Living on Purpose: Whose issue is it anyway?
Vail CO, Colorado
VAIL, Colorado ” “I am in complete shock! My brother told me that he is gay!” Gary said as though he was setting down a heavy weight he had been carrying for some time. “I had no idea.”
“My parents are going to flip out! I don’t have anything against gay people, but I’m flipping out myself. It’s a huge paradigm shift. I never thought of Joe as gay!”
Gary paused reflectively. “Listen to me … I sound as though I just found out he was from Mars. I don’t mean for it to come out that way. I’ve never had anything against gay people, but it’s never been this close to home … literally.”
“What has surprised you the most about your reaction?” I asked.
“Joe and I have always been close. Sometimes we talk about personal subjects, but it’s mostly guy talk,” Gary began. “The other night Joe was telling me a story about his college buddies and even mentioned the fact that one of them was gay. Looking back now, I think Joe was testing my reaction.”
He continued, “I’ve known some gay people in my life and have been okay with it. My philosophy has been to let people be who they are,” he explained. “And that can be about anything, not just sexuality.”
“It sounds like you are pretty open,” I said.
“I thought I was, but this has thrown me for a loop. It’s not just ‘that person’ anymore; it’s Joe,” he explained.
“Do you feel differently now that you know he is gay?” I asked.
“No, but I’m still getting used to it,” Gary answered. “Looking back, some of the things I remember while we were growing up make more sense,” he said. “But I love my brother no matter what. He seemed a lot happier and more relaxed after telling me … as though he has been keeping this secret for a long time.”
“You seem worried about something else. What is it?” I asked.
“My parents are going to freak out!” Gary said. “Joe plans to tell them when they visit in two weeks. I am not sure if I should give them the heads-up or if I should stay out of it completely.”
“Who’s more nervous about this ” you or Joe?” I asked.
“Me,” he answered immediately. “Joe said that he has struggled with this for so long that is a relief to not have to keep the secret.”
Gary then paused, as if putting two and two together.
“I just had a realization,” he said. “I’ve been carrying this around for two days as though it was MY news. But it’s not my news. It’s Joe’s news. I don’t have to do anything … but be there for my family.”
“How did you come to that realization?” I asked.
“When you asked who was more nervous and I said that it was me, I realized that I was taking this on myself, but this issue belongs to Joe. I just need to be available to my family, no matter what happens,” he said sounding relieved.
“How will you be available to your family?” I asked.
“I’ll listen and be available to both Joe and my parents after he tells them. Knowing my parents, it will be a shock, but they will love Joe, just like I do, no matter what.”
As we closed our coaching session, I asked Joe what would help him to be more available for his family. We brainstormed three questions for Gary to answer to help him better understand his feelings about Joe’s news. With a deeper understanding of his own thoughts and emotions, Gary was sure he’d be in a much better place to support his family.
Coaching Challenge: When you find yourself emotionally charged by a situation, determine who owns the issue. Here are some questions to ask: Who is most directly impacted by this issue? Is it my business? What is my role in this situation? If it’s not your issue, respect the person who owns it enough to let him or her deal with it. Perhaps you aren’t the leading role, but just a supporting actor.
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, e-mail or comment on Sheri’s blog, http://www.coachwithsheri.com/blog. Sheri can be reached at email@example.com or for more information, visit http://www.coachwithsheri.com.