One of the most valuable things I’ve learned in my journey as a mentor is to be honest. When I used to work with a group or client, and I’d get stuck in not knowing an answer to a question asked from the audience or in a one to one, my tendency was to bulldoze my way through, talking drivel. . . .Of course, the feeling went downhill very quickly during those times.
The first time this happened was in the early days, when I was co-facilitating a seminar with a colleague in San Francisco. I’ve told this story before, so if you’re bored, please discontinue reading. . .
My topic was about love being the heart of well-being. I went on ad nauseum and the feeling in the room seemed pretty good to me. I realized many days later that I was enamored with my own feeling and wasn’t really paying too much attention to whether the audience was as deeply emersed in the feeling as I was.
Suddenly a man stood up and said, “I wish you’d shut up, Elsie, and sit down!” His colleagues applauded his statement and the feeling in the room plummeted. I was crushed. I didn’t know what to do, and in the moment, without volition, I said, “Is this the feeling you want?” Then I rushed off the stage in tears.
I met Syd as I ran down the hallway, as he had invited me to accompany him and to begin the seminar as the first speaker. He said, “What’s wrong, dearie?”
I told him and he chuckled, wrapped his arm around my shoulders, and said, “That’s okay, Elsie. You’ll learn from this situation and it’ll never happen to you again in this manner.”
And it never did. Although it took me some time to heal from that exchange, I began to realize that people in the audience had learned something from witnessing this event. And later that evening, a friend told me that was the most valuable thing she’d learned about the difference in the feeling being beautiful or hurtful.
This morning in talking with a client on Zoom, we discussed the difference he’d experienced with two different groups. The feeling of learning and exploration in one group was enriching. The next group, not so much. The feeling was up and down, and my client, Burt, felt at a loss on how to handle this.
I asked him if he’d been honest with the group, and let them know what he felt about the feeling being rather scattered. Burt said, “No. I didn’t think to do that. I got more in my head. I’d done some research on some information that I thought would be helpful to the group. But it wasn’t as alive as when I was just in the moment.”
“That would’ve been a great teachable moment, Burt. To let them know what you were feeling and to check in with them to see what their experience was like. Being in the moment with them.”
“Yes,” Burt mused. “I could see that I was in my head but didn’t want to bring the feeling down any more than it was.”
“The thing is,” I responded, “When you’re honest, the feeling is enhanced. When the feeling is deepened it opens the door to clarity and something else may have occurred to you. Asking the group for their thoughts and feelings brings everyone together.”
“You mean equalizing the playing field,” Burt replied.
“Exactly! We’re all in this together. I’ve never been through a traditional coaching training although I suspect that coaches don’t readily say, ‘I don’t know what to make of this feeling going up and down. What do you think?’ Is that right, Burt?”
“That’s true.” Burt said. “Coaches don’t typically say ‘I don’t know’. It’s our job to know.”
“The fact that you “saw” the feeling was up and down is valuable, Burt. That in itself is so worth sharing with the group. And as you mentioned, saying you don’t know equalizes the playing field. We’re all in this together. When your clients see your honesty, it’s hopeful and freeing to them and to you. Knowing what to do is contained in “seeing”.”
Burt was very thoughtful for a time and I let the silence ride. Then he said, “Doing is in being.”
“That’s so powerful, Burt. I love your original voice. Thank you for sharing that insight with me.”
Again, we lingered in stillness. I ended the session with “The last thing I want to add is “let them see you grow”.”