“We don’t see things as they are; we see things as we are.” Anais Nin
It was Friday, 8 :00 am, and I had just sat down with a hot cup of coffee, my Bible, and my Bible study homework. Just as I was settling in, the phone rang. I picked it up and grunted a hello, wasting no time in pointing out I was in the middle of something. Much to my embarrassment, the caller told me she was calling to give me the information I had requested yesterday. She was actually doing me a favor.
Perspective. It’s everything.
One of the best things we, as coaches, can offer our clients is an opportunity to see things from multiple perspectives. Author and coach Tony Stoltzfus identifies four types of perspectives we can help our clients consider:
- Proportion: Seeing the big picture.
- Objectivity: Detaching from the emotion around the situation.
- Viewpoint: Looking at the situation from different vantage points.
- Clarity: Gaining assurance to act with confidence.
Seeing Things from Where We Are
When our clients come to us with something they want to focus on, they bring with them an initial perspective. This perspective includes their:
- Perceptions: Made up of past experiences, current circumstances, faith, values, beliefs, cultures, and feelings.
- Self-Talk: What they have been telling themselves, good and bad, true and false.
Often times, our clients may not be aware of the lens they are looking through to view their situation.
EXAMPLE: I have a client we’ll call Betty. Betty came to me because she is struggling with a current relationship. She is in her first dating relationship since she was widowed eight years ago. The man she is dating is divorced. We’ll call him Rob.
As she reflected on the relationship struggles, she talked from her perspective, not considering what Rob might be going through. She shared her perspective with Rob, along with some strong feelings, which blurred the lens through which she saw the situation (objectivity). She expected him to move at her pace.
During our coaching sessions, we discovered two additional perspectives beyond her own viewpoint–the perspectives of Rob and his son. As the new perspectives were revealed, Betty began to see a bigger picture, one that has more than just herself in it (proportion).
With her new perspective, Betty can adjust her perceptions and self-talk as she interacts with Rob. Her new perspective is helping her move towards increased patients, greater trust, and emotional intimacy.
Helping Our Clients See Multiple Perspectives
Considering a different perspective may be new ground for clients. As coaches we can help our clients increase their self-awareness and recognize the perspective they bring to a situation with the following steps:
- Stop: Help the client to stop and recognize the perception he or she is bringing to the situation. What perceptions are impacting how you see the current situation?
- Challenge: Ask the client what they are telling themselves about the situation. What thoughts are influencing you? How do you know this to be true? What else could you tell yourself?
- Re-focus: Gain a new perspective. What does the situation look like from a different view?
Learning to see multiple perspectives will ultimately help our clients gain greater self-awareness and more fulfilling relationships.