Coaching Case Study By Emeline Roissetter, Career Coach, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
The Importance of Simply Being Present Setting the Scene:
Dalia is a young marketing assistant in the company I work for as a Training Director. She is in the process of graduating from university and working in our marketing team to support the cost of her education. When she found out that I was also a coach, she approached me and asked if we could have a few sessions with her to discuss her “situation”.
The situation as she first described it (before our first session) was as follows:
Dalia feels stuck in her life, she doesn’t know what major to go for at university, what career field she would like to pursue and she feels demotivated, defeated, and worried about what the future holds. She realizes she is at a point in her life where she needs to make crucial decisions about her future and she is shying away from decision‐making.
The situation revealed in more detail during our first session was as follows:
Dalia has always been very studious and hard‐working. Her family situation forced her to take ownership of her own life and she has had to work really hard to be able to afford her education. Therefore, she takes her education and her career very seriously.
Dalia feels very strongly about “making it” on her own and being financially independent. Being a young Arabic and Muslim lady in the Middle East, this ideal is not always supported by her family and social circle. Indeed, it is expected of her to marry well and have a husband support her financially while she builds and sustains a happy family.
It appears the cause of her unhappiness, demotivation, and defeated state is actually related to heartbreak. Dalia was engaged to be married when her fiance cheated on her and their relationship ended. Since then, she has been struggling to get up in the morning and find the motivation to achieve her goals.
As a result, she is not studying as hard as she should for her upcoming exams and fears she will not pass with honorable grades. A strong feeling of not deserving what happened is clouding her every move and it has now been a few months that she feels like the victim of her own life. As the conversation unfolds, Dalia keeps repeating how often she finds herself being a victim of people she treated well and went out of her way for. She mentions how exhausting it is to always do right by people only to be betrayed or disappointed. She often refers to herself as “too weak”.
The time has come to decide on her major at university, but making a decision is problematic. This decision will impact her whole career and life, it is therefore extremely overwhelming. In an attempt to make the right decision, Dalia has been asking the opinion of many people around her from teachers, to co-workers, friends, and family members. This resulted in an even more confusing situation as everyone around her seems to have a different take on what the best major should be.
Dalia has big dreams for her career, she envisions herself leading a team someday and she wants to be respected for her achievements as a professional woman. Her objective is to find some clarity on her next move (University major) and to get back her drive and thirst for her life and her success.
The Core Challenge
Dalia is a severe people pleaser. The opinions, thoughts, and actions of others around her are shaping Dalia’s mood, perspective, choices, and life as a whole. The unfortunate break up with her fiancé is impacting her mood, motivation, and self‐esteem. Her family and social circle’s cultural values are conflicting with her personal goals and convictions and creating self‐doubts. She is relying on the opinion of so many people to choose her own major and career field that she forgot or never explored what she truly wants or stands for.
It is clear that Dalia values relationships, it is crucial for her to create harmonious, strong, and loyal relationships with the people in her life. She invests a lot of time and effort in building and maintaining these relationships and she cares a lot about what others think of her.
Although this is a very honorable character trait, it seems to have reached a level that doesn’t serve her anymore. She is being pulled into too many directions that are not aligned with who she truly is. As a result, she feels stuck, demotivated, and defeated. As a whole, she positions herself as a lost victim.
The worst thing about this problem is that Dalia doesn’t know who she is, her own values, her own beliefs, and her own dreams. Or rather, her own voice has been silenced as everyone else’s voices have taken center stage.
Coaching Skills and Approach Used
Throughout our sessions, several skills and approaches were used including:
Actively listen to Dalia was very powerful. First to ensure she is actually heard for the first time and given the space to explore her own thoughts and ideas. Secondly, it was really powerful to identify patterns and limiting beliefs.
Dalia is my first client with a very different cultural background from mine. It was important to identify her values, her cultural and religious codes without judgments. It was crucial to understand the influence of her culture on her life and behavior and to respect that throughout.
Dalia is a very emotional young lady, some of our sessions were charged with tears. It was challenging at times not to be emotional with her and to remain external to her situation. It took a lot of self‐management on my side to stay strong and professional while demonstrating empathy.
Core values and life purpose
Considering Dalia’s confusion regarding her next step in life, it was crucial to go back to who she is and what she stands for. Simply exploring who she is, the values that are important to her, what makes her happy, and the person she would like to become, brought a lot of clarity to Dalia. In only a couple of sessions, she was certain of what her major should be and decided to go for it.
I invited Dalia to visualize the kind of life she would want for herself if she was in control of it and no longer a victim. She took on the initiative to build her vision board and this was an extremely powerful, motivating, and energizing exercise for her. She used her creativity and dreams to come up with a beautiful and inspiring board.
As Dalia tended to constantly feel sorry for herself, I invited her to identify all the things she is grateful for. She took on the initiative to notice and write down her blessings every day. This had a positive impact on Dalia who started realizing that not everyone nor everything was against her in life. She realized that her focus and energy were going to be a small and negative part of her life.
Responsibility vs Blame
Dalia’s victim state was one of the first things I addressed as a coach. She was blaming everyone and everything for her own unhappiness. Although it was important to show empathy for the hardships she went through, I invited her to reflect on what her life could be if she was to take responsibility for her own happiness.
Action vs Delay
Dalia felt stuck and incapable of taking decisions in many areas of her life. Our weekly sessions truly supported her in setting goals and deadlines for herself. The clarity she got on her own values also made taking action much easier for her.
What Were the Results?
The results of our sessions were much more than I ever expected when we started. Dalia chose her major, found her drive back, and started studying again. She also realized that she was responsible for her own life and her own happiness, as a result, she became more empowered and started saying no to people or things that didn’t serve her. Dalia also decided to remove negative energies and people from her life. She found the courage to initiate difficult conversations and as a result found the sense of freedom and balance she was after. Dalia shared with me in a written letter that our sessions made her realize how strong she is and how much she can achieve in life.
What Would you do Differently?
If I could do one thing differently, I would try to spend less time on the story and more time moving my client forward. I do feel like a few sessions were not as good as they could have been because I let my client talk about her issues and her stories too much. This didn’t necessarily help her as it kept taking her back to negative events and feelings.
Top 3 Things you Learned from this Experience?
Manage my Emotions
Dalia was my first very emotional client. As such, this experience really forced me to practice self‐management to remain professional. Finding the balance between empathy and remaining neutral to her story was a true challenge for me.
The Place of Religion and Culture
It was very interesting for me to work with someone from a completely different culture and religion. Not being judgmental and respect her beliefs and values at all times without sharing my own views was a very big learning experience.
The Importance of Being Present
The feedback from Dalia made me realize that the simple fact of having someone to talk to can make a huge difference in someone’s life. I realize I should never underestimate the power of being present for my clients.