Years ago, when I was new to being coached, I experienced a fundamental attribute of transformational coaching. I was completing a fantastic call with my coach, Mary Arzt. I had done a lot of venting and whining. I had seen some new possibilities. I, ultimately, had gotten clear and excited about the steps I would take into my future. A fantastic coaching call. I thanked my coach for the generosity of her listening and the power of her insight.
At which point, everything had been said and there was nothing left to say. The coach let the silence continue and we sort of basked in that rare space of nothing to do and no place to go: just perfect. At some point, my ego started to second-guess the just completed conversation. My ego realized that I had revealed some aspects of my inner conversation that were not flattering, things I would not normally feel safe revealing. Remarkably, I felt no remorse or embarrassment.
“I feel totally known and accepted,” I told her.
“That’s right,” she replied, “Me too.”
The silence continued, comfortably, until I said, “I guess that’s love.”
“Yes,” she replied, “Yes, it is.”
Love is a word, in our culture, both overused and avoided. The ancient Greeks coined eros, philia, agape, and other words to describe their affinities but we use the same word toward our children, spouses, cars, and hobbies. On the other hand, love is used as a synonym for romance or even lust, so we recoil from speaking of our love for co-workers and friends, though we care so much for them-and they care for us.
Let’s use this Valentine’s Day to reclaim the best word we have for the most important experience of life. I declare my love for the people I work with everyday, who accept me as best they can and who want the best for me, as I accept them and wish the best for each. I encourage you, too, to relax your pretense of coldness and let the love show.
More of my love posts here.
What a Wonderful World
I see friends shaking hands,
Saying “How do you do.”
They’re really saying,
“I love you.”
See also, psychologist Dr. Carl Rogers on love for the client.
Tony, what a beautiful article! I’ve had many such moments with my clients as well as with my coach and it’s amazing how much can be said by saying nothing at all. Thank you for sharing!
What a beautiful piece you write! I love your offer to folks to let it out at work – what a concept.
I enjoy your newsletter, Tony.
Thanks for the email. I’ve been intrigued by the forms of what we call “love” since high school, when I wrote something about love’s various incarnations for a psychology course. My use of the Greek terms you referenced caused the teacher to question my sources. He seemed taken aback and more than a little annoyed that a student would reach beyond required reading materials to explore a topic.
Anyway, is it just me, or is it touchingly telling that you would choose, with “What a Wonderful World”, to highlight a phrase your mom has used forever to initiate phone conversations? I associate “how do you do?” with her exclusively.
Happy Valentine’s Day to you and yours.
Maybe that is where I learned that “How do you do?” can mean “I love you!”
As usual, your honesty and candor are sources of empowerment to the rest of us.
Tony, what a wonderful memory! There is nothing like the silence that follows everything that there is to say being said.
It was life changing for me when I embraced the idea that love is more about committment to a person’s well being/growth than it is about a feeling. Though sometimes I don’t feel ‘in love’ with the most special people in my life, I am always committed to their well being and hava a desire that they continue to grow through their experiences. It sounds like that’s where you were with your coach. She was totally committed to your well being and you to hers…ahhhhh….
I agree with you entirely, Cecilia, and that realization greatly improved my life. My story is here, http://mayogenuine.com/blog/commitment-in-marriage-and-life/
Hi Tony – Wonderful post from you, as usual. It made me think about one of the most unusual (for me, anyway) definitions of love I’ve ever heard. During my coach training, we were going through some material by Humberto Maturana, I believe, and his definition went something like this: Love is the radical acceptance of the other, as a legitimate other, in co-existence with me. I was struck immediately by several words here: acceptance, legitimate, co-existence… leading to what we may call truly equal partnerships. And one by-product of this way of understanding love – similar to what you mentioned – is that it’s dramatically expanded the number of people that I can love! Thanks for your insights and continued excellent writings. I look forward to staying in touch, too.