Saturday 8 December 2018

Scars not wounds

I read somewhere recently (I thought it was in Behind Closed Doors, but can't find it there now) that when a coach decides to share some personal experience with a client, the coach should be clear to choose 'scars, not wounds.'

That made intuitive sense to me: both the temptation to, and the risks of, talking about something that is still emotionally charged and live for the coach seemed evident; whilst sharing an experience that had been properly processed was likely to be a more considered decision, and also not to risk turning into a therapy session for the coach.

I think the phrase caught my eye in particular because it touched a raw nerve.  Just the day before, in a coaching session with Steve (not his real name, of course), I had shared something quite difficult that is current and unresolved. My belief was that it was an interesting example of the kind of thing Steve was talking about, and I could illustrate a different approach, by outlining how I was dealing with it, but without claiming that was the 'right' way, as the outcome remains unknown.

However, on reflection, I wonder if the reason it came into my mind is precisely because - being unfinished business and rather difficult - it was not far from my mind all the time: a wound rather than a scar. 

On the other hand, Steve did find it a useful and interesting example to discuss, that opened up more options for him.

So I took it to supervision as a question to explore. And of course, although that was a rich and thought-provoking discussion, the question remains open - worthy of further exploration.

On the one hand, there are risks as I had identified; it is important to make a conscious decision that such an intervention really is in the interests of the coachee, not the coach.  On the other hand, we discussed how much more live and authentic an unresolved current issue is, than an old war story.

So my interim position, whilst I think further about this (and will doubtless raise it again at supervision, as and when it arises again) is that I will be cautious with wounds. I will add it to my pre-coaching preparation, to remind myself to be aware of what is emotionally charged or challenging for me personally at the moment, and be on guard against it simply popping out of my mouth during a session.  On the other hand, I won't have an absolute rule against sharing such issues; if I have considered, and decided that it really is for the coachee's, rather than my, benefit, then I will disclose in this way.

And afterwards I will certainly discuss the decision in supervision and see what further learning I can glean.

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