Training to be a coach is a weird thing. It’s a mixture of neuroscience and pop psychology and, frankly, cultural appropriation. It’s got complicated spiritual metaphors and evidence-based research on how the brain responds to stress. It’s a big information download, mixed with constant practice on how to use that information. Everyone coaches in their own way; you have to figure out which part of the big information pile is the part you can use. I like evidence-based research myself, but I’ve been surprised by how much I took away from the other parts.
- I learned to really, really listen. To stop multi-tasking, stop planning, stop thinking of what comes next. To just sit there, in the moment, listening. It’s surprisingly hard and shockingly powerful. I had more than one acquaintance accidentally tell me deeply personal things before I learned that you shouldn’t always listen that way. Being able to listen is core to being a coach, but it has also made me a better mother and friend.
- I learned to have awkward conversations. My training actually had us practice going through difficult conversations. I learned to name and own the awkwardness, and bring the subtext into text. It’s an evolving process. I’m still getting better at it. But it has already improved my ability to deal with difficult things, and to ask my coaching clients the questions they need to be asked.
- I learned to let people have feelings. I’m a fixer. I’ve always been a fixer. If you’re sad, I want you to be happy. If you’re lonely, I want to keep you company. But that’s not what a coach does. If you’re sad, a coach wants you to know you’re sad. If you want to stop being sad, a coach can help you identify ways to do that. But the coach doesn’t fix you. If you’re lonely, your coach helps you recognize your loneliness; she doesn’t hang out with you to make the loneliness stop. And sometimes you have to be sad or lonely to learn what you need to learn. Having someone fix your every negative emotion doesn’t lead to growth. Coaches help people grow. Becoming a coach meant learning to turn off my need to fix.