People you know can serve many purposes for support in achieving your goals, but should one of them be as a friend? The current podcast episode looks at the difference in having a coach and why friendship sometimes does not work.

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The other day as we ended a particularly stressful coaching session, as the client walked out the door she said over her shoulder “I’m so glad I had someone to talk to, who is objective and willing to help me work through things.” It told me that all my probing and presenting alternatives had paid off and she and I had created a plan that worked for her. I smiled and thought of myself as the friend there to help her through tough moments.

Later, after I had a chance to think about what happened and what she said I asked myself if as a friend I would have done the same thing and the answer was “No”. I say that knowing I have come to view my clients as friends and people I cheer for and support continually. But as I thought back to how friendship actually works I remembered an encounter with my best friend back in Denver. Debbie and I go way back and have been through all kinds of rough and tumble situations that made her my “go to” person for advice. We continually had discussions and I can say without hesitation that we’ve solved world peace several times. Yet one day during one of our world peace discussions, her husband walked by and overheard our discussion, turned and said “I don’t agree with that.” His points were so well reasoned we looked at each other and wondered how we could have missed including them.

The weakness of friendship
I mentally go back to that moment because it points out some of the weaknesses of friendship as a coaching mechanism. Friendship can go in a number of directions, when it is a supportive relationship, a friend is there because you share common interests and in a lot of instances similar viewpoints. You love them more than anything for their approval and just hearing you out. When was the last time you considered someone who thought you were a little wacky a close friend? That doesn’t mean a close friend can’t offer good advice but a function of friendship is support and may not involve challenging your thinking. Add to that the fact close friends are aware of the things you’re still working on and they may have a tendency to “hold back” because of them. This often means you don’t get the full benefit on their knowledge as they don’t want hurt feelings, but you’re still left with the problem.

Situations change but friends don’t
Beyond support, a friend is there to listen as the situations change but may not recognize the patterns related to your behavior (or once again hold back in addressing them) as each new issue comes up. I mention this because as I get to know each client I’m looking for patterns and how effective they are in getting the things this client keeps telling me friends DL 1Bthey want. My job is to evaluate each pattern’s effectiveness, determine what function it serves, decide when is the best time to challenge the mindset supporting it, and finally offer alternative tools that will help them arrive at a new destination when a similar situation arises. That last part boils down to one word: accountability. A friend may not hold you accountable which is very often what you need to push you toward taking steps to change.

Frenemies you’re not aware of
Moving in a different direction, you may have people you consider friends who just don’t support your aspirations. I think the word that fits here is “frenemies”. You’ve known John or Mary since grade school and you now seem to be moving in a different direction that challenges their sense of identification with you. They may not be aware of how they secretly cut the legs from under your plans or dreams but the unspoken goal is for you and the relationship to continue traveling down the same road no matter how beneficial changing direction might be.

Friends who are takers
It’s also not unusual to know someone you continually support but have the feeling that when it is your turn they somehow manage to turn the conversation back to them. You experience these people as friends and yet a drain on your own energy because all the support is going one way. You know them as the friend you spend limited time with because no matter what is going on in your life their problems are more important. These people could be considered “takers” but you have never acknowledged them as such. And, the result is once again that you are still left with a nagging feeling that something is not quite right in your life and you’re not sure how to fix it.

Advantages of a coach
I take what I do quite seriously because I enjoy seeing the light go on when I’ve hit an important point either in person or during a Skype session. It doesn’t matter that some clients are in California, back in Denver, or across town locally; the thrill is still the same. I’m one of those people who hears what is being said between the words as you describe your life and learn right along with you exactly what is going on within those spaces. I enjoy it because in a lot of instances I’ve also been there when no one was available to help me through all the different detours I could take once I’d gone down the rabbit hole.

I suddenly understood what that client meant. She was trying to tell me that it felt good to have someone who didn’t have a relationship in her day to day life help her take a step back to view the hidden parts of her goals who wasn’t afraid to help her really look at them. I still regard my clients as the friends that I cheer for, either through a Skype computer screen or face to face. I’m just a friend that comes with a lot less baggage.