Living on Purpose: Breaking up is hard to watch
Eagle County CO, Colorado
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado “-“One of the couples we know is getting a divorce,” Bill said as we started our coaching session. “We were all completely surprised.”
“Have you noticed any impact on your relationship with Kendra?” I asked, knowing that some of Bill’s goals in life coaching had centered on deepening their relationship.
“I think it has helped us,” he said. “In discussing what’s happening in their relationship, it has opened the door for us to talk about issues in our relationship. It’s a safe way to explore touchy issues.”
“Both Kendra and I feel pulled between the two. We’ve built our friendship as couples and now we have to re-learn how to be with them as two single people. But with so many issues between them, there is an implied pressure to pick a side. There’s a lot of ‘he said, she said,’ and it’s hard to know what exactly happened and who’s to blame. Who do you believe and who are you loyal to when something like this happens?” he asked.
“What roles do you play in this situation?” I asked.
“As Troy’s friend, my role is to listen and support him,” Mark replied. Sometimes when he asks my opinion, however, I feel like I’m picking sides and I don’t want to do that. Our society is built on picking sides, battling competitors and rooting for the team. Not picking a side is like going to a football game and not rooting for either team. It’s pointless.”
“Is Troy asking you to pick sides?” I asked.
“Today when I countered something he said, he directly asked me whose side I was on. Of course I told him I was on his side, but honestly, I’m torn.”
“What would it look like coming from the perspective of not having to choose a side?” I asked.
He thought for a moment and said, “It reminds me of last year when I watched the Olympic men’s basketball team. Players, who had been rivals in the NBA, were now teammates in the Olympics. Fans from across the nation were rooting for players who in previous games had been the enemy.”
“That’s a great analogy,” I said. “How can you and Kendra see the two sides of this situation, be supportive friends, and root for both Troy and Amy?” I asked. “How is this situation like the Olympics?”
“When I’m listening to Troy about a situation involving Amy, I need to imagine sitting on the sidelines of the Olympics. In this analogy, ‘winning’ means supporting each of them as they move through this crisis. Already that feels more supportive of both Troy and Amy.”
“Give me an example of how this might look,” I said.
“When I listen to Troy I’ll try not to take sides or find blame. If he again asks about which side I am on, I’ll let him know I am here to listen and support him, and that I still care for Amy. Right now each of them needs to feel supported, but that doesn’t mean we need to root for either ‘team.'”
“Is this something you would like to address when it comes up next or would you like to talk to Troy about it before it happens again?” I asked.
“He and I are having lunch on Thursday. I think it will best to bring it up then.”
“How will I know that you have had this talk with him,” I asked, looking for the accountability piece.
“I’ll e-mail to let you know,” he said. “It’s been helpful for me to see this from a new perspective. I’ve never considered NOT taking a side. Plus, this will be a good reminder to me; when I do begin to take a side, I need to remember that I’ve only heard one version of the truth. Even in a court of law, they let each side present their evidence.”
Coaching Challenge: When listening to one side of the story, especially in a situation involving conflict, think about what your role is in this situation. Is it important to pick sides? If not, how can you best listen and support your friend without picking sides?
Sheri Fisher is a Life Coach who lives in Grand Junction. Her practice, Living On Purpose, focuses on personal and professional coaching. The situations and characters in her column are fictional to maintain client confidentiality. If you have topic suggestions, please e-mail or comment on Sheri’s blog, at http://www.coachwithsheri.com/blog. Sheri can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or for more information visit http://www.coachwithsheri.com.