In March, I completed the process of becoming a certified life coach. My training included some timely reminders of my training as a spiritual director, such as active listening, asking powerful questions, and holding sacred space. I also learned some new techniques that I have found helpful when meeting with coaching clients as well as practicing in my own life.
The idea of “managing the fixer” is a standout coaching skill that I think might be helpful for all of us. Let’s begin with a quote from Parker Palmer:
“Here’s the deal. The human soul doesn’t want to be advised or fixed or saved. It simply wants to be witnessed—to be seen, heard and companioned exactly as it is. When we make that kind of deep bow to the soul of a suffering person, our respect reinforces the soul’s healing resources, the only resources that can help the sufferer make it through.” (Parker J. Palmer, “The Gift of Presence, the Perils of Advice”)
What a beautiful reminder for us to honor and respect another person’s journey. This is one of the great things I have learned as a spiritual director and now as a life coach. Every person is on their own journey, and we each have what we need tucked inside ourselves. Holding space for someone, when done with patience and grace, can provide much-needed freedom for them to find their own answers. In addition, God is transforming each person, and I can trust his process and come alongside to support.
This idea of holding space isn’t just for spiritual directors, coaches, and pastors. I believe this is an invitation for all of us. It is so easy to fall into fixer mode when we listen to our friends and family members. They share their circumstances with us, and we only half listen as we focus on all the ways they could solve their problems.
It’s one thing if someone asks you for advice. Of course you can respond then. But I bet you’ve noticed that most people simply want to be seen and heard. They want to know they are not alone. They desire empathy and support. As people of presence, we can be that kind of friend, family member, or coworker.
The next time someone shares with you, here are a few ways to manage your own inner fixer:
These are just a few ideas to get you started.
You know how good it feels when someone gifts you with their undivided attention and presence? Let’s give that kind of attention as we seek to serve others.