To be an effective coach one must suspend assumptions and judgment – let go of being the knower and instead inquire into the truth of the client before you. A great coach lives in the “I don’t know.” From this open, curious place, the truth of the client can be witnessed, discovered and reflected back.
At first, this is very threatening to our egoic-based, conditioned personality self who has spent all its life in school and in work needing to know in order to succeed and “get ahead.” This has created a society of people who need to be right at all costs, as if their lives depended on it. And for the ego part of them it actually does – the internal structure that holds together who we think we are needs to be constantly reinforced in order to maintain its shape. This has caused so many problems in our world. We simply can’t all be right in all of our differing opinions and perspectives, all of the time.
In our relationships, we look at each other with our projections, ideas and conclusions of who we think the other is. We stop looking with curiosity because we think we already know. This is deadly for having a living, vital experience with each other. It doesn’t recognize and give space and support to the fact that each of us is growing and changing. When we look at one another not knowing exactly who they are, even partners of thirty years, a freshness, excitement and desire to explore shows up, bringing vitally to that relationship. We never really know who each other is because we are not them. Therein lies the adventure and discovery.
As we loosen our grip on the need to know and be right in our knowing, a possible literal unwinding of the tension in our brains can occur. This will lead to relaxing and releasing of the tightness engendered from early days in the classroom, being called upon and needing to know the answer or risk embarrassment, sometimes humiliation by teacher and classmates. No wonder many rebel as teenagers against this notion that you are only as good as what you know.
There is a different way to be, one that is larger and more encompassing than the identity of the one who knows and who has to be right. There is the potential to let go, little by little, to open up to what we don’t know. And there is so much we don’t know. As the truism goes, the more I know, the more I realize I don’t know. Assure your ego self that it is impossible to know everything. As we open up and let go, we start to touch into the pleasure, wonder, and awe that is possible in embracing the mystery. The mystery is to be found in the macro (the workings of the universe) and the micro (the experiences and the expression of another human being). And everywhere else all around us: nature, climate, the emotional field, relationships, spirituality – surprises around every corner. Case in Point: Do you see this picture of the beautiful flower? A Peony, right? Actually, when you look closer with fresh eyes, it is a Peony with a moth on it. Surprise!
As a coach, sitting with another, open to exploring what I don’t know about them, we both discover things that were before unseen, below our awareness that shed light on the unconscious habitual behavior, that open doors to new potential, that reveal the magic of this particular being, as well as human beings in general. In this fertile land of not knowing, freedom of being is available to be enjoyed. No longer are we subject to having another person embarrassing or humiliating us, but instead able to relax and open to the mystery and wonder that lies all around us and before us.
Practice saying first internally and then externally “I don’t know.” Take a breath, and relax into the possibility of truly not knowing. Then look with fascination and curiosity – see with fresh eyes what is new, what you missed when you thought you knew.
From this place, a deep inner contact with ourselves, beauty, love, compassion, joy, wonder and awe is available to us. We can richly taste the smorgasbord of experiences before us, with openness, receptivity, discovery and adventure, not knowing what will come about. And that is a wonderfully adventurous, magical way to live.
Diane Ingram, PCC, is a Coach, Coach Trainer, Workshop Facilitator, and Speaker for Personal and Professional Development. She is a regular contributor to Pawling Public Radio and the author of five books. To learn more, visit DianeIngram.com online.