During the Covid-19 pandemic, we provided virtual training and virtual coaching sessions. I have chosen this session to share (with the client’s permission) because although it was relatively short it was useful in its entirety for the client:
“John”, 36, requested audio only, asking if I could turn the camera off at my end and he would at his end. I agreed and posed the question that perhaps he would prefer a telephone session perhaps? He declined and said that if he felt comfortable during the session, that he might change his mind. I explained that I didn’t mind either way and that it was important that he felt comfortable in whatever way we operated the session.
I began the session by asking how he wanted to use our time together and he replied “I have no idea really – I just like the way you work and thought it might be useful”
EM: Ok, all good. What will tell you that this session is useful during or after the session?
John: If I gain some insight about myself
EM: And this will be useful to you in what way John?
John: Erm, I’ll maybe discover why I screw up so many relationships
EM: And you are confident that you do “screw up so many relationships”?
John: Well, I lose them – so I figure I must be.
EM: When you say “lose them” John. What does that mean?
John: Lots of girlfriends but just three relationships, none ever lasted more than 6 months and now my partner has just left me after 10 months together. In the middle of all this – just devasting.
EM: I’m sorry to hear that John. If you want to talk about what happened, please feel free.
John: She said I didn’t pay any attention or notice to her and she felt invisible half the time as if she didn’t matter.
EM: Do you recognize that in any way John?
John: Yes. That’s what I mean – I just screw up.
EM: Is it too late to salvage the relationship?
John: I don’t know
EM: Do you want to salvage the relationship?
John: Yes, I do.
EM: What’s your plan on that?
John: I’m a lazy sod, I have no idea.
EM: I’ll wait
EM: I’ll wait. Give you some time to connect with what plan you might have
SILENCE: 2mins 8secs
John: You still there?
EM: Yes. You ok?
John: My father was like that – the world revolved around him and after a while everyone felt invisible.
EM: So you want to do something different?
John: But isn’t it ingrained in me now? The way you’re raised and all that stuff. Mum just put up with it and so did I, I think. I don’t think I know how to connect properly to tell the truth.
EM: So you want to do something different? Unlearn something? Change something?
John: You say it as if its possible. I’m 36.
EM: Have you ever changed any other habit about yourself John? Healthwise or behaviour wise? at all, ever?
John: Only health wise but that’s not the same is it?
EM: What did you change?
John: I went from doing nothing and being overweight to taking up rowing – does that count?
EM: Did you ever row before that? And what spurred you to do that?
John: No, never. I just saw them on the river one day and fancied it. I won things eventually.
EM: ….And what spurred you to do that?
John: Just fancied being fit, strong, part of something, part of a club
EM: So, you have instigated an action. Changed something. For a reason. And been successful at it?
John: I suppose, yes.
EM: Forgive me John, but I am going to draw a direct comparison: you changed something, for a reason, and were successful at it. So if you were to attempt rescuing this relationship with a plan. What would that plan look like?
John: But what about the ingrained thing – not everything can be changed?
EM: The only way to change something is to replace it with new behaviour I believe John. Its hard working to stop old behaviour – I prefer to focus on the start of new behaviour. You don’t need me to analyze why you were distant with your partners, I think you already know that. My work is to focus on your plan forward, you know that too.
John: Ask me again then
EM: What should I ask you again?
John: My plan
EM: Can I give it you as a piece of off-audio work? You devise it, write it down if you wish, stay as small in detail as you possibly can and we will speak again in 15 minutes. So, my question to you then for this piece of work is what’s your plan?
After the suggested time, John reconnected and said that he had a plan and he hoped it would work but if it wasn’t to be then it would be a plan for future relationships he hoped. I asked him if he wished to share it with me and he listed the following bullet points “you said stay small as possible”:
Look up when she comes in to the room
Stop what I am doing when she is talking to me
Ask her things
Tell her things
Notice what she is wearing
Look at her more
Touch her more
Show interest in what she is interested in
Don’t criticize her in public
Do things for her
Share stuff I’m feeling sometimes
We had a discussion about adjustments to this plan in accordance with what his partner needed from him but that as a plan to better connect, I thought it great. He declined to arrange another appointment “unless I need to” and I wished him well. He didn’t reverse his decision to have the camera off and that was of no consequence in the end.
I have no update from John. No idea of whether he did rescue his relationship or whether he was successful in implementing his plan in a new relationship but I do believe that the most important time in the session was the 2 Minutes and 8 Seconds he took to connect with himself and start the process of change. The process of change does start, I believe, when the client starts to connect with themselves; when the practitioner is curious about exceptions to feelings and behaviours, amplifies those exceptions, is curious about a plan for change or recovery and instigates the concept of possibilities for change.
(c)Eileen Murphy 2020