Finding Peace in Difficult Situations

One of my favorite coaching questions is, “What would you need to say or do to be at peace with this?” It can create dramatic shifts in situations where a person feels responsible for something or wants to influence a situation he cannot completely control. Here are some ways to use this question to help others find a sense of peace in difficult situations.

The following are some of the most common areas where people tend to feel a sense of responsibility to impact a situation that they cannot completely control:

– A manager feels guilty or anxious because a direct report is at risk of being let go and the employee is not responding to feedback or guidance

– A policy or decision being made at a higher level is likely to have unintended negative consequences and no one seems to be talking about this possible outcome

– A colleague or friend is behaving in ways that could be detrimental, but providing this feedback may create a defensive reaction

The anxiety at the heart of these coaching situations is caused by “knot knowing” how much responsibilty the person should take to try to change the situation. Here’s how I usually approach these kinds of conversations:

I may start with an insightful observation, such as “It sounds to me like you’re feeling responsible for this situation even thought you are not in control of what is happening. Is that a fair observation?”

I often note that, “People are free to make their own choices. We need to grant people the grace and respect to let them chart their own path, even we don’t agree with them.”

Then I ask the question, “What would you need to say or do to be at peace, even if this situation does not turn out as you hope it will?”

The usual “aha” is that the person has not been as direct or as bold as she could be. Hiding under this question is the realization that the manager has not told the person directly he is at risk, or the employee has not shared his concerns about the policy in question with his manager. This generally leads to great coaching conversations about how to take the risk of being compassionately direct with others. It is important in these situations to help the person address any “do knot want” knots, such as fears about how the feedback will be received. Continue the coaching until the person feels comfortable he can share his insights from a place of caring compassion.

This kind of coaching tests the coach’s ability to stay in a curious place and not get caught in the drama of the story. It’s so easy — and often tempting — to buy into the frustration the person is experiencing. While it may be emotionally satisfying to commiserate, it eliminates the possibility of helping the person find a sense of peace in a difficult situation. If you stay present and curious, you can offer this incredible gift.

Got Questions?

Please post questions or comments that you would like me to blog about or email me directly at I look forward to hearing from you!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Let's have a conversation.

Book a conversation to learn how Cylient can help you and your team to take a coaching approach to instilling a coaching culture in your organization.