not they may not receive their promotion, bonus or may lose their job all together. Even if the employee has 20 years in at the company it does not factor into the equation genetically inherited attributes (temperament, character traits) and the emotional DNA (culture, beliefs, coping) that has been passed down and shared in the dynamic for generations within the family construct. In the context of family the rewards for success are not as readily apparent and the complexity of relationships complicates the work that needs to be addressed. Additionally, when a coach works within a company the volumes of movies created do not compare to the lifetime(s) we have spent with family members interacting, habituating and creating our movies.
The “stories” or Mind Movies we create are one of the most powerful survival mechanisms and compensatory blind spots that we invent to survive in any context. And they are some of the most challenging to deconstruct and make visible. This is true because it is not just that “my movie is my reality and your movie is your reality.” It is that MY movie is THE reality and visa versa! And in the context of family we have a huge stock pile of movies that are both sequels and re-makes of probably two or three epic movies that we created and clung to for our very survival. (See what I did there…I dramatized the message. I do not recommend doing this technique with family, there is already enough drama.)
My intention is not to discourage because this work works when you work it-in any context. But I think if we go in knowing that there are both subtle and obvious differences the process may be less difficult and the outcome richer.
When approaching a family member with the salient goal to increase self-awareness and create a more cohesive and trigger diminished connection I believe that less is more. With a family member, you being in the role of coach more than likely backfires- especially if they are not “open.” You are the messenger and I guarantee they will want to shoot you. You are not neutral!
In any context we strive to approach another with Courage-Caring-Candor but when approaching a family member to deep dive into the pool of self-awareness I tend to practice approaching with Courage-Caring-neutral Candor and Curiosity. And then I allow them to explore in their own private space. Believe me when I say it has taken a lifetime to realize this and it works much more in all our favors because of it.
Let me explain: With a client we may tutor them on the processes involved in the increasing self awareness and then coach them through it to make the invisible visible. Or I may begin the process by reviewing their feedback on a 360 or from my observations of their interactions. I then may ask them to pick a situation that we may deconstruct and gain insight through exploring our coaching tools. Ok, let’s put this in context of a family member whom is not “open.” Can you imagine what would happen if you approached a family member and started reviewing observations or a 360? Yah, nothing good can come of that, yikes! Remember you are NOT neutral, you are NOT the messenger, you ARE part of the message, you ARE part of the movies. Approaching from a more neutral and curious place seems to “level set” the space to begin to be more open and less defensive. Creating a safe and open space within a family dynamic is a bit different than in the Coaching agreement. I may say something like: “we both have moments when we see things from a different perspective and sometimes we hurt each other’s feelings. I would love to better understand your perspective so that I can support you in ways that I currently cannot. I have a great exercise that will teach me more about your perspective. Could I show you this and you can explore it on your own when you have time. When you are ready you can either send me what you discovered or we can talk about it. I will also do the same exercise and we can compare where we have common ground and where we may need to understand each other more clearly.” Do not-I repeat-do not do anything more at this time then give them the structure of how to use the your tool (no personal examples included, please) And then give them lots of time and space to explore. When they finally make contact again be ready, my friend to hear things that may be difficult to hear and share things in a manner that will take much more love and presence on your part. The difference with Client vs. family is that if you approach family as your Coach Self, because of the fact that you are a dynamic part of the Movies-you can never maintain neutrality. The Coach-Client agreement is that you are there to help them and support them in the discovery process as a neutral party. But remember you are not in the role of Coach in your family- you are daughter, son, mother, father, hero, savior, instigator, officer and on and on. In other words the relationship is not neutral, clean nor simple. When approaching this work in the family context one must take themselves out of the Coach role and make themselves as vulnerable and open to the process as you are desiring of your family member’s participation, even if you are more self-evolved, currently. Approaching this work with a family member, in it’s essence is the rawest and most pure form of the co-creative process. So leave your Coach Self at the front door and bring all of your vulnerable, neutral, curious self through that door to be present to and for your family member(s) and I promise that over time they will begin to feel safe enough to be open. May not have been what you wanted to hear but take it from me, it’s works!