A Coaching Power Tool created by Patrick Byvoet
(Business and Parental Coach, BELGIUM)
Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do.
Voltaire (French writer, 18th century)
According to the dictionary guilt means:
a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc. In the world of coaching it is also related to self judgment, inhibition, blame and so on…
Most of the time, guilt is very disempowering. It is like carrying a heavy backpack on a difficult journey and sometimes you even add a couple more suitcases to carry. It can be like letting other people decide on what you have to do in life. Or even worse letting your underlying beliefs decide. These can be even more deeply rooted than you can imagine.
How are some of the ways that we experience guilt?
- Someone who looks like he is carrying the world on his shoulder is more likely
- to feel guilty.
- Through polarized thinking: Seeing situations as either good or bad, right or wrong, perfect or a complete failure.
- Guilt can be an advanced form of manipulation. By making someone feel guilty, for all the wrong reasons.
- Guilt can support negative behaviour. For example: Making someone feel guilty for manipulative reasons.
It can make us unable to move to action. There is a particular case I remember. The one about the lady who was feeling guilty about not voicing the support that her sister needed when she was going to work abroad. Because if she did, she would feel guilty towards her mom who would be left alone. Either way she did nothing. Which made things worse. There was no taking of responsibility, no action.
Some guilt is controlled by our morals and is not necessarily negative, not necessarily disempowering. This happens only when a guilty feeling makes you move to positive action. For example when we feel guilty because we’re not working on our assessments, it might make us move into action and start doing what we have to do. Even though sometimes we might need some encouragement or coaching to get going…
Guilt can encourage us to take responsibility or make us flee our responsibility. The positive behaviour can be found in guilt making us take our responsibility. For example, when a desperate mother wants to abandon her baby, because she didn’t want it. When she arrives at social services and she is ready to lay it at the door step, guilt might make her change her mind.
Without empowering action, guilt can go as far as to dominate our life.
By identifying both the guilt and its source, we may then find release from it and be able to move forward. This is the time when we take responsibility and face the guilt. This is the empowering moment. We feel it very clearly when we have that sense of relief.
You as a coach might feel guilty of charging some one for your services.
When you identify the guilt, you can ask yourself if it is appropriate in the situation you are in. Then reflect on it. Is it good? Is it bad? Then take the appropriate action. Take responsibility.
Calvin : There’s no problem so awful, that you cant add some guilt to it and make it even worse.
Bill Watterson (Cartoonist of Calvin and Hobbes)
The first step to stop feeling guilty is to act responsible…
A phrase that keeps coming back to me when I feel guilty: “In my life, I did good things and things I’m not to proud of. However I don’t feel guilty. Because At the time I did what I had to do, due to the circumstances. I took responsibility.”
The coaching way of approaching the issue is to ask powerful questions.
- ‘Guilt busting’ coaching questions:
- How does guilt feels when nothing is done about it?
- What would you do about it?
- What would you invite a friend to do about it?
Taking responsibility and doing the right thing, might cause you to feel guilty. However this guilt is not going to last very long. Because the disempowerment of that guilt is not going to stand up against the empowerment of responsibility.
Doing the right thing might sometimes be painful. Doing nothing is going to cause another hurt, that will last a whole lot longer.
How do you want to respond to guilt? Empowering by doing the right thing, by being responsible, or fleeing responsibility and removing all empowerment and all control. The choice is yours.
Voltaire French writer from the 18th century
Bill Waterson cartoonist of Calvin & Hobbes.