At the end of every conversation I have with my clients, I check in with them to see if there’s been anything missing, incomplete or disempowering in our conversation. I’ve been working with my current coach for almost a decade, and at the end of each of our conversations, she asks me the same question.
Almost every single time, my answer is “Nope, nothing.” But she asks it all the same, as do I.
Just recently, I had something show up for the first time in maybe four years. I noticed throughout the call that my coach was sharing a lot with me, and that I wanted to speak or answer a question, but felt like I had to keep holding my tongue.
While this was happening, I thought to myself “Ah… forget it. I’ll just let it go.” Then I’d wait a little longer.
“It’s not really a big deal. How often does this kind of thing happen anyhow? Almost never…”
And so on — all while I continued to sit quietly.
This is a pretty common occurrence in life. We hold our tongue, and we tell ourselves it’s no big deal. We make it something we should just get over, and we try to shrug it off.
But we never quite shrug it off — we just bury it, adding it to the pile of resentments that already exists. What’s one more tiny piece of resentment added to this growing pile? It’s nothing. No big deal.
We operate in a fantasy that relationships should somehow just work. People should know what we want, and we shouldn’t have to ask for it. We’re modelled this relationship fantasy by TV shows, movies, romance novels and sometimes our parents (it’s not uncommon for people to hide their resentments from each other until they either leave or stay together amidst years of built-up contempt for one another.)
A lot of leadership and coaching operates inside of this same story about how relationship should be. The leader or coach makes every effort to avoid making a mess, to pre-emptively clean it up, or to be ahead of the client or those they are leading so that they can apologize without someone having to bring it forward.
But that doesn’t work.
It’s not how relationships are grown. Relationships are organic entities. They grow bit by bit, and are nourished and fed with courage, intimacy and practice together.
And, if you’re doing all the work to clean up pre-emptively for people, you’re denying them the growth in their own leadership of acknowledging an unmet need and learning how to ask for it.
The moments where we realize we have an incompletion or something missing is a sacred moment.
That’s where the opportunity for new growth lies — only in those moments are we able to make a different choice. To create a new way for our relationship to grow by bringing forward what is showing up for us, and working it out, in partnership, with the person on the other side.
This isn’t an easy path to walk, and no one is at fault when they don’t choose to walk it. An opportunity is never something we should do. It’s simply an opportunity. A chance to create something bigger than what is currently available to us.
And so, at the end of our call, my coach asked me if there was anything missing, and I said “Yah… there is,” and I shared.
She listened, acknowledged me for bringing it up, and apologized.
That was all I really needed. To simply have this seen and acknowledged by both myself and my coach.