One of the most important lessons I learned (and then taught) as a manager is that holding up a mirror for someone is not an act of hostility. If it is done with thoughtfulness and constructive intent, it is actually a gift-giving exercise. Sometimes it can be an uncomfortable experience for both parties, that takes courage on behalf of the one holding the mirror and composure on behalf of the one encountering it. For the recipient of the “gift,” it can go down like medicine in the moment. But it can be a life-changing moment.
Similarly, I learned the power of listening to another person’s thinking (perspectives, plans, beliefs, inner narratives) and then playing it all back in a way that helps the person “hear” it in another voice. Then we talk about it. The intent of course is to help that person quality-check their thinking and perhaps evolve it a bit. Sometimes they need to evolve it a lot.
I find that when young adults are struggling, they (like all of us) can be operating with a jumble of distorted or confused narratives about who they are, what they want, and how the world works. These narratives get mixed up with insecurities, fears, impressions, assumptions, messages from the popular culture, other peoples’ voices, and even a fair amount of fuzzy-headed self-deception. The result is that the young adult can be carrying around inside them a slurry of ineffective thinking that can be paralyzing (even demoralizing), making it hard to sort out who they really want to be, and how to get there from here.
I enjoy helping clients to look into that mirror and to unpack their inner narratives. It isn’t therapy, it’s just conversation. When we do it over tea and Zoom, we get pretty quickly to moments when both of us are smiling at the perspectives, realizations and sometimes even epiphanies that emerge. And very often after we get off the call, those new perspectives and realizations take root in the client’s thinking. Negative, unhelpful, (often fear-based) mental models fall away, replaced by thoughts of possibility and purpose. And the lights come on.
Anyone who would like to connect with me or explore these topics more is invited to visit my website at www.otoolecoaching.com.