The Coaching Catalyst
December 2004

“Offering Quality Support, is it about Us or Them?”

Giving support. What does that look like for you? If you are a private practice professional such as a coach or therapist, you may already be clear on the boundaries and standards you operate from. In my experience, most people have their own definitions of what support should look like and feel like. For me, support is coming from a place of experience and not opinion. Support can be words of wisdom, guidance and encouragement or sharing a painful lesson and the outcome. It is also knowing when to challenge and when to redirect as well as mastering listening skills. I also practice giving support by often letting others just vent or by being with them wherever and however they are. The trick to quality support is two-fold. First is being clear on what type of support is needed, which means not holding back on asking for clarity. Second is to be clear on what type of support you are delivering while not taking things personally.

Sometimes I find it almost impossible to not want to react or take it personally even as a trained professional. The key point here is want. What I am clear on is when I offer support to a friend, spouse, family member, client or stranger, I keep the focus on them and not make it about me. IF I operate under this principle I receive and offer rich rewards such as:

Deeper intimacy Serenity Clean motives
Less inner conflicts Lower stress levels Full self-expression
Conflict resolution Productivity and creativity Feedback not criticism

The below mentioned are some personal guidelines in my coaching practice that I’ve co-created for a quick personal inventory to assess whether or not the support and guidance I am offering is predatory, too personally involved, or about me. The question I ask myself is this:
What is my gut reaction to the choice of action or inaction taken by a client or sponsoree?

If I feel empathy, it is about the client; if it is sympathy, it is about me.
If it is compassion, it is about the client; if it is anger, it is about me.
If it is sadness, it is about the client; if it is disappointment, it is about me.
If I feel there is an urgent need for the client to complete an action I suggest, it is about me.
If I am repeating myself over and over about a singular issue, it is about me.
If a client is repeating the same thing over and over to me, it is about both of us. That means the client is feeling unheard, and I am not paying attention and moving forward at the client’s pace.
My job as a coach/mentor/advisor/friend is to assist someone on a path to growth and prosperity, not to recreate them in my image. I listen for who they want to be, not what I want them to be. Under this process, I am a collaborative partner, and they are never wronged, blamed or shamed.
If I really felt a client/friend/sponsoree was on a path of destruction and self-defeatism, I would step out of the relationship and offer support when they are supportable-that is about them.
If I stay in a relationship to change minds, alter results or to be heard, then it is about me.
The nature of this type of “help” is that the coach/sponsor/friend has become emotionally enmeshed with the client/sponsoree and has reduced the ability to compassionately and dispassionately offer expertise without expectation that the client/sponsoree must agree to perform.

Remember: Awareness without action is useless.
Can you identify any areas of your life where you take things too personally or become too enmeshed with the lives of others whether outwardly or inwardly?
What is this costing you? Serenity? Affinity? Self-care? Time? What might some of the benefits be for you by not taking things personally and living proactively rather than reactively? Or better yet, from the heart and not the head?

Ask yourself:
Why am I reacting?
What if anything am I threatened by?
Is this a reaction from the past?
Do I always react this way?
Can I shift out of reaction and stay in this conversation or interaction?

Develop an “escape route” if need be:

Do I need to end a conversation in the minute and continue it productively later on? Do I need to walk away to slow down? I can apologize or end a situation at any moment; therefore, do I owe an apology? Most importantly, was I reacting out of what was really said or done or just my perception of it? The goal is to remember it is not about me.

My ability to shift depends on how willing I am. Shifting out of “self” to offer quality support is a choice. If it is followed up with commitment, desire, inspiration and discomfort of new actions, it becomes a way of “being”. For me, I remember the gifts that humility and generosity bring for myself and to others. As long as I remain in the same old perspectives I have always had, I will never really understand what peace, abundance and contributions myself and others may I may be missing.

The way you show up in your life is up to you, not others.

The Coaching Cataylist is a complimentary newsletter available at:

Author's Bio: 

Elizabeth Tull is a professional Excellence Coach who bridges the recovery and coaching communities for extraordinary results. She works with clients in the areas of enhanced recovery living, communication and legacy craft and design.