Have you ever noticed how, when you tell someone big news, like that you are pregnant or that your in-laws are moving into town, the other person pauses for a split second to look to you for the all-important cue about how they should react: is this good news, or bad news? After all, no one wants to be caught cheering for the wrong team.
When I decided to leave bioengineering to become a life coach, I played right into this phenomenon. At first, I was really scared to make the jump, and so when I told people, I wrapped it in a bunch of precautionary red tape. I would say things like “I dunno, it seems like a long shot, but I will try it for a year and I can always come back to science afterwards. Who knows if I’ll even like it?” And then, the other person would respond by telling me to be cautious. “It seems pretty risky. You are such a good engineer. Are you sure you couldn’t just be a manager in some biotech company somewhere instead? You could work with people there, too.”
After those conversations, I would silently fume about the other person. How dare they not support me in my big career move? Do they not care about my happiness? Clearly they must not know me as well as I thought they did. Or maybe they do, and I am the one who is not seeing things clearly. Maybe they are right, and I am being foolish?
But then, one day, I went to coffee with a friend directly after a super exciting coaches call, and I couldn’t help but be jazzed about my new career. I gushed and bubbled, and when I was done, guess what my friend said? “Wow, that’s great. You know, I always thought you would end up in a field like this. I hope I find a job that I am just as passionate about.” That response caught me dead in my tracks. Really? You think it’s a good idea? Where did THAT come from?
And then it hit me: all of these people were looking to me to see how they should react to my news. If I was worried, they were worried. If I was happy, they were happy for me. In the Handel Method, we teach that you get what you give: there is a mirroring phenomenon that happens between people. We usually don’t see this in the moment, however, and instead blame the other person for their reaction, even though it’s actually a reflection of ourselves. Wherever we get a response that doesn’t feel good, the first place to go look is at how we feel about the subject, ourselves.
Soon after, I switched my tone and started showing people just how exciting this career move was, and all of a sudden I had a whole community supporting me. Granted some people still had concerns, but they expressed them in ways that were constructive and helped me overcome the obstacles, not be thwarted by them.
Fast forward to today. The holidays are approaching, and so this lesson is particularly important at a time when you’ll likely be catching your family members up on what has happened in your life since last year. Instead of bracing yourself for their reactions, how can you set them up to cheer for you? They’ll be reading your face, so be aware of what it will be conveying. What attitude or information do you want to share so that you bring them along on a positive, constructive ride? And if you are feeling real doubt about something in your life, try to remember that they’ll read that too and probably participate in it. You might want to see that as a sign of love and care. This holiday season see if you can design conversations in which everyone wins!
p.s. Ensure that your holidays with family and friends are fun and stress-free. Join us for Design Your Happy Holidays teleseminar on Tuesday, Nov 12th.