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Coaching On COVID-19 When You’re In The Pool

Categorized as Coaching Business
Coaching On COVID-19 When You're In The Pool - Featured Image

As life coaches, we’re not supposed to react or have opinions about the things going on in our clients’ lives. We’re supposed to be completely neutral. We have to be, in order to see our clients’ thoughts and coach them through their struggles.

But what happens when your client comes to you with something you’re struggling with yourself? When you’re in the pool and have plenty of opinions and thoughts about the situation?

That’s what happened to me recently.

Feelings About My Client’s Circumstance

One of my clients showed up to our call and opened the conversation with “I’ve been called to New York to help with the COVID-19 pandemic.”

I froze. Like everyone in the world right now, I’ve been struggling to come to terms with the situation we’re all faced with: a virus that does not discriminate and could result in the loss of friends, family, or my own life.

I’m working on it, I swear.

But in that moment, after she said she was going to New York, I had three thoughts:

  1. That’s the most dangerous place in the world right now.
  2. Why would you put yourself at risk?
  3. What if something happens to you?

None of them neutral, and none of them helpful in the conversation to come.

the impact list

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So how do you actually shut down your own reaction to something in order to serve your coaching client?

Here’s what I experienced in the few seconds I had to get control over myself.

I heard those three thoughts run through my brain. I instantly knew that they were unhelpful in this conversation and I could not allow them to interfere with this coaching session. And I knew I had to remove them from the situation.

What’s most interesting to me now, looking back at this, is how quickly I was able to recognize these thoughts and determine I had to clear them away. And the whole process took only seconds, although it felt like minutes.

The amount of time between her statement about getting called to New York and my response was probably around 4 seconds. Four seconds to hear the thoughts in my brain and understand they had no place there, and that I needed to get rid of them.

But I also knew I needed a few more seconds to make it actually happen, so I needed to say something to my client, who was waiting for a response. I asked, “in what role?”

I knew the answer to this, but I was basically asking in order to buy myself some time while she talked. And while she did, I coached myself.

These thoughts are not helpful. None of them are truth, or a current reality. I cannot control what will happen in the future, but I can stand in strength and hold space for my client right now so she moves forward in this situation feeling confident and supported in what she’s about to face. I will be her coach today, not a reflection of her fears. I can have thoughts and react to them later.

And I put the thoughts and fears and doubt and worry in a little box in my brain that I could open up after our call. Because they were not allowed in that conversation.

Now let me just point out that this was the first coaching call I’d ever experienced where I truly felt an emotional attachment to the outcome. And deciding to shut away any personal thoughts or expectations didn’t just magically make them disappear.

I was well aware that they were still there. That they continued to grow and multiply and stem a new series of thoughts with every step of the conversation.

At every turn, before I made a comment or offered coaching, I mentally checked my words and the intentions behind them. It was hard. I was in constant awareness that I could slip up and respond to my thoughts. And by the end of the call, I was exhausted.

But I knew that I was more well-equipped to have this conversation with her than a lot of other coaches would have been.

My first career was in nursing. I have experience in working with patients and coworkers who have been exposed or contracted serious contagious conditions. Granted, nothing quite like Coronavirus, but serious enough that I’d donned hundreds of masks, gowns, and gloves to protect me from infection. I’m familiar with the process, and with the fears that go through your mind as you care for them.

Fears that you’re putting your life at risk. Worry that this time, you could make a wrong move and end up in the next bed because of it. Anxiety over not being able to do enough for the patient you’re caring for.

But also a deep knowing that you can’t turn around and walk away from helping them in any way you can.

My job as my client’s coach was to help her navigate all of that and more. So I acknowledged each new thought that popped up during our call and then stuffed it inside the box I’d made, along with all the others. And I coached her from neutral.

Preparation

Interestingly, the topic we spent the majority of time coaching around was not what she feared or how she’d handle the hard stuff, but rather what she needed to do and accomplish before she was deployed.

Her brain was convinced that she should clean her house from top to bottom so her family wouldn’t have to worry about doing that while she was gone.

Now if you’re a woman with a family, that probably doesn’t surprise you. We seem to be ingrained from a young age with the idea that our primary role is to make things easier for everyone around us.

But because I’ve worked with this client for over a year and know her brain well, I could immediately see the pattern she was repeating: avoidance.

She had mentioned at the beginning of the call that the only people who knew she was getting deployed were her husband, and me.

Her kids didn’t know. Her mom didn’t know. None of her family was aware of what was about to happen. And since she still didn’t have an official deployment time, she knew there was a possibility of needing to be at the airport in an hour with no time left to inform them.

Not to mention that she hadn’t packed.

And yet she claimed her number one task to accomplish before she left was cleaning the house.

The human brain is a funny thing, I tell ya.

I coached her hard on whether the house really needed cleaning, and we ended up with a prioritized list of the things she needed to do before she left. Cleaning the house came last.

Worst Case Scenario

One of the things I discuss frequently with this client is what the worst case scenario of any situation could be. Usually we’re talking about things related to her career or her business, but in this particular circumstance, the worst case scenario is death.

Not an easy subject, but I was glad to hear her bring it up first. It signaled to me that she wasn’t hiding from the realities of the situation. I’d been worried that she might be because she was pretty buzzed with anticipation and purpose when the call started. But by the time we got done with the topic of worst case scenario, she was much more grounded.

I will not go into the details of what we discussed and coached on this subject, but suffice it to say that my client left for New York knowing that, no matter what happens in the coming weeks, she can handle it. And her family will survive it.

Planning for the worst case scenario helped calm my client’s nerves.

And to be honest, it helped calm those unhelpful thoughts spinning through my mind.

She was not going unprepared into a situation out of her control. She was choosing to put herself at risk in service of the thousands suffering right now.

It’s one of the most powerful decisions I’ve ever witnessed, and I will never forget it.

After the Call

When we got off our call, I was expecting to have to do some intense self-coaching around all the thoughts that popped up during. But funnily enough, coaching my client actually helped me process at the same time.

I won’t go so far as to say I don’t still have some worry. Of course I do.

But I also know that my client is the best person I know for the job. There is literally no one who is more prepared to handle what she’s up against. And that’s a great comfort to me.

About The Author

Hey! I’m Cass, a brand coach and the Co-Founder & Chief Brand Officer at Lovely Impact, a website template shop for coaches. I help coaches elevate their businesses with beautiful branding and websites. Here on our blog, my content focuses on branding, web design, and storytelling.

By Cass

Hey! I’m Cass, a brand coach and the Co-Founder & Chief Brand Officer at Lovely Impact, a website template shop for coaches. I help coaches elevate their businesses with beautiful branding and websites. Here on our blog, my content focuses on branding, web design, and storytelling.

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