Blending the yin of counseling with the yang of coaching to serve the whole person.
“I prefer to think of my patients and myself as fellow travelers, a term that abolishes distinctions between ‘them’ (the afflicted) and ‘us’ (the healers).”
We can try as we may to deal with parts of people, but in reality, this is never accurate. There aren’t enough assessments in existence to accurately describe the nuances of each and every human being. Additionally, the commonly cited idea of work-life balance is a myth! We can’t nor should we try to compartmentalize our existence into work and life. The two are woven together in one whole. What happens or doesn’t happen at work affects our whole person and the same is true in our life outside of work. The lines aren’t clear; they are blurry and overlap significantly. We are only one indivisible person.
We’re all broken! The first step toward growth is a step of honesty and self-awareness, particularly owning those aspects of self that aren’t functioning as they ought. The good news here is that we are all broken and imperfect. The reality is that only some of the population agrees with that statement and has the courage to be vulnerable about their struggles. In this sense, there are no whole people, just broken ones of different sorts. How can we best help broken people toward health, wholeness and authenticity?
One of the ways to grow and overcome is through the means of a therapeutic relationship, counseling. Many people walk through the door called counseling and into a new way of being. There are, however a few problems with counseling. Counseling still has a stigma, one more thing introverts don’t need, attached to it. Much counseling and psychotherapy is practiced from a pathological perspective. The exaggerated perceived prevalence of depression and anxiety are real problems for introverts and their yin emotionality. Unfortunately, due to the influence of the insurance industry, most counseling is short-term, 6–8 sessions. It has taken many years to develop the patterns of thought, feeling and behavior described in this book. It will not be truly changed in six sessions.
Coaching is a newer, far less regulated field. It is offered mostly in the context of working environments. Some seek out coaching as a healthy way to further their own personal development; others desire to remedy a specific problem or behavior. It can be life changing, like counseling, but it also has a few potential problems. Most often, coaching is provided in the context of, and toward the end of, improved performance. Pushing performance goals prematurely with introverts who are struggling to recover from the things discussed in this book can prove to be not only ineffective but personally damaging. Limiting much of the coaching interaction and discussions to the context of work, many clients are only half understood. The line between the self at work and the self outside of work is a fiction. The whole person lives in all spheres of life. Working on work-related issues always connects to life outside of work and vice versa.
WHOLE PERSON COACHING
A dialectic is a synthesis of two things in tension with one another that together comprise a whole. These dialectical relationships are all around us. We become the person we are as a result of both nature and nurture. We are both I and we. Yin and yang is a classic example of this concept. By blending aspects of counseling and working in a coaching context, the client can be served more holistically. Whole Person Coaching brings therapeutic understanding to the coaching process to better serve the client in the following ways:
In many respects, the needs of quiet leaders are the same as their extroverted counterparts. We all have blind spots and challenges that hinder us from reaching our full potential as leaders. Most of us can work to become better aligned with our workplace roles and focus. Everyone benefits from greater organizational and individual clarity. We can all seek to improve our performance and meet our personal and organizational goals. Everyone will gain from this unique relationship we call coaching.
In other ways, quiet leaders (introverts and ambiverts) have a unique set of additional challenges in an extrovert-biased culture. Here are some of the dialectical needs related to introverted leaders that I frequently encounter:
Coaching is not therapy, though when performed by a coach who is also a licensed counselor, it can often include significant therapeutic insights. Being both a coach and a therapist, I am uniquely attuned to deeper psychological and systems-related issues in the process. Coaching is yang. It tends to focus on performance, goal-achievement, the bottom line, utilitarian and practical ends, the hard or practical stuff. Counseling is yin. It tends to focus on well-being, wholeness, personal and developmental ends, the soft or personal stuff.
Which matters more? For many years in the workplace, we have attempted to separate these two aspects of individuals. We’ve said, “Leave your personal issues at home and focus on your work.” We’ve talked about having a good work-life balance and good boundaries between the two hemispheres of life. What we are finding is that life and people aren’t built like that. We are each one person and bring that one person into all of the spheres of our existence. Work-life balance is a myth! The hard stuff and the soft stuff are interconnected. This is the brilliance of Whole Person Coaching. It focuses on both.