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Issue #36: Seen and Understood

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There are weeks full of coaching calls.


I love these weeks.


Don’t get me wrong – they take a lot out of me.

I put a lot of myself into these calls, to hold space, to guide, challenge, poke, prod, and support the guys into realisations, clarity, answers, and courageous actions.


But there is always so much beauty in these conversations.

So much courage.

So much grace, understanding, acknowledgement.

So much acceptance, celebration, humility, discomfort sat with and faced.


I always take plenty away. As do the guys.


And today I will share some things from one of the calls.


Lesson #1

#1. “We want to be understood. But you can’t be understood if you’re not seen”

You might resonate with this one yourself…


This was a line I delivered to ‘Steve’ in our session.


Firstly – Steve isn’t his real name. In my Coaching Corner videos, if you haven’t watched one, I address them all as Steve to protect their privacy and confidentiality.


Steve has been discussing loads of his childhood with his mother. Learning a lot about him and about her.


What we uncovered was a long-term pattern of his to keep people at arm’s length when intimacy increases. When people get close his fear peaks and he can move away from them. Creating distance.


This is a form of self-protection.


Talking with his mother, it has become clear that situations in his life led him to forgo his own needs, attempt to manage her emotions for her, and never truly feel loved by the two people he needed to be loved by the most; his parents.


He developed a distrust of people, but more so of himself. He has struggled to trust that he is loveable and good enough to be loved as he is.

This is the ultimate story when it comes to trusting oneself.


That translated into a fear of letting people get close in case they saw this thing he believed: that it isn’t loveable.


So the sensible thing to do has been to keep them from truly seeing him.


Yet, as with all humans, deep in his heart is the desire to be seen, to be understood, and to belong for who he is.


That’s part of the paradox of being human; we deeply want to be seen, accepted and belong for who we are. This is survival – if we belong, we are safe.


Yet, we can simultaneously fear being seen and not being understood, and being rejected, judged – not belonging.


So we can go into protection mode and hide ourselves away – or big parts of ourselves. Hoping we can still be seen and understood and loved.


But you can’t be understood if you’re not seen.


Hiding yourself away will not lead to being seen ad understood. And loved.

It might feel safe – but that’s just the absence of one type of risk.


Matters of the heart have risk. And if we don’t learn to navigate the risks of love, we never learn to access its depths.


The risk of being hurt is the price of admission for love. 


Are you hiding yourself yet still hoping to be seen and understood?

Are there risks you are avoiding – in love or life – yet still hoping to have access to everything the thing holds for us anyway?

The voice of your insecurity

Lesson #2

#2. If you don’t ask for what you want – you won’t get it


This point might seem obvious, but it’s one Nice Guys often need reminding and revisiting.


In this coaching session, we explored some frustrations Steve had in his marriage and directed towards his wife.


He realised that he’d fallen back into an old pattern of not asking for what he wanted from his wife.

Then he said to me:

“I’m not asking for what I want – so, yeah I’m not getting it. And I’m getting frustrated by it”


Easy to do – life gets busy, kids, business, the various complexities of being human.


So here he was, frustrated at her for not giving him what he wants – as illogical as that is because … he was not asking.

So, really, the frustration was at himself.


Hoping someone can read your mind is a terrible way of having your needs met. Ineffectual at best. Setting up future resentment as guaranteed.


Here’s where coaching needs depth and nuance.

The simple blunt-object-approach would be “Steve, just ask for what you want, man!” – but we must explore why he wasn’t asking in the first place. Or that advice is empty. No use.


So, why wasn’t he asking?


One of the standard Nice Guy motives was the culprit here: he was afraid of her saying no. or worse, her being pissed off at him for asking.


Until he can learn to navigate that and ask despite the risk of her saying no – or being annoyed at him – he won’t ask. He’ll continue to dishonour his needs and ensure he doesn’t get what he wants.


However, it doesn’t end there. We want to look at why this comes about. And for him, it is based on some history, where she hasn’t made it safe for him to ask.


So my question to Steve was this:

“Can you safely and freely ask for what you want in your relationship?”

His answer: ‘Sometimes yes, sometimes no’.


However, what he’d done was combine “Am I  safe to ask’ with ‘do I feel safe that I’ll hear a yes?’


We must develop the ability to hear no.

Along with the willingness to confront our partner with how they might be communicating in ways that don’t feel kind.


His work, therefore, is to discuss this with his wife. To share that sometimes he doesn’t feel safe to ask for what he wants. Sometimes because he’s scared of hearing no. Sometimes because she can make him wrong for asking.


That doesn’t mean she has to say yes to all of his requests. But together they get to explore what creating safety and permission in their marriage is.


If we can’t be free and safe to ask for what we want in our relationships, we will dishonour our needs or look elsewhere (in secret or passive ways) to meet them.


So ask yourself:

“Am I safe and free to ask for what I want in my relationship?’


Let the answer guide you.

And if you find yourself stuck between a rock – your insecurity – and a hard palace – your partner’s approach to this – reach out and we can explore if our solutions can support you in breaking through this.


The two parts of this work: becoming Unfuckwithable in how you show up for yourself and champion your needs, and in communicating with honesty, respect, kindness, and compassion in your relationships.