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Coaching Snippet: On Being Seen and Seeing Ourselves.





I often say that coaching works on aligning our inside world with our outside world. When we live with this alignment, we feel we have integrity. When we don’t, we can often feel strange, bad, fake or like a fraud.

Our outside world is often influenced by lots of narratives that come from other people, and they are the ones that make us jar if somewhere deep inside we know we want a different story.

Living in this alignment feels good to us. But as Bob found out in this conversation, our alignment also impacts how other people see us. When we are not aligned, people find it harder to connect with us because there’s a constant sense of “not knowing where we stand”.

Working on our alignment, of how we see ourselves and how we project ourselves to the world around us, helps us feel more grounded, less volatile, hold clearer boundaries, and have a sense of integrity. All these make it easier for good relationships, whether at home, with friends or indeed at work, to flourish.


INT. DAY. MY OFFICE


I am talking with Bob on zoom. He is a very busy man managing a huge department with lots of people working under him, as well as service providers and users which he is coordinating. This conversation picks up in the middle of the session.


BOB

I noticed suddenly that I create this story about myself at work, which is not true at all. And I just can't get to grips with why I do that?


ME

What is the story?


BOB

The story is that I am not being listened to, and that I have very little impact on what happens at work.


This is not the first time we have spoken about this tendency. But now It feels like there is a new insight.


ME

And what do you feel about this?


BOB

I feel it is weird and maybe manipulative of me. Because it is not true. People comment about my work, and respond to it all the time.


ME

So how is your story serving you?


BOB

I am not sure. I wonder where it comes from? Why do I do this?


ME

What do you think it gives you? What do you get out of it? Maybe it's not all bad?


BOB

It's definitely not good. Realising this makes me feel like a fraud. Why do I need to tell people this when it is clearly not true?


ME

Why do you think?


BOB

Thinking of specific times I do this, I think it makes me hopeful that people will notice me, and will praise me, or collaborate well.


ME

Because they don't normally?


BOB

(Perplexed)

They very much do.


ME

So what else do you get from this?


BOB

Maybe it comes from my childhood. When I was told to be humble about my achievements. It's like it is better if other people notice them, rather than me pointing them out.


ME

Why do you think you were told that?


BOB

Because then you look... humble? I don't know. Maybe it's a religious thing? Or just a thing about not boasting or showing off?


ME

Interesting. How do you think it makes people you work with feel?


BOB

I know exactly how they feel because they told me in my recent review. People said they are often not sure "where they stand with me".


ME

What does that mean?


BOB

I think it means that they find it hard to anticipate how I will respond to things. People say this to me.


ME

I think you are describing some inconsistency in how you respond to colleagues, according to what they say. Does that ring true to you?


BOB

I think so. Because I can be very direct at times, and directive. And at other times I can be really friendly and laid back.


ME

That sounds normal to me. We all respond to things with a range of responses, justified or sometimes less so. Why do you feel this is a problem?


Bob thinks for a while. He is not sure.


BOB

I think people find my belittling myself confusing. Because they mostly work below me in the hierarchy of the organisation, and they see how effective and well respected I am.


ME

And....


BOB

And it makes them feel like I am fishing for compliments. Or for power... Oh gosh.


ME

Are you?


BOB

God no! I really don't. I love the people I work with, and I feel really impactful at work.


ME

So belittling yourself is sort of keeping you in a place of lack - you are keeping yourself in a 'less than' mode. Is it because you feel uncomfortable with the power you have?


BOB

I don't think I do. But maybe I feel like I should?


ME

You tell me.


BOB

Mmmm.... It makes me think I need to find a way to make it easier on others to experience me in a more consistent way and see me like I am.


ME

How do you think you can do that?


Bob is thinking for a while.


BOB

Mmm.... Maybe I need to stop projecting that false narrative of being unseen. So that they can truly see me without getting confused.


ME

And how do you do that?


BOB

I start seeing myself as I am, and communicating that instead.


ME

Which is exactly what you did today. You suddenly became aware of the fact that you create this false narrative. That says to me, that you are suddenly aware of yourself in a new way. You are seeing yourself. The only way you can get others to see you, is by seeing yourself first. I feel like you are doing this today unlike any other time we have spoken about this before.


BOB

That means I am already doing it?


ME

Indeed. Awareness is where it starts. Because next time when you present your false narrative it will jar, and feel awkward. And you will stop doing it. Eventually.


BOB

That's such a relief.


ME

Yes, that's the first step. And we want to keep cultivating this awareness, so that we don't find ourselves falling into old habits. That's the practice.


BOB

I think I will notice it now. Just because of how inauthentic it feels all of a sudden.


ME

That's great. And if you struggle, don't be too hard on yourself. We can talk about ways to remind you if and when you forget.


*names and places have been changed to honour privacy


Illustration by Evie Fridel


2 commentaires


1709naomi
22 févr. 2023

That’s interesting, the point of what do I gain from this pattern of behaviour.. when it is not true, but I keep it up. Thanks

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Ruth Schocken Katz
24 févr. 2023
En réponse à

Indeed. I think we keep it up because we are used to keeping it up. It's a habit or a pattern. And it takes some distance, and a willingness to explore existing narratives in order to be able to visualise a different scenario. Often these patterns are 'fed' by old narratives, that make the pattern relevant to a certain time, but doesn't serve us anymore. And this is the awareness we are trying to establish in coaching. Thanks for commenting! 😊

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