I am certain you’ve heard the phrase, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.” Well, it’s true and wise phrase, not just for horses, but for people, too.
You can make suggestions, you can offer solutions, help or guidance to someone you think is in need or has a problem. But if that person does not recognize his own issue or is not internally motivated to address the problem, your input is irrelevant.
Coaching is based on this premise. As a coach, I do not advise or direct my client to his solution. I do ask questions, listen and brainstorm ideas from which the client discovers his own path to the water and decides if or how much he wants to drink. I went to school to learn how to do this. It didn’t come naturally to me, and this kind of interpersonal exchange doesn’t come naturally to most people.
With all good intentions, our tendency is to give opinions and advice to those we care about. When it is asked for, it can be very helpful and supportive. When it is not, we risk shutting down the other person, making him resistant to moving forward or finding a solution. In the worst scenario, the person may rebel and do the opposite of what is best for him, what we, of course, know is the perfect remedy.
At the risk of sounding cliché, I offer another phrase I’m certain you’ve heard, “If you love something let it go …” There is more to this one, but the key is in these words. Often our best support is to let things be, let things play out for that person. That means releasing control – such a hard, hard thing to do for so many of us in our culture.
Stay silent and offer love from your heart. Such love is free of judgment and undergirds the other with unconditional support.
At the same time, be prepared and ready for action. When the other does not feel oppressed by judgment, his energy is freed to think through the situation and make choices. Once he takes action, you can be there to encourage and give help … IF help is asked for, that is.
Is there a danger that the person you care for will choose nothing, will not take positive action, or may walk the other way? Yes. But that danger exists if you push your advice on him, too.
Satisfaction in personal accomplishment is exhilarating and life enhancing. Please, give that opportunity to those you care for. Don’t let your need to be “right” or in control outshine anyone’s path to personal success.