Why we can tell when we're faking and what to do instead

Image credit: Juskteez Vu at unsplash.com

Image credit: Juskteez Vu at unsplash.com

On my first coach training weekend, we did an exercise which changed the way I thought about myself for ever, and in the biggest way.

Picture the scene:

Sitting in a circle of about 6 people who met less than 48 hours ago.

Each person takes a turn for the others to tell them what they see in them, and then once that 'round' feels complete, what the others sense is possible in them, but not fully expressed right now.

We end up with a badge which had that word on it, and then went into another exercise where we (all at the same time) had to act that out - really being in the energy of the word we had on our badges. Throughout our coach training, we were often called to be more of that word.

Picture 25 people, acting as strippers, studs, leaders, poets, storytellers, the sea, the sun, grandfather time, wise sages, princesses, kings, queens, bastards and clowns. All at the same time. 

You're curious what my word was, right?


Mine was METEOR. 

It was about bright light, power, stars, magic and massive impact.


Just like that, I recognised a part of me I had not been owning up until that point. But I knew, with every cell in my body, that what they were seeing was there in me.

I also learned a really powerful lesson about how I experience other humans, and this is it:

We can intuitively sense the truth of each other.

My beautiful coaching comrades had seen in me, an aspect of me that even I wasn't fully aware of (but had spent most of my adult life trying to hide).

Even when we have been covering up or hiding, the person we really are, or editing ourselves to fit in, or please, or keep others at an emotional distance, other people can already recognise the qualities in you, that make you, you.

Who you are speaks more loudly then what you are doing to cover up who you are, for fear of judgement, separation, or disapproval.

And from my facilitation of the Daring Way workshops I've realised we can not only feel the truth of a person, the qualities that make them who they are - but we also sense it when they hold themselves back, and are hiding or editing themselves.

We don't know what is being hidden, but we feel the dissonance of a person, we sense that there is more, or that the person being represented is not necessarily the person who is inside.

And that prevents true connection from happening.

Because which edited version of you, is connecting with which edited version of me?

The belonging that we seek through presenting a more pleasing version of ourselves, isn't actually available until we stop editing who we are. 

And when we stop trying to belong, and show up just as we are, seeking to give, and contribute,  we suddenly find we belong in the places where we really fit.  

With ourselves. 

With the people who feel more like 'our people'.

That's 'cos they can see us, for real, and we feel the integrity inside.

And when we stop hiding, stop editing, and allow ourselves to be seen, it can feel risky, because we fear disapproval or disconnection, yes. But what happens when you take that risk is that people feel the truth of you (that they already sensed) and true connection can happen, because the true you is meeting the true 'them'.  

That's resonance.

We can already feel who you are.  Let us have more of the full-on, unapologetic version of you - it's already more amazingly genius than any kind of editing could accomplish.


Does this idea land with you? Do you recognise where you say or do things which aren't really aligned with who you are? What happens? What would be on your badge? 

Want to come and explore more topics like this? There are a couple of places left on the next Rising Strong™ workshop in Penrith, Cumbria, on 3+4 March 2017. We'd love to welcome the real you.

In praise of slow

Image credit: Miriam Miles at unsplash.com

Image credit: Miriam Miles at unsplash.com

I'm just four days into 2017 with the guiding light of SLOW as my word for 2017 - and already I've discovered something really interesting about what goes on inside my head.

As some background - I recently read Carl Honore's excellent 'In praise of slow' (alongside Susan Cain's 'Quiet', but that's another tale for another day) and watched his TED talk which you can watch here - it's less than 20 minutes and is well worth it if you're a recovering 'hurry-upper', like me. 

I'm making SLOW be about slowing everything down, taking deeper breaths, doing less, consuming less, taking more time to really feel into decision-making, generally being more present, and hopefully in turn, connecting with the underlying joyful nature that I am sure exists under all the busy-busy-hurry-upness, that leaves me feeling flat and uninspired.

I noticed really clearly that the voice in my head doesn't actually represent the deeper inner wisdom voice I've come to recognise, but not always live from, and it seems to be running a commentary like this in my head:

On day two of my happy choice to go back to running, because I feel strong, and free when I run..

 "I don't want to go for a run. Running feels hard."

And during that same run:

"oooh, the floor's icy. What if I slip and fall in the road and a car comes and doesn't see me and might run over me and... " Wise, true self cuts in at this point with WHAAAAT?! check out that catastrophising! Stop that, fast-thinking voice!

On seeing one of my favourite mentors has launched another course, just as I promised myself to consume less this year, and to show up fully to the online courses I've already signed up to but not completed:

"I've got to sign up! I don't want to miss out! Never mind that I'm going back on my promise to myself! Sign up!"

On receiving an invitation to deliver a session at a local conference, that I loved doing last year:

"I'm not sure I can be bothered. It's all too much effort and I'm just making myself really busy again."

In my hurry up days I'd probably have skipped the run, signed up to yet another course that I won't complete after promising myself that I wouldn't, and declined the offer of presenting to a local group - something I know is really fun and fulfilling for me.

(In case you're wondering, I went for the run, didn't sign up for the course [but did connect with the course-leader which resulted in deeper connection and leaving the door open], and committed to the presentation :))

view from the run!

view from the run!

This is an example of how it feels when we're caught up in fast and slow thinking - check out here and here - slowing our thinking down gives us access to deeper processing which isn't governed by that lazy, fast, often inaccurate voice that happens in our heads when we are speeding along through our lives.

Slower thinking requires more mental resources, but gives us access to greater agency, choice and concentration in our lives.

I'm sure for me there's an element of my instant gratification monkey at play too - slowing things down means I really have access to decision making that will lead to a happier, more fulfilled me - not one who managed to avoid discomfort in the instant it was triggered, but who missed out on something that was going to have me feeling stronger, happier and with more integrity, longer-term.

What I'm learning is we've got to get present so we can hear the voices and tell the difference in how our thoughts feel.

Deeper, resonant wisdom over instant-gratification, is what becomes available when I'm not speeding through life with my stress-head on.

At a slower pace, I can feel into my relationship with everything, and really tell what truly engages my spirit and what I can gracefully let go of.

Does this resonate?

Could you be served by slowing down a little and getting in touch with your inner tortoise? :-)

I'd love to know your tips and tricks for slowing down.


Shame Starts Young

I'm at my weekly aerobics class and in the line in front of me is a young boy, about seven or eight, he's come with his mum and aunty and it's his first class.

Halfway through the first song, after throwing himself into the moves, and getting them mostly wrong - it's the first time he's ever done them remember - he rushes out of the front row, sits on the steps at the front of the hall, makes his tear-stained eyes and flushed cheeks invisible to us by putting his head in his hands, and he refuses to look at, or speak to his mum, aunty, or anyone else trying to offer him encouragement.

Disconnected. Shut down. Moved away.

How many of you remember moments from childhood when time stood still because you were told off, or got something wrong, or didn't do something perfectly, or were bullied, or felt like you stood out in the most excrutiatingly painful way? I know I do.

And how many of you are still living those patterns today?

I was struck by how I could be witnessing a shame storm right there, in that young boy. I make up that he tried, he couldn't do it perfectly first time, he quit.

That young boy is a potential leader, potential surgeon, potential politician, potential husband and father, and it's possible that that moment in the class could have frozen him into a pattern of being seen that will show up again and again in his adult life.

He moved with his mum and aunty to the back row, and later in the class I saw him laughing and joining in, safe out of the limelight and able to give being awkward and just learning the steps another.

Ordinary courage is getting up again when you fall.

How are you with getting up again when you fall? I'd love to hear what you think in the comments below.


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I teach around topics like this. If this post resonated for you, please consider taking a look at scheduled workshops.


what to do when you fail at empathy

Image credit: Dayne Topkin at unsplash.com

Image credit: Dayne Topkin at unsplash.com

You know those people who never seem to mind or notice what others think of them?

Well, that's never been me.

Once upon a time, I was someone who thought the worst thing you could do was to be disapproved of or to upset someone.

So you can imagine my angst as I read these words, in response to a reply I had written to a fellow student on my course:

'Jacqui, I felt uncomfortable when I read your words, and I don't appreciate this kind of comment'.

Uh-ho. Shame-shit-storm alert. Heart pounding. Time slows down. I'm holding my breath.

Here we were, learning about empathy, connection, and trust. And here's me, having failed at that.

I'm such an idiot.

I got it wrong-got-it-wrong-got-it-wrong-got-it-wrong GOT IT WRONG.

What's a girl to do, mid shame-storm?

Ok. Type reply. Make sure he knows he interpreted my message incorrectly. Put him right. Defend myself. TAKE HIM DOWN.

Typed it. Felt bad. Deleted it.

Stomped around the house, huffing and puffing. Said 'nothing!' in a bright, breezy voice when hubby asked what was wrong. Felt like my insides were coming off. Totally disengaged my brain.

Pause. Wait a moment. Pay Attention.

I'm having a shame attack. Name it. Shame shame shame.

Reach out. Tell my story to someone who has earned the right to hear it. A colleague I trust.

Her reply was like a cooling balm on my burning shame-iness.

"Bravo for reaching out. You're in the arena. I'm here. What do you need?".

Shame can't survive in the warm embrace of empathy, of being seen, and knowing we're not alone.

Ok. Deep breath. Circle back. Put this right.

New reply typed, from a wholehearted, open, honest place. Connection made with original poster. We see each other. This is the work.


Over to you.

What's your experience? What happens for you when you fail?  What works for you when someone is trying to understand how you feel?  I would love to hear what you have to say.


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If you've enjoyed this post, please share it on Facebook and Linked In to the friends and colleagues you feel would enjoy it too by clicking the 'Share' icon below.

I run workshops around topics like this. If this post resonated for you, please look at scheduled workshops.

Tempted to advise your clients?


Don’t you have a duty to advise your client, when they bring a topic you know a lot about?

Shouldn’t you be sharing your expertise, if you know you can save your client time, energy, pain and money by sharing your experience or opinion? (Asked my brilliant and caring client, recently.)

Well, no. Or at least, not necessarily. And here’s why.

Work that self-management muscle, coach.

Coaching works by asking, not telling. If you’re a co-active coach you’ll already know the power of holding space for your client and in asking powerful questions. Think back to a time when someone told you what they thought or made a suggestion – whether you asked for advice or not. How did you feel? More than likely passive, or even inferior. Maybe you took the advice or suggestion, or maybe you didn’t do anything with it, perhaps because it wasn’t your idea. There’s an imbalance in the relationship at that moment where the giver of the advice becomes the expert.

If you find yourself coaching someone and hear yourself saying anything along the lines of ‘Why don’t you..?’ ‘How about….?’ ‘What I would do is….’, you’re disempowering your client by suggesting that you know best. Nancy Kline goes as far as to say that we ‘infantalise’ others when we assume that we know better than them in that moment. It's disempowering. As human beings, we seek mastery and control over our own lives.

It’s the process of being coached, that brings so much value to the client. Having to search within, to find the answers that are meaningful to them, which has value. Giving someone the gift of deep attention and listening, and recognising that your client is perfectly capable of thinking for themselves, that they would be well served by you paying respectful attention so that they can access their own ideas first, means that you are serving your client by helping them take responsibility for their own thinking and judgement.


Holding space for quality thinking

This morning, I had a Thinking Pairs session with a close colleague of mine. You can read about Nancy Kline’s Thinking Environment here, but the basic structure was that we each listen to each other for 10 minutes each way, with the listener holding (silent) ease, encouragement and appreciation for the thinker; interjecting only to offer nods or brief words of encouragement to continue, and, on noticing a silence which doesn’t feel as though the thinker may have finished, asking ‘is there more’?, allowing the thinker to keep thinking on the topic they chose.

At first, it’s tricky as both the listener and thinker – because to take the full ten minutes to think aloud, whilst knowing you won’t be interrupted – or to give someone else the gift of that listening space – feels strange. As the listener, I wanted to intrude, to ask questions, to add my voice to the monologue. I knew I could add some value by ‘coaching’. But as I listened, something incredible occurred. I noticed that every time I was tempted to intrude or speak – my thinker went off in a totally different direction than my intervention might have caused her to travel in. At the last prompt for ‘is there more?’ – my thinker came up with an amazing insight that she hadn’t considered before. She developed the idea aloud, and then said ‘hah! That’s it! That’s what I need to do. That’s amazing. Thank you!’. And I hadn’t uttered a word aside from the encouraging prompts. There’s magic in deep listening, folks!

A word from our sponsor….

CTI are very clear about the role of advice giving in coaching:

Co-Active Coaching is an experience of personal and professional development unlike other kinds of coaching. Based on the Co-Active Model, it begins by holding the coachee as naturally creative, resourceful and whole, and completely capable of finding their own answers to whatever challenges they face. The job of a Co-Active Coach® is to ask powerful questions, listen and empower to elicit the skills and creativity a client already possesses, rather than instruct or advise.

 And you can hear Henry Kimsey-House speak directly about advice-giving if you want to go deeper into this topic (9 minute audio which really gets to the heart of this issue).

Five things to consider when you're feeling the urge to give advice:

  1. Make sure your designed alliance has really clearly set out what you and your client have agreed together around sharing your expertise. If something arises, or if your client asks for your advice or opinion, make it clear that you are taking off your coaching hat and putting your mentoring one on.
  2. Stick to the client's agenda - not your agenda for the client. It's imperative that you spend the time together to get clear about what your client wants to get out of the coaching and their life! If you aren't clear, you'll be working too hard as coach.
  3. Be conscious and discerning when the temptation to give your advice or option arises. There will be occasions where you have expertise or where your knowledge is likely to save the client time, pain or money, or when it wouldn't make sense to withhold what you know from your client. Ask your client if they would like this knowledge, AFTER you have found out what they think; stay unattached to your perspective, and make sure your client sees this as only one option available to them, and not the only, expert option or viewpoint to take.
  4. Get clear about the kind of coach/mentor you want to be. It’s possible you are discovering your marketing positioning is becoming more a guru than collaborator or supporter. Nothing wrong with that – but make sure you’re clear on how you will self-manage through certification and when you are co-actively coaching so that you aren't positioning yourself as the expert or mentoring when you should be coaching.
  5. If your client is consistently seeking your advice or isn't willing to come up with their own ideas, there may be a co-dependency issue. Check that you aren't playing the 'Rescuer' for your client. If you have any ethical concerns, seek support from a fellow coach and refer to the ICF (International Coaching Federation) guidelines. Might be worth an inquiry for you as coach too, to see if there is a value of yours being honoured by giving advice. Mastery, perhaps, or competence? In the case of my client, there was a value of efficiency driving the need to save clients wasting timebeon making poor choices. It is essential to know your preferences, if you are to be discerning about how these unconscious influences play out in your coaching.

Over to you. What have you found works, around self-management?  Have you noticed the urge to advise your clients or share what you know? What would you say to a client who brought this topic to coaching?