Wellness Coaching Australia's Blog

How we get in People's Way




There are many people out there who really want to help other people change/be happier. Some of them are professionals some simply fall into the “helping role” because of their desire to be of service. Most have noble unselfish reasons for doing this. Yet the wish to help does not mean we always do it effectively. In fact, it is quite easy to actually put someone off making a change that they are uncertain about if the “helping” party behaves in a certain way.  

You see, people who are “stuck” or shall we say “ambivalent” about change, generally want two things that are incompatible, or that they both want and don’t want  at the same time!  In comes the helper, armed with the knowledge of what is “good” for their friend/client and proceeds to push them in the “right” direction.  Funny how after the well-meaning advice from the helping friend, the individual often runs in the other direction!  

What is important to understand is that human nature is very complex yet one of our most basic drives is for independence/control/autonomy.. And that means, we rarely like being told what to do!!  Even though we may ask someone what they think we should do!  What we really want is to be able to come up with our own reasons for making a decision, based on our personal values and beliefs.  We don’t want to be persuaded or convinced of what to do.  So how can we help as a well-meaning outside party?  Well let’s start with what doesn't work. 

The following list may seem like harmless enough approaches, yet all can prevent the listener from moving forward:

  • Ordering, directing
  • Warning 
  • Giving advice, making suggestions, providing solutions
  • Persuading with logic, arguing or lecturing
  • Moralising or telling them what they “should” do
  • Disagreeing, judging, criticising or blaming (anyone)
  • Shaming, ridiculing or labeling 
  • Interpreting or analysing
  • Reassuring, sympathising or consoling
  • Withdrawing, distracting or changing the subject!
So what’s left??  

Five simple things we can do that may help someone make an important decision when we accept that only they know what is important for them.

  1. Ask open questions (can’t be answered with one word or a grunt!)
  2. Listen and reflect what they have just said back to them (like a mirror but without any from the above list layering the content!
  3. Acknowledge their strengths
  4. Summarise what you hear them say
  5. Have compassion and give them space.
So next time we are tempted to jump in and “fix” a person’s problems, stop for a minute and ask whether what we plan to do is really useful or if there could be a different approach.

Ref: Miller and Rollnick,  Motivational Interviewing 2013.

What is True Belonging?


Belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. Brené Brown starts her latest book, Braving the Wilderness with this profound statement.

It is a statement that resounds with many health and wellness coaches, as experience has shown that most people are drawn to this profession, with a strong desire to connect with and to help others – to be part of something bigger than ourselves. 

Yet there are steps to be taken before this can happen and Brené clearly articulates this by following up in her opening chapter with the statement, Our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self acceptance. 

This idea has always intrigued me. Many years spent training people to coach others to improved wellness has reinforced my belief that there is a journey that we need to go on - before we can effectively support others. Or to rephrase this, there is a journey that we need to be on, before we can help others on their own individual journey.

This book really brought home to me that an understanding of human nature is essential to our profession if we are to humbly offer our services and respect the many stories we will hear. Although this book is a wonderful one to read for anyone who seeks to grow and learn how to be authentically themselves, I feel it has particular significance to the profession of health and wellness coaching. I will try and succinctly explain why, below, without spoiling what will be an excellent read for all.

To belong we need to stand alone at times in our decisions and beliefs. This can often be painful and requires us to "be vulnerable, get uncomfortable and learn how to be present with people without sacrificing who we are".

Trust is at the heart of belonging – trusting others but also trusting ourselves. Brené quotes Feltman in her explanation of trust ;choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person’s actions”. Self trust allows you to share your most authentic self with the world. This is what we want our clients to do. 

We are all inextricably connected, yet radical thinking and fear of differing opinions have caused conflict and unrest in today’s world where sometimes, belonging has become confused with “siding” with one group or another. 

The most powerful part of this book is the chapter where Brené describe occasions where people have come together to share collective joy or pain and by doing so get reminded of what is true about the human spirit. “We are wired for real connection.” (This chapter is very moving.). She reminds us that we seek out social connection and the positive effects of it last longer than the actual event. In a world where everything can be done online we run the real risk of missing out on these opportunities to connect face to face with others. We know that coaching delivered by automated prompts can have a positive outcome but what is it missing that can’t be measured? 

Social interaction is essential for our health. In-person interactions bolster our immune system, send positive hormones through our system. Something as simple as a high-five releases dopamine and lowers cortisol level. (Or a hug if you’re not the high-five type.) 

One final section that I loved is when she wrote of asking 8th graders the difference between belonging and fitting in. Here are their responses:

  •  “Belonging is being somewhere where you want to be .. and they want. You. Fitting in is being somewhere you want to be, but they don’t care one way of the other. 
  • Belong is being accepted for you. Fitting in is being accepted for being like everyone else. 
  • If I get to be me, I belong. If I have to be like you, I fit in.” 

Such wisdom from young people. We use this knowledge to live our own lives authentically but how valuable to share this kind of information with our clients! 

Which brings me to that long held realisation that we don’t just coach to change behaviours (although that is a big part of our work), we coach to connect and to help others connect with themselves, with their wider community and ultimately live a longer, healthier life. 

Enjoy the read! 

References: 
Brown, Brené. (2017) Braving the Wilderness. Penquin, London.’ Feltman, C. (2009) The Thin Book of Trust: An Essential Primer for Building Trust at Work, Bend.



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