Share, Don’t Shame

I'm sorry your business coach failed you blog

“I’m sorry your business coach failed you”

This was the headline that caught my attention as I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed this morning. It was sponsored so unavoidable through my usual clever crafting and it grabbed my attention (in horror), obviously.

Obviously, because “failing” my clients, although inevitable due to subjective truths, is one of my greatest fears and one of the things that causes most angst and anxiety in my business because it is predominantly beyond my control. 

Now, I work hard for my clients – I show up daily, I go above and beyond in my service delivery, I believe strongly in the power of the coaching relationship and when I work with someone I am by their side in the way that works best for them. 

I am in it, to the degree they are in it!

This post hit me twofold – personally and professionally.

I started to consider who I had failed in the past and whether I was failing any of my clients right now. I identified those who I know feel as though I failed them and considered on a case-by-case basis where I was responsible and where I was just viewing the situation with empathy from their perceptual standpoint. I pondered as to whether one human being could really fail another human being – I don’t think so.

I do think that the picture we have in our heads sometimes does not match the reality of the situation, and we experience disappointment based on expectations we have created; but does this constitute failure on the part of the other person? I don’t even really buy into the concept of failure; every perceived failure is a learning experience or opportunity to change and it is through these situations that we grow. These experiences help us recognise our values and our boundaries, and help us to get a renewed sense of what we are, and aren’t, prepared to accept for ourselves as we move forward. 

Regardless of what I believe, I have disappointed clients in the past, and, in each instance, I have reviewed and reflected taking responsibility for the role I played in the situation. I have an overactive responsibility gland and will always look to myself first before looking to the other for answers. I questioned where I had not managed expectations and from their perspective where the shortfall existed. I also look for what the learning might be, that could contribute to my growth as a practitioner in the coaching industry.

“Disappointment is just the action of your brain readjusting itself to reality after discovering that things are not the way you thought they were.” – Brad Warner

I have disappointed people for many reasons:

  • when I raised my prices and made changes to my business;
  • when the expectation was that a friendship would stem from a coaching relationship;
  • when my direct, honest approach was too direct and hard to hear;
  • when help and guidance were sought but not actioned, so results were not achieved;
  • when victim and scarcity mindset were so strong there was no space to even try to see another way;
  • when I was the wrong coach completely as status was valued over service;
  • when desperation was the motivation instead of investment and a desire to create positive change;
  • when coaching was perceived to be a “done-for-you” discipline.

This seems as though I have failed to meet the expectations of many, but in the context of the number of people I have helped this is less than 1%; in fact I can still count the people I have knowingly disappointed on two hands after nearly a decade in the coaching profession. I remember their faces, feelings and feedback and I remember the learnings which have instigated positive changes in myself and my business in terms of discernment and compatibility.

Once I had exhausted the personal reflections triggered by the words “I’m sorry your business coach failed you”, I moved on to consider it from a professional standpoint. I am well versed in the powers of persuasion and thought disruption, especially in marketing, and therefore understand the strategy behind the post in terms of evoking an emotional response and thumbstopping – it obviously achieved that – but I question generally whether it is necessary to promote yourself and your business against a backdrop of someone else’s perceived failure.

Do you have to make someone else “less than” in order to make yourself “more than”?

Can you not just stand in the power of your own product and the results or transformation you create for others?

I think we might be entering and encouraging a dangerous cycle with these marketing tactics. As social platforms get busier and noisier, marketing strategies become more disruptive and polarising evoking greater emotional reactions. When emotional reactions are stronger, comments become more extreme and explosive. Rather than healthy debate and perspective sharing, personal attacks ensue that focus on the other instead of on the issue.

It is something that I am particularly sensitive to at the moment as I help people prepare for greater online visibility. It seems to me that there are more keyboard crusaders making others “wrong” or “less than”, but this might be because recent events have resulted in more people spending more time online.

Blowing out someone else’s candle doesn’t make yours shine brighter. – Unknown

Needless to say, I followed the thread of this post with curiosity. 

What would people have to say?

I realised from the comments that the point of the post had been completely missed by most and was rendered insignificant in comparison to the tirade of abuse that followed. It made for far more interesting reading. Generic negative comments about coaching and the coaching industry; opinions on whether people should need help at all or just get on with it; inane comments with very little relevance to the original post designed only to antagonise; the sharing of coaching horror stories; and comments that were just personal, unkind, and rude.

Seriously. What?

When did this become okay?

I have thought this through a lot. I understand why people post in this way and why people react to the posts and each other in the way they do. I know that online visibility requires mental resilience and a grounded self concept and an understanding of whose opinions really matter to you. But should it be necessary?

I know that you will struggle to find a business owner that has not had a poor experience with a service provider, particularly coaches, accountants and web designers. In fact, everyone has a story about a service delivery “failure” where reality did not meet expectation. However, does this need to be distorted into an overgeneralisation about the whole industry or sweeping statements about all coaches having no qualifications or all coaches being spammy con artists?

Everyone is entitled to an opinion based on their own personal experience and observation and yes, everyone has the right to share it in public, to the global audience that social media has now provided; but surely with “rights” come responsibilities and I wonder sometimes whether just because we can, means that we absolutely should. I am aware lives were lost in order to ensure our modern day freedoms and I am certainly not, at the moment especially, suggesting a global move to apathy but I can’t see the benefit gained from telling other people how they should or should not live. 

What is gained from making someone else wrong or vilifying another?

Is there any merit at all in airing an opinion on social media that is obviously designed to be hurtful? 

Is shaming another a worthwhile investment of time?

Shaming someone says less about them and more about you.

If you disagree then the post clearly is not meant for you. It contradicts your worldview, it does not align with your belief system – you are not the customer it is designed for; so instead of exercising your freedom of expression, exercise your rule of thumb and swipe passed it. You can even roll your eyes if it makes you feel better, although I do not advocate for passive aggressive behaviour!

Even better, instead of chirping on the cheap or writing comments that read like steaming piles of misplaced anger, how about writing an educational piece and put your perspective and opinion into the world in a considered and coherent manner. 

Share your views instead of shaming others.

As a coach I listen a lot to people’s opinions and have learned so much from different perspectives when they have been delivered in a way that can be heard, absorbed and considered; without limbic hijack. 

I am no saint and have certainly found myself shouting at the computer and rolling my eyes in response to posts that trigger, but you will never find me launching into an ill-considered retort. Usually because the little voice in my head brings me back to “neutral” pretty quickly with a grounding comment like “If you think you know more, know better or can do better – then why aren’t you?”

It’s easier not to isn’t it.

It is easier to sit in judgement of those around us. 

Looking through a gavel at someone else’s life distracts us from considering the reality of our own. 

The truth is it takes courage to stand up and share publicly what we believe in; it takes courage to be open and honest with ourselves and others. Especially when there seem to be so many people hiding behind their screens, typing tips at the ready, waiting to propel a verbal spitball at anyone brave enough to stand up and share.

It is easier to shame others, than to really consider our own opinions. It is easier to pull others down instead of putting the time, energy and focus into raising ourselves up – not in comparison to others but in relation to past versions of ourselves.

Ironically, it is usually a need to feel better about ourselves, and less ashamed, that drives the derogatory comments levelled at others – especially the really basic ones that tear into how people look, dress, act and present themselves. These personal slights may give a sense of empowerment from pushing another down, but the need fulfilment is only temporary at best; ultimately the shaming of another will lead to the exacerbation of our own feelings of shame and inadequacy.

I see the curt, cruel comments people make as attempt to gain attention, it’s negative attention seeking behaviour; the playing out of the unmet need to be seen, heard, understood and validated in a rather maladaptive way. If you think about it the current thumbstopping, disrupting, triggering marketing trend is very similar – attention seeking behaviour – an attempt to distract with a diversion and a “why this is better than” instead of focusing solely on demonstrating how the product or service can create transformations or get results. I don’t really see the value in trying to trip up someone else’s horse when the point is to get your own past the finish line riding the best race possible. 

“Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t want plastered on a billboard with your face on it.” – Erin Bury

I have an “unsettled” relationship with social media for this exact reason. The online space is a place of such potential and possibility but also a place that is used for self punishment as we compare ourselves with others and a place of poisonous pollution as people’s wounding plays out unfiltered, unsupervised and more often than not completely unconsciously.

Social Media can create connection, but also disconnection and false connection. It can be a space for supportive sharing but also one of open naming and shaming. It can be a glorious resource or a source of anxiety, a perpetuator of self doubt, a front for inauthenticity, a comparison engine feeding our fears of inferiority. 

It can open our minds to different worldviews and opinions, be a valuable tool for learning or it can be an evidential tool, only viewed through our current lens and used to reinforce the stories we already believe to be true.

The answer of course lies in how you choose to use it and whether you are engaging consciously or habitually. 

At the beginning of 2020 I decided to purposefully, and intentionally, shape my online experience – a move from unconscious to conscious consumption. I considered the relationship I wanted to have with social media; how I wanted to interact with it and on it. I evaluated my engagement using my feelings as a guide, about myself and others. My feelings became signposts for discernment. I muted, deleted, and unfollowed. I created boundaries to only have as friends those I have met in person, worked with, or hang out with because they are friends not just random people. I defaulted notifications so I see inspiring people first. I challenged myself to create a positive aligned experience and every time an external force or algorithm tries to influence what I see, I take action to communicate my preferences – “hide advert”!

These are platforms, not lifeforms.

We choose entirely how we experience them and interact with them.

  • I will always use the online space consciously as a forum to share.
  • I will happily share the space with all other professionals without the need to put them down in order to draw attention to myself.
  • I will happily share my experiences and opinions as they arise with consideration and compassion for others, instead of spending my time trolling posts trying to make others wrong or feel less than. 

I take my hat off to all those who have the courage to stand in their truth in the online space. With visibility comes the vulnerability of exposure, and when we feel vulnerable we are more likely to take things personally and react. It takes strength of character to only focus on the opinions of the people in our lives that really matter to us. It takes a really strong grounding in our sense of self not to allow comments to affect the way we see ourselves. It takes a lot of self awareness and alignment to purpose to stay connected to our own online “why” as opposed to getting caught up and drawn into the stories and dramas of others.

It will always “sting” when our integrity is questioned or people make comments on what they see without really knowing who we are but I won’t ever let the keyboard crusaders prevent me from saying what I believe will truly help the people my messages are supposed to reach.

I am ever the optimist and I hope the tide turns. It would be awesome if the hostility subsided, the circulation of shame and fear stopped, and that the global approach became one of considered and considerate conversation.

I choose to shine and share; not cast a shade and shame!

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