The joys of being best friends with a coach.
Ann and Ursula got together recently to talk about the impact both being coaches has had on their personal relationship.
ANN: Oh my goodness, I can’t imagine life without this woman! What do people do who don’t have a coach as their best friend?
URSULA: That’s a problem, they have to hire somebody and pay for it!
ANN: Well, that’s how we make money of course, but seriously, I love that I can bring you—as a friend—all my questions and challenges and you are always curious. But you’re NOT my coach, you’re my friend, so what do you think the difference is?
URSULA: I think the difference is that I have the advantage to know you, hang out with you, create a business with you, go through raising kids with you, and also have you know me and all my bumps and challenges and warts. And then, we can bring our skills as coaches and not get hooked into trying to fix each other.
ANN: I think that’s a great point and a real gift. When I was a young mom struggling with a kid in school and work and trying to balance it all, I remember you simply asking me, what’s really important to you in this time of Noah’s life? That question, which was completely non-judgmental, ended up influencing me for years. It was so helpful.
URSULA: And I was just curious about what it meant to you to be a mom to this cute little boy. I didn’t see you as doing it right or wrong.
ANN: I think that is a critical thing, we haven’t talked about how we see each other. I think it fits with the coaching principle of holding people as naturally creative, resourceful and whole. And I have other friends that love me, but you totally see me this way and that’s different.
URSULA: Absolutely! There is also something about being in what I call “expansive conversation” together. Having a friend like you enables me to keep unpacking life.
ANN: OMG yes! That’s actually what we do together. And it’s not just MY life one time every two weeks for an hour, we are constantly learning from each other. And you are my mirror.
URSULA: So it’s so much more than a regular coaching relationship.
ANN: Yes, and it’s so much more than a regular friendship. Let’s talk about how we have come to learn to do this without being “coach-y” with each other.
URSULA: I think we probably were at first.
ANN: I was with everyone – my kids, my mom, my husband!
URSULA: Me too, these poor people, they were so annoyed.
ANN: My ex-husband used to say don’t use that coach-y voice with me.
URSULA: I think when we first come out of coaching school, we sort of “do” coaching. On everybody. And it is because we love it so much and we think it is the best thing since sliced bread.
ANN: I used to call it stealth coaching. Let me see if I can sneak some coaching in here, ‘cuz you SURE need it. But back to the point, I think we evolved more and more awareness, kindness and respect for each other, and we learned to ask and to be sensitive to when the other person just needed a friend and when they needed to process in a more coachlike way.
URSULA: I still think there is a big difference between coaching someone and unpacking WITH each other.
ANN: Yeah, after almost 20 years, we sort of have joint ownership of each other’s lives. I remember when I was dating and we were unpacking a lot of stuff around men and relationships and there was some great learning for both of us. I was telling you about someone and you totally naturally and unconsciously said to me, “wait, did we sleep with him?” And I said. “Well, I did, I don’t know about you.”
URSULA: Well, the curiosity is not just about your challenge, but I start mapping it on to me and what I can learn about my own life and my own relationship.
ANN: And it really is the coach training and practice as traditional coaches and coach trainers, that gives us the skills and the awareness to do this modified version in our friendship.
URSULA: I’m thinking of when my mother died last August and there was such a contrast between how the world was dealing with my emotions and my viewpoint to how you approached it.
ANN: What was the difference?
URSULA: You made no assumptions how I SHOULD feel about her death. You asked me “how is this for you?” And I could give you the full range.
ANN: That is definitely something I learned in coach training, that I need to set aside assumptions and simply be curious—it sounds small but it’s huge. What difference did that make to you?
URSULA: It gave me permission to tell you – and recognize for myself in the process – that I was a mix of sadness, relief, and peace, rather than feeling like I should be just sad and distraught. You’re not my coach, but in that moment, I understood myself better and felt ok feeling this way.
ANN: That is such a great example.
URSULA: Why did you title this article “Talk Me Off the Ledge?”
ANN: Because – and this sounds sort of awful – my favorite text from you is when you say “do you have ten minutes to talk me off the ledge?”
URSULA: Oh and it’s never
ANN: Of course not! I love it because I love that I am your go-to person, I love that you trust me so much, I love that you think I can be a space when you can find yourself again, I love that whatever it is that is going on, I will learn from it as well, and I love that we both know I don’t need to fix anything. And frankly, you’re always highly entertaining.
URSULA: I have grown so much over the years because we have this relationship of support and understanding. I have had a number of different coaches of my own, and they have all been very helpful. I don’t think our relationship is a replacement for that.
ANN: That makes sense, sometimes I need that focused time that is just about me, and that’s different. But I feel like bringing our coaching attitude and skills to each other, I have discovered the true possibility of what friendship can be—that sounds sort of highfalutin, but I don’t know a better way to say it.
URSULA: Maybe we wouldn’t need coaches if we all knew how to be this kind of friend to each other.
ANN: I think you have a really good point. I think a lot of coaches would agree that coaching has had a huge impact on their lives and the way they interact with all of the people around them, not just their paying clients.
URSULA: As long as we remember not to use our “coach-y” voices on our partners and children!