by Martha Pasternack
I had a dream last night. Before I tell you about the dream, I will give you some background information. My great grandfather emigrated from County Galway in Ireland to America in the mid 19th century. He settled on a 100-acre farm that our family still owns. 5 generations of my family have stories to tell about life on “The Farm”. Me included. Most of the memories are precious and fun. Some are forgotten, some have morphed into borderline fictional accounts of reality. Some are icky and stick to the memory cells like Velcro. ICK.
In my dream I was on “The Farm” and there was a group of people planning to build many houses, willy-nilly, all over the land. I was upset because they couldn’t possibly understand the magnitude of meaning the farm had in my heart and soul, precious or icky, it was all mine. I felt that they needed to know the story about “The Farm”. I tried to gather the group to tell them my story. One by one they snuck away and tried to regroup out of my sight. They were not interested in my experience. I was sad and felt unheard, unseen, distrustful and disrespected to say the least. Dream over. This dream has stayed with me and I have been pondering it all day.
As coaches we help our clients walk the edges between past and present, present and future. Whether icky or not, the story about where they came from is important to finding peace. Where they are now is just as important as they open up to what is possible in the future.
As I speak to experienced coaches and mentor new coaches, I see that too many coaches skip the storytelling step on the life coaching journey and go straight for the outcome. Goals, dreams and desires spring to life from where our clients were, where they are now and where they see themselves in the future. In my experience the client will manage to circle back around to the story of the past until it is told, listened to and heard.
Mastery #1 supports you to create space for your client to tell their story. It could be an oral history, a journal account, a drawing, a poem or a dance. Nurture the feelings without anchoring the fear that may be held captive inside the story. This is a way your client can release the past and move into the present moment. Ask them what the most important thing about the story is that they want you to hear. Then make sure you heard it clearly. Acknowledge that you have heard it and that you respect their experience. Forward motion is then freed up for the ensuing coaching conversation.
I think it fair to say that all of us have stories to tell. They are important. They are precious. They can also keep us stuck in the past if we are not careful. Fear can lurk in untold stories and can be perceived as looming larger that it is.
Deep and respectful listening is as integral to IAC Mastery #1 as it is to all the IAC Masteries. When we listen to our client’s story, fear and the emotions held therein can be unveiled and befriended. Fear is what any of us have used to keep us safely tucked within a comfort zone. Once we acknowledge the value in a story, we then have the opportunity to establish trust, which will become mutual within the coach/client relationship. The inertia created by fear is busted and possibilities are unlimited after a good ole’ story.
Martha Pasternack, MMC www.CircleofLifeCoach.com