To amuse and impress coaches in training, I trot out the Old English definition of the word 'coach' from the 16th century: "To transport a desired person from where they are, to where they want to be." I get nods of comprehension and smiles of affirmation. Their frame of reference shifts instantly from a pacing, fretting, whistle-blowing sports coach barking directives to Cinderella's gilded vehicle, drawn by a team of powerful, well-groomed horses, guided by a knowing, cheerful driver.
I think I am going to retire that teachable moment.
The longer I coach, the more I recognize that "transporting" a person to their desired future has a lot to do with staying still. Foundational to the skills, tools, and process of coaching is the ability to "be with." Can you bring a wondering, rather than a knowing nature to the coaching relationship? Can you patiently wait while the coachee's head and heart duke it out? Can you resist the temptation to be the answer wo/man, and stay in the sacred tension of the question? Can you "be with" as a trusted thought partner, or do you secretly believe you know what's right and best for them?
In a recent conversation with close friends, I found myself expecting them to "be with" me as I shared a new idea related to my next work chapter. Instead, I experienced "be for" and "be against" behavior. Before I could explain my reasoning, I was confronted with a barrage of perspective, rationale, and rescuing-of me from myself, I suppose! The intent was to support; their methods made me feel defensive, misunderstood and disrespected. The evening took on an "elephant in the room" energy, as I realized that my circle of friends able to "be with" me in life's big questions had grown smaller by two members.
The coachNote below, first published in December of 2012, was inspired by a beloved "be with" friend. She didn't always have that way of being. I've taught her how to take a "coach approach" with me when I need someone to hold space for my processing. She helped me recognize and describe what happens for many of us when we need a coach, and instead get a consultant.
My friend and I were discussing our respective businesses a few weeks ago, helping each other noodle on strategic plans for the year ahead. She wanted to know why I teach coaching skills to "church" people. "Seriously," she asked, "does somebody have to know how to coach to belong to that church?" I shared the premise of "live life together," the purpose of lifeGroups, and posed this question to her:
"When you share a problem, a goal, or a dream you have for your life with someone in your circle, what usually happens?"
"Nothing, because I keep that information to myself."
"Why is that?"
"Because I don't want to hear what they think I should do, or listen to them explain why what I did do wasn't right. It's exhausting. They nod as if they are listening, but I can feel the judgment."
"Let's say you do open up about a struggle you're having, and they react like you've described. What would you do?"
"I'd get defensive, or I'd agree, just to shut them up. Then I'd figure out a way to get out of the conversation. Can you tell I've been there, done that?!"
"What if that person really listened, asked more questions about the situation, wanted to know what you've tried, or what your ideas are--what would you think about that?"
"Oh, you mean what would I do if they could hold it with me? If they could be present with me in the struggle? Instead of rushing ahead with solutions I've already tried, or shaking their head at the stupidity of my past actions? Wow, that would be great."
"Holding. Yes! That is exactly what we're up to with coaching at the Church."
New dreams and old fears, choices and chances, uncertainty and enthusiasm...what will you have the privilege of holding with another? Who knows how to "be with" you, and can you take a moment today to appreciate them?