It's early days in this little start-ups journey. And to say it's been a bit of a learning curve is a massive understatement. I've recently been out and about spreading the word on how we can help. I fully expect people to react differently to this. Relationship coaching won't be for everyone, some will see its value immediately, others only once they've dipped their feet into it, and some just won't and that's OK. For those who find it all a bit puzzling, hopefully this post will help...
Taking it to the streets
In an attempt to reach out to people to let them know we're here to help, I've tried a range of things from the new tech of Facebook Ads, to old fashioned flyers. Recently I was in Birmingham, to speak to local businesses, people on the streets and to hand out a few flyers. It's all new territory for me, and although part of me really likes to understand the details of the game, so that I can play to win, I also enjoy the freedom of getting stuck into a new adventure and learning as I go.
Hitting the streets of Birmingham presented me with the chance to experience a rainbow of emotions. There's no doubt that we are social creatures. Much of how we think and feel about ourselves, and the beliefs we form can be based on what is reflected back from the other human beings that we meet. As a child we soaked this information up like a sponge. Some of these beliefs we formed were no doubt helpful to us at the time, to keep us safe, but as life moves on some beliefs can become restrictive and even destructive. Even as an adult who has done lots of work on self, it's impossible not to get a nudge of these emotions - both positive and negative. We will always feel them, it's how we're designed, and it's important data we wouldn't want to do without. What matters are the skills we can develop to interpret and manage them.
Putting myself in the position of handing out flyers to strangers was an interesting experiment, firstly to observe the behaviours of others, secondly to observe my thoughts and feelings, and to notice how much I have grown. For most of my life I had wrestled with intense fears of rejection, and feeling like I was not enough, so for me this could have been a really uncomfortable experience. As can be expected most people see you as a threat to their valuable time and space. The majority instinctively alter their course to avoid you, some picking up their pace. In some you notice their facial expressions change to one of determination - as if to say 'I will fight this', they maintain their course and with a stern gaze, shake their head disapprovingly. Some seemingly preoccupied, who might not have seen me coming, look startled, then either passed by or took a flyer with an uneasy smile. Many accepted the offer happily, read the information and would've gone on to decide what they would do with it - think about it, bin it, follow it up, or re-purpose the information to a place that might be more useful. A handful of people took the opportunity to stop, some for a length of time, to talk and to share their personal stories. Some just needed someone to listen, to be heard and understood, some were inquisitive and stopped to congratulate me on what they thought was a brilliant idea and wished me all the best with it. Whatever their reaction I could embrace it with interest and a smile.
It was a privilege to share some meaningful connections with other members of our amazing human race. We are born to connect, most of us wired to empathise, so that we can step into the shoes of another being and offer them our help and support. They may only need a sounding board, some space to think and reflect, or they might ask directly for advice and want strategies. One thing is clear - we are not built to face this world alone. It's easy to get caught up in the daily grind. It's easy to focus on ourselves, to prioritise our work over our relationships, and to reject making a new connection or seeing the world through our opportunity lenses. It's easily done, but the cost is that we miss out on much of what life has to offer us.
There was one reaction that stood out because it was different. The old me would have really internalised this as a personal attack on me or my ideas. These days I can keep it in perspective, I've since got over myself, and can understand that others reactions have everything to do with them - where they've come from and where they're at - and almost nothing to do with me. This person laughed, a little hysterically, and asked "who even does that?", which was an interesting reaction. There could be a number of reasons for it. It may have just been a very uncomfortable concept because of the person they were standing with at the time. Perhaps some think that relationships either work or they don't based on the person you've selected, and you either stay or you go - simple as... Maybe challenges in relationships are still taboo, and not something to be talked about.... Perhaps it's the thought of paying someone for help with this, something we 'should' be good at... I've no idea what prompted this reaction, and they weren't hanging around long enough for me to find out. In that moment the weight and meaning I attached to this response was entirely my choice, so I chose to let it go. I realise that I can only ever work with what I have in front of me; what I know from my own experiences, observations, research and my training.
Why relationship coaching?
Most of us go through life on autopilot, moving from the next thing, to the next, with very little time to stop and reflect. We are complex creatures - we don't come with operating manuals, menus or adjustable settings. We are all unique. We each have our strengths, weaknesses, our different personalities and experiences. We are all extraordinary beings, with the capacity to adapt and change. Life. is. short... Evidence shows that people in a good place mentally, physically and spiritually, who are in a happy and loving relationship, live longer and have a better quality of life overall. Relationships are our bedrock; they see us through the tough times.
I am a coach. I can and have helped people in many areas of life, whether their goals are business and performance related, health and fitness related, related to personal wellbeing and happiness. I have chosen to focus my efforts to help people with their relationships (particularly but not exclusively), because I believe this can be the most challenging and rewarding area of life to develop. For many, it's an area we find particularly difficult to talk openly and honestly with our family and friends, for fear of judgment or breaking confidence. Yet when relationships breakdown they have a huge impact on us emotionally, physically and often financially.
Many people see limited options for support in this area, as speaking to their GP or starting counselling can be perceived as too drastic and daunting. Coaching has a more forward-thinking and solutions focused approach. Since trends in business coaching have risen, many find it a good fit, they are more able to talk about their personal coaching experiences. Some come to coaching because they are in a significant crisis. Some have a great relationship and want to invest into keeping it that way. Things change, life doesn't always go to plan, and some like to get ahead of the game before things turn too tricky.
It's understandable that some find the concept of paying to talk to someone strange. But reflect for a moment on the other things we might choose to do to make us feel better or to 'make or break' a relationship, because it's accepted as normal... a new hair-do, new wardrobe, cosmetic alterations, saving for a bigger house, redecorate, buy the car you always wanted, take a super holiday, have a baby... All of these come with their benefits and costs. All of these are likely to have some impact, but are unlikely to deal with the root of the problem. It's much like painting over a mouldy bedroom wall, when it would be more effective to find the cause and deal with it. It might take a bit longer, it might not be cheap, but at least you can manage it and move on. Where we choose to invest our limited time and money will either come down to our values and priorities, or we will leave it to how we feel. Whether relationship coaching is something for you to experiment with or not is ultimately your choice. Do what's right for you and own it!