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The Joy of Letting Go
September 03, 2015

Welcome to Business Leadership

The Joy of Letting Go

“Thoughtless,” “mean,” “self-centered,” “rude,” “stupid.” These are judgments people make when the words or actions of others runs counter to our values and expectations. Based on those same actions, we may judge ourselves. We ask ourselves, “What did I do to deserve that?” Or we label ourselves and think, “I’m unimportant. I don’t matter.” In both cases, we, or the clients we coach, are making a critical and perhaps mistaken assumption that the person deliberately chose their actions and chose to aim those actions at us.

Letting Go of the Rule Book

As coaches, we know business people bring to the coaching relationship all of the wonderful and exasperating tangles life offers. While we may start with a business focus, the coaching conversation often widens to include the personal world. We know that happens and, as coaches, are prepared with our conversational tools and techniques to help our client discover their own solution.

Guiding clients to their own solutions and actions is, in most cases, a good rule. It’s a good rule because people’s brains are wired to have energy and a positive attitude about their own solutions. The same solution offered by an outsider just doesn’t have that effect.

So why let that rule go? The client doesn’t always have the experience or knowledge to make the best decision.

Letting Go of Assumptions

You client is exploring a family issue and asks: “Why would Mom lie?” “Why did Dad tell me I’m useless?” “I can’t believe the nasty words she uses; I have to distract her in public. If I don’t she makes terrible comments about how some young women dress.” “He wasn’t like that before. Doesn’t he care anymore?” “Have I done something wrong?” These reactions are loaded with the common assumption that all behavior is voluntary, that behavior is psychologically motivated.

In the absence of a critical bit of information, people assume motives, judge or feel hurt. Here is that critical information:

“The frontal lobes are the last part of the brain to develop as we progress through childhood and adolescence, and the first part of the brain to atrophy as we age. Atrophy of the frontal lobes does not diminish intelligence, but it degrades brain areas responsible for inhibiting irrelevant or inappropriate thoughts. Research suggests that this is why older adults have greater difficulty finding the word they’re looking for—and why there is a greater likelihood of them voicing ideas they would have previously suppressed.” William von Hippel, Professor of Psychology the University of Queensland, Australia

What the client assumed was psychology, may be biology. Once the client knows that the behavior could be biology, the internal conversation can change. “Dad would make a better choice if he could.” “Mom isn’t being deliberately mean; it’s biology.” Certainly, not all rude behavior in the world is biological, however, in the affected groups; we can ask “Is this a situation of ‘won’t’ or ‘can’t’?”

With knowledge comes the ability to put the baggage we carry down. Now, doesn’t that feel good?

Clare Novak Certified Coach

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