This is the second in the series of posts about ‘relational learning’; how we learn about ourselves through our relationships with others. This week, I'm exploring how it helps us understand what we value in life.
Over the weekend, a friend George, who has recently moved to Spain, sat with his hands over his face and whispered, "they're coming to stay for two weeks and they're not hiring a car!" Whilst he was looking forward to enjoying time with these friends, the idea of being their driver for the duration was not holding any appeal. "They need their independence, I'll tell them they want a hire car..." he continues.
My question is, who needs what in this situation? At this point, whilst we can guess, we don't know what his friends need. However, through the actions of his friends, George is learning about what he values... independence. It's like holding a mirror up, we see ourselves more clearly.
When we make guesses about what our friends, work colleagues and family 'need' or 'should have or should do', it's often because it's something we value highly ourselves. So next time you catch yourself using these words, ask yourself:
What is it that I value?
How and why is it important to me?
When (in what situations) does it matter to me?
How do I feel when someone else doesn't seem to have the same value?
Going through this process helps us identify what we each hold as important; these values then guide our thoughts, feelings and actions. We can start to see patterns of how we react and respond to different situations and people. And next time, we can say what we need and ask others more directly what they need. Going back to George, he can then say to his friends "I've just learnt how much I value being independent and am worried that our time together in Spain will be jeopardised because we will only be able to always do everything together. What are you expecting? How can we meet both our needs?"
It becomes a true expression of what George needs, rather than a projection of George's needs onto his friends.
Start by noticing what you value. The opportunities for this often arise when they are challenged and we feel anxiety, irritation, anger. Use these instances to learn about yourself. What values are being challenged and compromised?
In later conversation with George, I remember how much I value 'learning' when I heard myself say: "imagine how much you'll learn about yourself by living in another country". I have a huge bias towards 'learning', and forget it’s not always as important to everyone else. And that’s often another sign of a value; you can’t imagine life without it!
Felicity Hodkinson is a leadership coach working with individuals and groups, creator of ‘relational learning experiences’ and founder of Bend the River. She combines her marketing, commercial and change management experience of 20 years gained in small business and corporate FTSE100 companies with her passion for coaching individuals and organisations.
Email Felicity to explore how this coaching approach could help you develop your leadership practices. Alternatively, read her recent article on 'Softening the Goal Mindset' in Global Coaching Perspectives, July 2016 (the magazine from the Association for Coaching).