In nearly every introductory coaching class I teach, someone asks about coaching family or quips something along the lines of, “You’d better not do this with your spouse!” It’s interesting to me that while learning a positive communication approach so many people automatically assume it’s not an approach to be used with family members.
What gets in our way? Let me offer 5 reasons I’ve heard for not coaching one’s spouse, children, parents and other family members.
1. They would see right through me. Or as more than one coach trainee has put it, “My wife would kill me if I talked to her this way.” Many new coaches have a belief that their family members will think they are being played, being tricked, being manipulated, or something worse if suddenly the coach shows up and starts asking questions, listening well, and displaying other coaching behaviors. This may stem from all the times the coach trainee came home with the latest training on whatever and did try to manipulate their family member.
2. They are not coachable. I’m surprised how many coach trainees believe their family members are not coachable. Of course, not every person is coachable, but I find it strange that new coaches would write off their loved ones as being uncoachable given that the characteristics of uncoachability include: psychologically unstable, addicted, deeply wounded, or otherwise unable to make reasonable choices.
3. They don’t need coaching. This is one of my favorites. I’ll bet a pound of nickels that their family members’ lives are not as perfect and happy as the coach trainee thinks. I personally know how convenient it is for me to think my spouse and children have it all together and are not seeking some sort of Point B in their lives.
4. It would be awkward. This is the one that has some truth to it, in my opinion. It’s absolutely true that it may be awkward. I’m not sure shifting to new ways of relating and communicating would never be easy, but that’s a poor reason to not offer your best to those around you. As an excuse, this one is better phrased, “The gain from coaching my family member is not worth the price of the awkwardness we will encounter in making the shift.”
5. They may choose the wrong actions. Ah, and here we find the most real reason many of us resist coaching family members: we don’t trust our family members to make choices that coincide with what we want for them. Honestly, it’s hard to be neutral with family members, especially children. We want what’s best for them and we think we know what’s best, so we try to convince them to believe, think and do what we want them to believe, think, and do. It’s hard to let go of our agenda for their lives.
Next time, I’ll look at some benefits we can realize when we choose to coach family members. For now, take a look at this list and use it as an audit for your own family relationships and communication strategies. How much room are you making for coaching with your family members? What else prevents you from coaching them?