In November 2011, I wrote this post about the voices in my head. I'd been thinking about the critic who often shows up just when I really need the supportive voice of my coach. I went back to this post after a coaching experience I had last week.
Just last week I was working with a client who had a very loud critic screaming in her head. In fact, her critic was so loud, the critic's voice often came out of her own mouth. This client could not sit comfortably in silence and the critic would happily fill the space with negativity.
The client could not hear her coach at all. I think her coach had gone to sleep because the fight was just too hard. She was also skeptical about the impact of the critic's voice.
Once I stopped the critic from speaking out loud through my client, I noticed the critic speaking non-verbally - the client would pull faces, roll her eyes, shrug her shoulders and fidget instead. The critic was still sending a very clear message.
I asked if I could try something. I asked her to write down three of the most prominent phrases that she could hear her critic saying and give me the paper. I then asked her to complete the speaking task she was working on while I sat beside her and repeated the critic's phrases in her ear.
The impact was profound: my client could barely speak and certainly could not complete the simple task with any level of competence.
On reflection, my client agreed that it was very hard to think.
I asked her to write down three phrases that would help her if she heard a coach say them to her.
This time, I asked her to complete the speaking task while I said the coach's phrases in her other ear.
Remarkably, she not only completed the task, but had more energy, focus and confidence as she completed the task.
It became clear to me that the concept of the coach and critic voices was too abstract for this client to grasp. (She probably had the critic rubbishing the idea while I explained it!) By giving actual voice to the coach and critic, this client was able to understand the impact her critical voice was having on her. It also gave her the tools to breathe life back into her coach's voice.
These moments are life changing for the client, and profound for me as the coach as I see their potential for success and confidence grow. It's always good to check in and see which station your voices are switched to. I choose "coach" every time!
What are you tuned to at the moment? How have you silenced your critic?