I think my husband has it pretty tough being married to a coach. In my professional world, my sole focus is to help others deconstruct what’s getting in the way of what they want. At the end of the day, it’s simply to feel good. We set goals and work to reach them – yes, for the goal itself – but mainly because we think it’s going to make us feel a certain way.
My listening has been trained to hear the unvoiced statements, beliefs, and interpretations that’s keeping one from that good feeling. While it’s an essential skill to practice as a coach, it’s not always so great for a healthy marriage.
Many times, clients or friends will jokingly comment that my husband and I must have the BEST relationship – with all these tools on communication and perspective shifts – how could we not be living in perpetual bliss? Sorry to break it to you, but yes, while Arnold and I do have awesomely rich discussions on most topics, my penchant for listening for what’s in the way of feeling good can kill our connection. There is a dark side to the bright side.
I mentioned a few months ago that I’m engaged in a course on Conversational Intelligence. This work dives into the neuroscience and conversational dynamics that create trust and ultimately transformation and co-creation in one’s relationships (whether they be working, family, or romantic). I’m learning a ton and it’s not just enhancing my coaching, it’s helping me see my reality in new ways.
Check this out: while it’s probably true that the end goal of everything we do is to feel good, what’s more notable is that we humans crave being heard, seen, and acknowledged. We essentially want to know that our personal experience matters and is valid. Being “rejected” in any form can be more threatening to our brains than not meeting basic survival needs.
Rejection is broader than a bad break up or an awful childhood memory of being excluded by the cool kids. There are more subtle experiences of rejection that can kick us into that same neurologically fear-based place that keeps us from seeing clearly and creatively, and more notably, dissolves trust.
I obviously love my husband more than anything. It kills me to see him upset or off – anything less than great. It’s especially triggering if it’s my intention or actions in question that’s causing him distress.
And this is when the bright side turns dark. My desire to increase connection and make him feel better kicks me into “master re-framer” mode and I unknowingly cause him to feel rejected.
I’m not really taking the time to understand your emotional experience because I’m dead-set on opening your eyes to another view. Because, if you just came over here to where I’m standing, and see it THIS bright and shiny way, then there’s no way you’d feel bad and you’ll automatically move to feeling good! Problem solved.
There is a fine line between knowing what shift in perspective needs to occur to feel good and to just simply be with and acknowledge the experience of another. Yes, we all want to feel good, but we REALLY want to be heard and validated.
With my clients and working relationships, it’s instinctive to navigate that line. With my husband, I’m working on it. My emotions are clearly more invested so it’s harder to see my own blind spots. My pushing the bright side pushes him away further and makes him feel worse, not better. All he wants, what we ALL want, is to just be heard… not necessarily forced into feeling better. It feels counterintuitive to the eternal optimist in me but the reward of deeper connection has me convinced. Not all situations call for listening for what’s getting in the way, but maybe instead, listening to connect.
Amy Eliza Wong is a life coach, writer, and speaker in Sacramento and the Greater Bay Area committed to helping people figure out what makes them tick so they can finally live with joy and real purpose. Learn more about working with her.