"What has you not respond to my e-mail," I asked my client.
I could have guessed why he didn't, or made up reasons and excuses based on my own assumptions. I could have gotten angry, blamed him, and labelled him as dismissive, irresponsible, or unwilling to communicate.
Instead, I simply asked him.
My question was flat, without emotion and solely from curiosity. Let's just say that his response was from a place other than this.
You see, he hired me to be his coach. He hired me to partner with him to take on a project that would, and already had, turned his entire life upside down. Together, we created the entire vision, nailed down the next milestone, distinguished what was in the way, and created an action plan to move forward - complete with the structures and support necessary to make it all happen.
He missed the milestone.
He did not take all the actions he said he would. He stopped.
Now, most human beings do NOT like being held accountable. They resist the actions they know to take, and then they resist the accountability structures they put in place to ensure they would take the actions. It seemingly makes no sense. And yet, it happens time and time again. Ahhhh, humans.
As coach, it's fine by me that he did not take the actions. I still love him. I still believe in him. I will still partner with him to create support structures sufficient to his resistance. And, I will continue to stand for him to reach his goal and fulfill on the project that will, and already has, changed his life. So, I reached out to ask him if he would like some support.
"Would you like to redeclare your milestone?" "Would you like to declare something different?" "Is there something in the way of you moving forward?" "Who will you be in the face of your circumstance?"
I received no response.
I gave him time, I gave him space, and slowly but surely my head filled with fleeting thoughts. Thoughts about all the things I made up about myself, about him, and all the circumstance that possibly could be.
I cleared them all away, and I simply asked him, "what has you not respond to my e-mail?"
Often these tiny questions are access to gold in a coaching relationship. It is access to our learned and automatic ways of being that are exposed when we explore these seemingly unimportant topics. When he was ready to drop his defence, he shared that he was ashamed, embarrassed, and trying to figure it out on his own before we spoke again - the same as he responds to authority figures and his father! He felt like a loser, made it mean that he wasn't capable, and he noticed that his go-to is to hide that part of himself from everyone. He could not let me see him in this light.
From here, he was able to see all the other areas in his life where he hides away for fear of being viewed as a loser - that deep down he relates to himself as a loser. Only then was he was able to see the cost of this way of being, and all the ways he had lost in life because of it. The very thing that was in the way of him fulfilling on his next milestone. The thing that had him stopped.
Next time you choose not to respond to an e-mail, stop and ask yourself, "what has you not respond?"
I would love to hear your answer!