5 things you can do when you don’t know what to do.

When I took my coaching training, many years ago now, the instructors would start each session, even the one after lunch – with a curiosity – a deep listening – a leaning in with the question: What’s here?”

At first, I didn’t get it. What do you mean what’s here? We’re here. You’re teaching, let’s get on with it. We just went for lunch, nothing crazy has happened since we started this morning.

But as my fellow students started sharing – the impact the morning session had on them, or the conversation they had over lunch that opened up a perspective for them, or a past wound that had been opened up by the techniques we learned in the previous session – I realized that so much can be going on and you really don’t know what’s going on for others unless they share.

This can be as simple as my husband being frustrated that I didn’t do something that I hadn’t heard him ask me, or reading something on social media that sets a family member into a spiral that no one else in the house is aware of.

It’s all in the mind, and yet we can never assume we know what’s going on for others unless they tell us. I’ve become acutely aware that the mind will often fill in the blanks for us, even when we don’t have concrete information to back up what our mind thinks is really happening.

Through these last four months now – since literally the whole world changed as the global health pandemic of COVID-19 hit – a gift in this time is that neighbours, friends, and colleagues are more curious about how you’re really doing. More often assumptions are being put aside that everything is routine and everything is OK.

However everything is often not OK, and that realization can be difficult for friends and family to know others are hurting, and that it’s not always clear what to do to help your loved ones through their current challenge. The same goes for your clients, your team members, and your colleagues.

We are in previously unnavigated territory and we are charting new paths together. I find myself repeatedly hit with this realization at unsuspecting turns, conversations and client calls, and I’m learning to take a breath, to listen deeply, and to be curious.

Here are five things you can do, when you perhaps don’t know what to do.

1. Be Curious

Don’t assume you know the answer or what your client/team member/friend/family member is going through. Ask questions. Listen. Be there for them. Be curious about what they’re experiencing and the impact of the current situation on them.

2. Be Open

You may not agree with their reaction or even understand it, but know that their experience and reaction is every bit as real and valid as yours. Be open to the perspectives of others and reserve judgement.

3. Be Patient

How can you help? Do they even want your help? Being patient can open up solutions too, as your friend or colleague or family member is usually 100% capable of developing a solution all on their own without accessing your help.

4. Co-create Solutions

As a business owner, employer, or parent, it may feel foreign to be slow to move forward with a decision or a strong opinion. Flying in to rescue with a solution from your perspective may not always be the right thing to do. What would show up if you designed a solution to the situation together? Probably a completely different answer that may serve the person you’re trying to help better than the one you came up with on your own.

5. Serve with Grace

After exercising patience, listening to their needs or perspectives, and determining if they want your help, then — and only then — can you truly meet your clients, customers and family members where they are now. That is often the best gift you can give them. The business owner who can meet the need of their client or customer with exactly the thing they need right in this moment, is often the best gift of all. This principle applies to many relationships – to the parent, the employer, the friend…..

I am ever grateful for those who have given me grace in this time, and I endeavor to do the same for others. How about you?

Where can you practice these five principles to serve at the highest possible level with the best potential outcome, right now in this moment? What’s possible from here?

To your success, in business, in your career, and in life,

Susan Elford

Enjoyed this article? Subscribe to my newsletterIt’s filled with leadership and business resources for professional women and business builders, just like you.