We all love it. I would even go so far as to say we all need it. Empathy and Validation make us feel heard, understood, endorsed, supported and more.
In the coaching paradigm these two offerings at the core of Active Listening. When people feel heard they feel loved.
- But should there be an expiration date?
- Is it possible to give too much? or care too long?
- Could empathy and validation be postponing forward movement?
What if our “caring” is propping something up that needs to be let go? What if the longevity of our listening is postponing the next step or stage the person needs?
Don’t get me wrong – we all need to “mourn with those who mourn”, but how can we help people move on if we keep validating their current place.
I think the answer is in the EXPIRATION DATE. And the question is not how to set an expiration date, but WHO should set it. (Hint: It’s not the coach’s job to set the date.)
A skilled coach can meet a person where they are at with empathy and validation and patiently help them move forward out of their low place by asking empowering questions.
It can be so very hard for a person who is in a pit. They may be stuck mourning a loss, dealing with a tricky situation, overcoming a handicap or struggling with overwhelming circumstances.
But they don’t need to stay there.
And that’s not me being mean – it’s me hoping for them to experience a next level connection with God that provides whatever they need: peace that passes understanding, healing, courage, direction, provision, change, perspective and so much more… literally whatever they need.
So, what’t the key to helping set an expiration date for the low place? What are some of these empowering questions a skilled coach can use?
How about some of these:
- What is one attribute of God that He may be wanting you to experience as you walk through this season?
- What will your life look like when this is in the rear view mirror?
- What’s a baby step you can take to start moving forward?
- How can you meet God in the midst of this season?
- What’s drowning out His voice or presence for you at this time?
- What do you need from me to support you in this transition?
That last one can be tricky. What if they just want you to be patient? What if they expect you to be there for them more than you are able or feel comfortable doing?
Recently a young woman I was working with made a huge self discovery. She had suffered from a repeating pattern of dealing with friends who weren’t really there for her. And her complaints were legit. She had sacrificed and was exceedingly loyal. She had given and given to friends in multiple seasons and different locations but the reciprocity level wasn’t nearly what she wanted.
She tried clarifying conversations. She tried lowering her expectation. Choosing different friends. But she kept getting hurt, feeling marginalized, alone and neglected.
I tried encouraging her. Listened to her. Challenging her to be more clear. Then I just validated and was empathetic. Sometimes I asked empowering questions and sometimes I just cared.
What I didn’t do was own her place. She was in a low place, but I didn’t put her there. I wished for her the very best, that she would be free of the assault. I prayed for her to love her life and not feel the plethora of doubt and pain that she was experiencing.
Here’s an actual quote from her breakthrough:
I think I put my finger on the situation….It’s the same story over and over. I feel like I’m givng too much and not getting anything back – but she doesn’t even know what I am giving up. And she didn’t ask me for anything.
I want to accept her (people) where they are at instead of being proud and expecting that she owes me anything. I don’t need to plan my life around her or my loyalty and expect that back. I need to just enjoy each day.
This was a breakthrough that took years. It was a deep personal revelation and it wasn’t mine to make it happen. It was hers to receive. How beautiful. How freeing for her and for me.
I learned that the only thing I really could do about her life situation was walk with her till she chose to put an expiration date on her situation.
Even the best empowering questions only work if the other person chooses to invite God into their situation and sets their face toward moving forward.
What are your thoughts?
Help me add more empowering questions!?