Increasingly, both as a coach and as a friend, I am noticing the ways people often speak and behave when they are engaged in the exhausting work of self-deception - that is: something that doesn't feel quite right about the way they are doing their life or their relationships, but they are justifying, blaming others for, or avoiding altogether.
Some examples: In the course of a conversation, a person will repeat words or phrases, which make them sound like they're in some kind of debate. "I'm fine, though. Really, I'm fine. I'm going to be fine. I will. Really." With whom are they arguing, exactly? I wonder.
Self-deception is revealed, too, when a person, stumbling upon something they don't want to confront in themselves, becomes suddenly quiet or recites some platitude: "It iust is what it is, you know? I just have to power through it."
Is it just what it t ? Do we just have to power through?
I'm not convinced.
In coaching relationships,I have the client's tacit permission to point out such linguistic or behavioral habits and then to inquire into them. Though there is tension in the moments before I tell a client what I'm seeing, doing so often leads to an important development in the client's progress. In fact, this is why they have hired me - to see and communicate to them in ways that others will not.
In friendships, however, I find it difficult to skillfuly respond when I encounter these firewalls. On the one hand, speaking and behaving in these ways are social cues that tell me to steer clear of the topic. On the other hand, as a friend, I am committed to my friends' happiness - and self-deception does not to happiness lead. I'm certain of that.
There is no catch-all solution for this. I'm aware of that. But, it does get the mind thinking about different approaches I might take in coaching relationships and friendships. In order to support this inquiry, I've ordered a book that's been on my list for a while, called "Leadership and Self-Deception," published by the Arbinger Insitute. I'm eager to get into it and learn more.
Some questions for all of us:
1. What are the social cues (physical, verbal, behavioral) you choose to send out when you want to avoid getting into a conversation about areas of your life you know you want to address? What thoughts or emotions arise in you just before you send these messages into the world?
2. What cues do you notice others communicating to you? Do you silently agree to "not go there," or do you point out what they are doing? How do others respond? What meaning do you give to their responses?