Living on Purpose: When to break the Golden Rule
Vail CO, Colorado
VAIL, Colorado ” Rick arrived at our coaching appointment and seemed irritated. He didn’t say anything to indicate a problem, but something about the way he took off his coat, pulled out his notepad and sat down told me something was bothering him.
When I asked what he wanted to coach around, he was unclear. Rick was a determined business man and typically came with a full agenda. The tone for today’s appointment felt different, somehow more personal.
“What’s up?” I asked.
“I’m not sure,” he replied. “I’ve been edgy lately and I’m not sure why.”
“How are things going at work?” I asked. He left our last appointment excited by the challenges he was facing at work.
“Work is great,” he said convincingly.
“Could your ‘edgy’ feelings be coming from another area of your life?” I asked.
“My frustration started a couple of weeks ago,” he began, “when Stephanie asked about my birthday in three months. I can’t believe I’ll be 49 years old,” Rick said. “I’m not sensitive about my age and have always thought it is just a number, but something is bothering me.”
“What does it mean to be 49?” I asked.
“Forty-nine is one shy of the big 5-0, half a century” he said. “But even that doesn’t bother me. I remember my dad turning 50 and he seemed so much older than I feel. Age is just a number.”
He paused. “I’m pretty sure that is not what is bothering me.”
“You look pretty good for an ‘old man,'” I joked. He laughed and showed no sign of being sensitive so I asked, “Are you planning anything special for your birthday?”
His energy shifted and he looked irritated again.
“That might be the problem,” he said. “When Stephanie asked how I wanted to spend my birthday, before I could answer, she started talking about planning a huge party. Her excitement grew as she imagined how the house would be decorated, what music would be playing, who would be there, and what food would be served.”
“I don’t hear a lot of excitement on your part,” I said.
“That kind of party would be ideal for Stephanie. She loves to make a big deal of her birthday and surround herself with lots of people,” Rick said. “I prefer a quiet dinner with just the two of us. I hate opening presents in front of people. It’s uncomfortable.”
“It sounds like your idea of the perfect party is different from Stephanie’s,” I offered.
“Yes. She is planning HER party on MY birthday,” he said. “Growing up I learned the Golden Rule ” Do unto others as you would have them do unto you ” but maybe there are times when the Golden Rule doesn’t apply.”
“What are your options?”
“I could say nothing and just go through with it, endure a huge party and allow Stephanie the pleasure of celebrating my birthday,” he said.
“How does that feel?”
“Terrible. A better option would be to talk to Stephanie and let her know how I prefer to celebrate my birthday.” Rick said, then added, “At the same time, I could write down her birthday celebration ideas and ask if that is how she’d like to celebrate her birthday. Then I would know exactly how she wants to celebrate her special day.”
“That sounds like a great idea. When will you have this conversation with her?” I asked.
“I will talk to her about it tonight,” he said. “The great thing is that I won’t be dreading my birthday and will get to celebrate it exactly how I would like. And, I’ll also know how Stephanie wants to celebrate her birthday next year.”
Coaching Challenge: When you find yourself relying on the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” know that even if your intentions are good, each person is different. Ask the other person what he or she prefers before making assumptions. Open the communication process by saying something like, “I’d like to know what you think about _____ (fill in the blank). Can you share with me your thoughts or tell me what your preferences are?” Allow the other person the space to be honest and openly communicate with you.
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. Sheri can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or for more information, visit http://www.coachwithsheri.com.