Coach's VIEW

Coach's VIEW is a business column authored by executive coaches in COACH A, aimed at providing valuable insights and effective approaches for leveraging coaching to foster organizational and leadership development. The column draws on the latest coaching trends and data, as well as insights from notable global publications on coaching.

What Is the Value of Speaking up What You Feel?

What Is the Value of Speaking up What You Feel?
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One of my clients, Jack**, is the CEO of a company. Jack and his executive team have been working together with a team of coaches and myself on a project for organizational transformation. The other day, I received feedback from Jack that Tom**, one of the board members, does not seem to feel that coaching is valuable for him.

Tom told him, "My coach has been asking me the same question every coaching session. If the coach keeps asking the same questions over and over again each time, I have a doubt about what the value of hiring an external coach is." Jack asked Tom, "Have you ever told your coach about your feeling that the coaching was not worth the effort?"
He replied, "No. I did not tell him anything that would disrupt the atmosphere or our relationship."
This story made me think about, "How has Tom's coach felt about the relationship between him and his client during their coaching sessions so far?", and gave me the opportunity to think about the relationship between a coach and a client.

Where Does Our Feeling of "Discomfort" Come From?

Our thoughts, actions, and the languages we use reflect our personal values, experiences, and the environment around us. In other words, it is not surprising for us to see that differences in each environment and experience lead to diversity in the way we think, act, and the languages we use. Since no single person has the same experience even in the same environment, we could assume that there should always be differences among all of us.

What makes it complicated, however, is that we unconsciously expect others to think and act in the same way we do. This is why we feel discomfort when we come across something that is different from our own thoughts and actions. This feeling of discomfort is not necessarily generated by someone we do not know very well. I myself sometimes feel this discomfort with colleagues with whom I work together every day.

Having said that, how do we deal with these feelings of discomfort?
We constantly realize that many of us do not tell others about our feeling of discomfort, because we are concerned so much about how to maintain a good relationship or not to disrupt the situation with others. We tend to prevent ourselves from speaking up, held back by the idea that our honest feelings are not directly relevant to the business, or that we will eventually be able to establish mutual understanding as long as we spend time together.

This might enable us to maintain a positive relationship on the spot. However, in this case, it seems that not sharing feelings with each other is not necessarily the right choice when it comes to the relationship between Tom and his coach.

What Feelings of Discomfort Teach Us

As I mentioned earlier, "feelings of discomfort" arise when we come across something that is totally out of our expectations. Therefore, if we look at what is behind these feelings of discomfort, this might help us to understand what our expectations are.

In other words, reflecting on one's feelings is a process of learning about one's own assumptions and perceptions, and at the same time, it provides a trigger for curiosity as to what assumptions and perceptions the other person has before they said what they said or did what they did. In this regard, having discomfort brings an opportunity to get to know each other in a more profound manner.

Dr. Kenneth J. Gergen, an American social psychologist and emeritus professor at Swarthmore College, stated in his book, "Thoughts, feelings, desires, and memories are born 'inside' relationships and have no meaning 'outside' of relationships." (*1)

In other words, the discomfort you feel with the other person makes sense only when you talk with that person. Dr. Gergen also says the following; "Communication is a process of meaning-making with each other." (*2)

If you can express the discomfort you feel, you may have a chance to learn each other's way of thinking. The dialogue would then create new meaning between the two of you and help build a deeper relationship. Also, if looking at the discomfort deepens your understanding of your own thinking and assumptions, you may be able to find new options outside of those assumptions.

There may be no major impact on you in not dealing with the discomfort in order to avoid conflict or confusion in the relationship with others. However, you will likely lose the opportunity to understand the other person more deeply and to build a constructive relationship.

What Is the Value of Being Able to Speak Up What You Are Feeling?

In the Coach-Client relationship, when the client is hesitant to speak up his or her feeling of discomfort, the best thing that the coach could do is to handle the coach's own feelings carefully. Then, the coach should share this feeling with the client and bring it into the dialogue. So, I engaged in a dialogue with Tom's coach with the following questions:

Q: What did you feel about the relationship between you and Tom?
Q: What did Tom feel about the relationship between you and him?
Q: How resistant are you to talk frankly about what you are feeling?

Being attuned to "what you feel" is relevant not only in the Coach-Client relationship. There could be even more possibilities for progress if more constructive and prosperous relationships could be established between supervisors and subordinates, colleagues, and clients.

Many people in business are busy solving immediate problems in a rapidly changing environment. The belief that emotions are unnecessary in business, still remains a strong belief, and we may not have enough time to deal with our emotions. However, our feelings could be an opportunity to better understand ourselves and also those around us so that we all can develop better relationships.

How much are you aware of your emotions?
How many people do you have with whom you can openly communicate your feelings?

** names have been changed to maintain confidentiality.

*1 Kenneth J. Gergen, Mary Gergen (Author), Mamoru Ito (Supervisor for translation), “Social Construction: Entering the Dialogue”, Discover, 2018 
*2 Kenneth J. Gergen, Lone Hersted (Author), Mamoru Ito (Supervisor for translation), "RELATIONAL LEADING - Practices for Dialogically Based Collaboration", Discover, 2015

*Regardless of profit, non-profit or intranet, secondary use such as copying, diversion, selling etc. is prohibited without permission.

Language: Japanese

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