I was recently contacted by somebody whom I’ve known for many years – let’s call her Pam.  She has been more of a passing acquaintance than a close friend, but we’ve seen each other around… and she’s been following my blog for a couple of years.  She also bought my book.

Anyhoo… so a couple of weeks ago, Pam sent me an e-mail and told me that she was really struggling to deal with some personal issues – and that she realised she needed to work through her shit and perhaps see things from a new perspective… and that she’d like to spend some time with a life coach… for maybe about 8 sessions of 1 hour per week.

While reading her e-mail, my thoughts automatically went to my sister, a professional life coach who used to run a small coaching practice out of her home.  But Soo doesn’t coach privately any more.  She now works for large corporation and uses her listening skills in different ways.

And then… I carried on reading Pam’s letter, thinking to myself:  “Do I know any coaches?  Can I recommend anyone?”…

And then – I read her next paragraph which said:

“I was hoping that you would do it”.

Say-what??

My first thought:  “But I’m not qualified!  I haven’t been on a coaching-course!  I don’t have a certificate!  I don’t know how to coach people!”…

My second thought:  “Wow – what an honour that she would ask me – and trust me…”

Third thought:  “But I don’t know how to do this?!  What if she wants answers that I can’t give?  What if she wants me to fix her life with 5-step-plans?  I can’t do that!  I’m still journeying through my own shit… I don’t have all my ducks in a neat little row… I’m not a miracle-worker… I’m not an expert!  Surely people want experts for this kind of stuff?  Surely people want trained professionals and motivational speakers and Answer-Givers???”…

And – as my Ruminator was melting down with the all the what-if’s… the reasonable, rational part of me finished reading her letter.

And in a nutshell – this was the gist of what she said:  “I just want someone to listen.  I want to talk about and work through some of my issues.  I want someone to bounce ideas off as I process things.  I want a safe place where I can be completely honest.  And I know that you’ll accept me as I am – and that you won’t judge me”.

And I thought:  “Hey – well, I can definitely do that!  I can listen and not judge – sure!  No problem”…

But still – I had this urge to remind her… that – y’know… I’m not an “expert”… and I’m not a “professional”… and I haven’t been on a coaching course or anything like that… AND – additionally – I am still a flawed individual with issues of my own!

And… didn’t she want to rather consult somebody more learned and “together”…?

She didn’t.

And the following week, she arrived at my house… and we spent an hour together… and she generously paid me for my time as well.

It was all very unexpected…

But – simultaneously – enlightening and inspiring.  I felt so privileged that she trusted me enough… and, with such frankness, vulnerability and honesty… shared her story with me.  And, frankly… I think I learned more from her than what she learned from me.

And – I guess… come to think of it… this all fits very nicely with my whole Tribe’ster-Connected’ness-Sojourner ideal.

I have never wanted to “lead” people.  And I have never wanted to “follow” people.  BUT… walk together?  As equals who learn from each-other…?  Count me in!

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Then, I wrote my post about The Rrrrreal Artist…

And I began to wonder whether I also have a Rrrrreal Expert stereotype – chiming in with her own nonsensical claims.  Reminding me that it’s only professionals with The-Correct-Qualifications who are able to offer actual-valid-help to people in need.  They “The Experts” have all the Right Answers (roll the “R” on Right for the best effect!).   They “The Experts” have the special knowledge and expertise that can save the day.  The Experts are QUALIFIED… and (tut-tut’s the voice in my head)… Heather Costaras, aka: H@ – is NOT qualified.  In fact, Heather Costaras didn’t even finish high school!!!  Dropout-Loser-Heather-Costaras is NOT an Expert – and should NOT be consulted for any advice or wisdom on any matter.  In fact – it’s probably best just to politely ignore her.

…(As a quick side note:  please tell me that I am no longer at the point where I need to add endless disclaimers  – assuring everyone that post is about questioning a stereotype – and is not an attack on professional people!)…

Moving on…

At the end of our last coaching/listening session, Pam told me how much she had grown and how much she had learned about herself.  She said she was grateful for our time together – and she thanked me for my time, my thoughts and for hearing her.

And – maybe that’s what people want, most of all…

To be HEARD.  To be SEEN (for who they really are).  To be ‘got’.  To be listened to – without judgement…

I know how much it means to ME – when I’m heard, seen and understood.

And I may not be a Rrrreeeeal-Professional-Expert-anything — but what I can do is listen without judgement.

And I can look past outer masks to the person underneath.  And I’m not afraid of who I’ll find hiding there.  And I’m not afraid of deep, dark conversations or questions – or of saying:  “I don’t know.  I don’t have the answers”… And I don’t do taboos – so folk can pretty much express any opinion on anything – and I won’t baulk in horror and disgust.

So maybe Pam helped me learn a really important lesson – not just about myself, but about a bigger picture;  we ALL have a part to play in this journey.  We are ALL able to extend an arm to lean on, a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear to our fellow sojourners.  If folk need to be heard (and I submit that everyone does) – then maybe we shouldn’t just automatically point them in the direction of the local pharmacy, pastor or psychiatrist…

Maybe WE have a role to play too.

Even if it’s something as the seemingly simple (and strangely rare) act of… just… LISTENING.

Listening without judgement.  Listening without submitting our special 5-step-plans, solutions and uninvited advice.  Listening without preparing our own long-winded reply.  Listening… and hearing… and – at the end of it – being able to say:  “I hear you.  I see you.  I ‘get’ what you’re saying”

And none of us need qualifications, certificates and Expert-Status… to be able to just… listen.

My experience with Pam has made me want to be a better listener.  I want to better hear my husband… my children… my friends.  It’s so easy just to tune out (because life is already so demanding and busy)… but, I want to learn to be better at this.  I don’t just want to ‘listen’… I want to HEAR.

And I want my peeps and my tribe to know that I HEAR them… and SEE them… and accept and embrace them – exactly as they are. 🙂 X