A Coaching Power Tool created by Tara Chrisco
(Business & Leadership Coach, UNITED STATES)
I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody. Bill Cosby
Do you often find yourself saying, “yes” to things you truly do not want to do? Have you ever committed to doing something and then felt resentful about it later? When was the last time you told a friend, boss or family member, “no” simply because. Without a lengthy explanation, excuse or lie.
If you find yourself feeling this way often, you might want to look at your perspective.
Putting the needs, wants and desires of others before your own at the expense of your emotional and physical health might be preventing you from living the life you desire. This does not mean one should disregard the feelings and needs of others completely; it means one should examine how the perspective of accommodating others is supporting or hindering us in life.
What does accommodating mean? Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines accommodating as, “willing to please: helpful, obliging.” The list of related words includes “over-indulgent” and “permissive”.
Accommodating can be positive, and even honorable when done in proper measure. People are rewarded for being heroes, for helping a neighbor, for bailing out a friend. Perhaps this is precisely why many people struggle to set boundaries to keep them on the positive side of accommodating. As children we are taught to share, to help, to do what the teacher says. How many children are taught to say “no,” to allow a friend to figure it out on his or her own, or to disagree with someone in authority?
What are the signs that accommodating is sabotaging our life? When a person becomes conditioned to be accommodating, the lines between the person and others can become blurred. The person may lose touch with what is important to him; he may jeopardize his own happiness and may often wake up feeling at a loss for purpose leaving his days unfulfilled and flat. Some signs that one might be over-accommodating include:
- Stress or anxiety that you won’t get everything done.
- Feeling overwhelmed by life. A general sense that life is “out of control.”
- Anger or resentment towards others because of what you “have” to do.
- Depressed. Low energy towards life. Loss of passion.
- Fear of what will happen if you say “no.”
- Loneliness. Everyone else seems so happy. I’m the only one who does what needs to be done around here.
Take a moment to self-reflect over the last week and month and answer the following questions.
- How have you made choices about what you will do and what you won’t?
- Were those choices aligned with your values?
- Do you know what is important to you?
- Are you exhibiting any of the signs above that you might be over accommodating?
- On a scale of 1 – 10 (1 being I always say, yes to things even if I don’t want to and 10 being, I never say yes to things I don’t want to) what rating would you give yourself?
A Different Approach: Assertiveness vs. Accommodating
To know what you prefer, instead of humbly saying Amen to what the world tells you you ought to prefer, is to have kept your soul alive. – Robert Louis Stevenson
If you find yourself high on the scale of accommodating or are experiencing any of the signs of over-accommodating, you might want to look at your perspective.
Could there be a different perspective? Could there be different approach that would support us in living a life of fulfillment. Could there be an approach that would aid us in creating a life with less stress and more joy? Let’s look at assertiveness in contrast to accommodating.
The dictionary Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines assertive as
disposed to or characterized by bold or confident statements and behavior.
How might a person use assertiveness to create a life of fulfillment and joy? People who are assertive stand up for what they believe, want and need in a way that is strong yet not overpowering or disrespectful. Assertive behavior balances the courage to speak one’s mind with consideration for other’s feelings and perspectives. Assertive behavior is one where boundaries are clearly set in a way that honors self and others. Assertiveness safe guards our emotional and physical needs and helps us avoid all of the negative consequences of over-accommodating.
If assertiveness allows us to thrive and to avoid the negative effects of over-accommodating, then why don’t more people do it? Shifting perspective from accommodating to assertive can often be a very challenging.
- What are your own perceptions regarding assertiveness (people who are behave assertively)?
- Where did these beliefs come from?
- Think of role models for assertiveness. Describe how they act and talk.
- Which of those behaviors would you like to begin to put into action?
How can we help our clients shift from being over-accommodating to being assertive? Walking with your client through four steps will support the client in making the needed changes to his or her beliefs and behaviors.
Step One: Create Awareness
In order for the client to be able to move forward, first he must recognize he is over-accommodating. As a coach, sometimes it is very obvious to us that a client is over-accommodating and we are often aware before the client. Reflecting back the client’s words showing trends in behavior can sometimes create awareness for the client. Another good tool for creating awareness is journaling. Asking your client to journal the week’s key activities and feelings can help the client see in black and white how often he is accommodating others at the expense of his own happiness.
Step Two: Support the Client’s Self Discovery
Once the client has awareness of his tendency to over-accommodate, he can begin to explore his feelings and to imagine his life differently. Occasionally the client will discover underlying factors that drive the over-accommodating behavior such as low self-esteem, the need to please others, or a fear of saying no. Likewise, a client may have underlying beliefs about being assertive that act as barriers to shifting perspective. Looking at these beliefs together with his coach provides the opportunity for the client to dispel myths and to proactively eliminate beliefs that are no longer serving him.
Step Three: Change Perspectives
After exploring beliefs and consciously making the decision to live differently, the client is ready to shift his perspective. This will require strength and persistence on the part of the client. The client may know he wants to live and act differently but sometimes old patterns of thinking take over in weak moments. The coach can support the client by gently reminding him of the perspective he desires to hold and should acknowledge the client when he is successful in his efforts.
Step Four: Inspire Action
Often the client needs to spend time defining values and a life mission in order to establish clear criteria to use as he sets boundaries and begins to live an assertive life. Working with the client to establish a clear vision for how he wants to live will help him to stay strong when challenged. Working with the client to identify when he must say no to as well as what in his life he currently needs to say no to, will help him be prepared to act assertively without needing to weigh the situation in the moment.
- How could you recognize behavior or a mindset of over-accommodating in your client?
- What are some coaching tools you could use to shift the client’s perspective?
- How can you support the client to gain more assertiveness and shift from being over-accommodating to a person who has clear boundaries and the confidence to say no?
Merriam-Webster Dictionary (http://www.merriamwebster.com/dictionary/accommodating)