A Coaching Power Tool Created by Katharina Von Knobloch
(Expat Partner Coach, UNITED STATES)
We cannot always change our circumstances but we can change our perspective. This realization is a powerful tool to overcome any obstacle that might come our way. In my work as a coach, I am focusing on helping expats who have left their country to find a new home abroad – even if they are just staying for a limited time period. I have specialized in the support of the partner of employed expats, the ones that have to fully figure out their new role abroad. Reframing perspectives is an essential tool during this time of adaptation and the journey of finding fulfilment. It all starts with reframing perspectives and highlighting the status quo from a different angle.
I find the quote of “We cannot always change our circumstances but we can change our perspective” very powerful. Not only because it’s true but also because it allows us to change our role in the whole game. Are we the victims? Or can be become the creator? Are we in charge or are we the person who got dragged along? This quote forces us to check in with ourselves and evaluate where we are and even questions our current attitude. When we manage to view our current situation from another angle we empower ourselves to change our roles. We can either chose to be the victim of what seems to be unchangeable circumstances or we can swim ourselves free and ask ourselves “ok, what do I do with this now?”
To get to this step we first need awareness. Are we rating our current situation from a judging and biased perspective? Do we look at the status quo with blocking frustration and a blind eye? The moment we start to look out for dis-empowering perspectives and biased believe we can start to turn around the wheel and get into action mode. The goal is to move away from stagnation and stillness. Questions like the following are helping in this process:
- What is the most enjoyable aspect of this?
- If I were fully resourceful, what would I do?
- What is missing here, that if included, would make the situation flow?
- And if you defined that XYZ is missing – is this the real trigger or just an excuse?
The concept of “Responsibility vs. Blame”
Based on this framework of shifting perspectives I want to add the power tool “Responsibility vs. Blame” to further investigate the tricky mind games many expat partners find themselves in.
The concept of “Responsibility vs. Blame” is a well-known power tool used in coaching. It says that you are either taking responsibility or you are blaming. While the first is leading to empowered action and an “I can do attitude” the later is leaving you behind with frustration and stillness. When we are blaming someone else or an external circumstance such as a missing work permit we are giving away power to change the situation. Our hands are tied and we can use this excuse not only for not taking action in one specific part in our life but also in completely unrelated areas. As a consequence, a missing work permit might not only have an effect on your professional future but also on your relationship with your partner and resentment towards an unknown culture.
When we chose responsibility instead of blame it can lead to freedom. Responsibility is not about neglecting the circumstances but to accept that you have choices. Hence responsibility is not only a way to act but to a way to view our lives.
We often define “taking on responsibility” as something negative. But it is not about forcing something on us but to own a situation.
Responsibility = Freedom + Empowerment
Blame = Loss of Freedom + Disempowerment
How to reach a state of taking on responsibility in a turbulent time?
Well, this is definitely a journey and it starts with forgiveness. We have to let go of blaming a certain person or situation by forgiving. To stay with the example of the lacking work permit: We might feel betrayed because someone promised it to us. We might feel betrayed by our surrounding because it seemed like getting a permit is no problem. It might have been a missed deadline or a certain paper that is missing. However, no matter the reason, letting go of the blame and starting to forgive the person or circumstance or even ourselves is the first vital step to take on responsibility.
The way you tell your story
If you want to check in with yourself where you are at the moment observe your own language when telling your story. Is it “I decided to move abroad?” or “He decided and I thought why not join him?” Are you looking for someone to bend your problems on or do you look for someone to fix the problem? Ask yourself if your statements are really true. Do they reflect the reality? For example, it might be true that your partner’s job was the initial trigger to move abroad but your curiosity to explore the world or learn something new was the real motivation for you to say YES.
Questions that help along the way:
- Imagine XYZ is 100% your responsibility, how would you feel?
- What was a decision in your life you owned and felt responsible for? How did it feel?
- What have you done that has contributed to the problem?
- What could you do to make things better?
- How is this your choice?
When you are transitioning from blaming to taking on the responsibility you will notice that taking this action can be freeing and even energizing. You stop wasting time on making excuses and start owning it. This leads to clarity and new perspectives.
Feeling responsible for a situation is highly empowering as it puts you back into the driver seat; the pace and direction it’s all yours! So, ask yourself, who is sitting in the driver seat right now and how can you gain back control? Who can help? What can help? What can you do? What resources do you need to seek out for?