It was the end of a one hour coaching session. I was getting the sense that the work was going nowhere. I asked my client how much progress he felt like we were making. And he said “I think I’m stuck”. Ah, there it was.
My immediate, involuntary reaction was to feel sad, to feel like I wasn’t helping him. My client took in the look on my face and said, “You look glum.” Uh oh, I thought. He caught me. Caught me silently wrestling my own gremlin. And instead of acknowledging my feelings, I dodged the comment. I feigned a smile and said “Oh, I’m sorry” and moved on like it didn’t happen. I stepped over my own feelings and by doing so I was giving my client tacit permission to do the same. Is it any wonder our work wasn’t moving forward? (cringe)
When the Coach’s Stuff Comes Up
I was conflicted. I didn’t want to distract from my client’s agenda to give space to my own stuff. I’ve been taught and have learned to bracket my feelings about myself when I’m coaching and to focus solely on the client and his agenda. The sadness I felt was my stuff, not his. I was feeling responsible for my client’s progress. I know, I know. The coach is not responsible for the client’s progress. I get it. And my client caught the involuntary flash of emotion that came up for me in the moment. Old patterns die hard.
I had a choice in that moment. I could say what I was feeling and share my stuff or I could side-step my feelings and deflect. I chose that latter because I didn’t want my stuff to detract from the client’s agenda. And how convenient for me. The choice I made meant that I didn’t have to own my feelings or express my vulnerability. (Maybe a little too convenient.)