Some 20 years ago I did a coaching training to learn how to become a better coach. There were a lot of good lessons in that training. Like for example to never ask suggestive questions. Or to always ask follow-up questions based on answers. “Focus on the goal and allow the coachee to find the best path.” was also an important lesson I keep reminding myself of almost every day.
There was however a lesson which immediately made me aware that I might never become the coach I thought I could be. “Make sure you are never emotionally attached and involved with your coachee because you would lose your objectivity”. It makes perfect sense to me and yet I also know this is not me. The brain understands but the heart doesn’t follow. I am too emotionally involved in everything I do to follow this guidance.
My school-time buddy was psychiatrist and a darn good one, too. I asked him how he does that, and his answer was “I don’t. This is my daily struggle. Every patient is in pain and I can’t just sit there without feelings. All I can do is focus on providing professional support and help them get out of their pain. Their healing is the balance I need to their pain.” He also added that he knew his breaking point would come and it did, many years later.
Not being involved and connected to the people I work with is not possible for me. I am not able to do that and to be honest, I don’t want to do that, either. So, I might not be the best coach around and I have accepted that. There is however another consequence of the way I work which I am very proud of. The people I have coached all become friends in one way or the other. And in times of crisis they reach out to me. Conversations. Questions. Answers. Feelings. Emotions. Involvement. Commitment. All ingredients that make life and friendships special.
I remember wise words of my mother during these conversations. “I might not have the answers, but I will always listen to your questions.” That is my commitment to everyone who reaches out to me and my coachee friends appreciate that. So, they reach out to me when they are stressed or go through a crisis, and I listen to them. I share my honest thoughts and honestly admit when I don’t have an answer to their questions or don’t know the solution for their challenges.
Whenever a crisis emerges, people reach out more than normally and I am used to it, appreciate it. Because in most cases, I am just as bothered by that crisis as they are, and our conversations help me at least as much in dealing with it. Financial crisis can be a trigger for such conversations. The corona pandemic triggered many of those conversations. I always “brace for impact” because I know I will be and want to be emotionally involved in those conversations.
Each and every time where an overwhelming act of racist violence occurs, I know there will be dozens of people reaching out to me and I always know that I have to and want to be there for them. This is my commitment and I will keep that commitment. At the same time, I also know that these are the conversations which will bring me dangerously close to my breaking point. Each and every time, without exception. I can feel the anger and the pain growing inside me. I hear myself shouting “WHAT HAPPENED TO NIE WIEDER?!” in the darkness. Frustration and anger bring me close to my breaking point, every time. Without exception!
Last night it happened. I reached my breaking point. I had to end a conversation in overwhelming pain and focus on my own emotions. I cried. I shouted. I cursed. I looked up to heaven and asked my Mama for forgiveness. For myself. For what is happening. For all of us.
This message by a friend and the conversation that followed is what brought me to my breaking point.
Today I was asked by a school director to organize a training for black kids on how to survive an arrest.
An overwhelming cry for help by an old friend. Of course, I called him as he asked me to do. And we talked about it until I could not take it anymore. I needed a break and still do, even when I am just listening to the fears and anger of a friend. I am not even remotely able to comprehend how it feels when a person is at the receiving side of racism and oppression. To be so afraid of racist violence that you request a survival training for the kids…
I might not be the best coach because of this but I will not surrender. I will be there, and I will speak up. I will use my voice and I will be vocal and loud.
Unless we ALL look in the mirror and start solving all the issues, this will only get worse. There can never be them. There can only be us!