In a society that has become increasingly capable of resolving problems and creating solutions to fix all of our needs, we’ve less opportunity to practice the skill of not being able to solve problems. In fact, some of us have become quite uncomfortable with our relative helplessness when it comes to situations over which we have little or no control.

Life Coaching and Answering Questions

Life coaches work by a principle that the client has their own answers. This is a frame of reference which can be quite difficult to master for the coach simply because by human nature we want to help. The desire to provide advice is intensified when an answer to a client’s challenges may seem extremely clear. To make it even more difficult, the client may want or even ask for advice as to what they should do. Quite a conundrum!

Clearly this tendency to problem solve is a challenge that life coaches must face given the line of work that they are in. When is it appropriate, when is it not? But, its not just life coaches that are placed in situations in which ’speaking first’ is inappropriate behavior. We are all challenged with life events in which giving our opinion and providing an answer is absolutely the wrong thing to do. Even if giving your advice could help, we are sometimes faced with the fact that we simply do not know what to do given the situation at hand.

What do I do when I don’t know what to do?

When it comes to matters of human relations, there are times when we are simply at a complete loss. You do not know what to do, how to act, where to be, or how best comfort someone in a time of need. You wonder, What options do I have?

A compelling possibility that I’d like to offer you today is simply that of presence. When someone is in need and you have no idea what to do, shift your focus to being and away from doing. Think beyond the situation at hand and reflect upon your core values. Ask yourself how you would like to be rather than what you would like to do. Perhaps out of this self examination a gesture may arise as appropriate for the situation you are contemplating. Feel free to follow your instinct, but de-emphasize the action as it will lead us down the path of problem solving.

The power of presence

Life coaches know well the power of presence. Its the capability to sit in silence with someone, seeing them for who they are rather than what they are saying or doing. Its the ability to listen with empathy to someone knowing well that listening may be the only thing that you can ‘do’.

I recently heard a story of a psychologist that visited New Orleans after the torrential flooding a few years ago. The situation was dismal, and she felt that she might be able to provide psychological support to the needy. Upon her arrival, quite frankly she did not know what to expect given the magnitude of the situation. In hindsight, she attested that the single biggest contribution she made to those people was presence. Being physically present when she didn’t even know what she could do was what made the biggest difference in the lives of others. It became a moment she will never forget.

Become vulnerable

When we let go of the role to resolve problems, we allow ourselves to become vulnerable. We enter unchartered territory - we walk into the unknown. This is the most challenging aspect of the mastery of presence. While in many situations, the act itself of being physically present can speak volumes, truly being present occurs on a deeper level. Presence is rooted in compassion, caring and love. There’s a mentality that accompanies the physicality.

Whether you are a life coach looking to improve on your coaching skills, or a confused and caring friend trying to ‘figure out’ what to do next, the answers to your questions ‘what can I do’, may best be answered by asking ‘how can I be’. When you open your life up in such a manner, you may be impressed how the world unfolds, and how the actions ultimately become clear.

In order to successfully master presence, you must have faith in life, confidence in who you are, and a level of self mastery/heightened consciousness that is present to our natural human nature to problem solve. Problem solving is a valuable and highly sought after skill, but its appropriate and timely use demonstrates mastery of the skill.

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Author's Bio: 

Dougs educational background includes a B.S. from the University of California at Santa Barbara, an MBA from the University of Arizona, he is a Certified Life Coach and is currently completing a certification as a Health and Wellness Consultant. In addition to owning and operating The Wellness Coach and, Doug also works part time with Sutter Health Partners as a Lifestyle Management and Wellness Coach.