Updated: November 4th, 2020
If you haven’t experienced some kind of difficult life challenge then I’m guessing you are either living solo on a mountain top somewhere or in a bubble. I truly believe that our ability to relate to others in life comes from the experiences we gain by going through and coming out of tough life situations.

What I have learned along my journey thus far in life is that while we’ll never be able to completely avoid life’s challenges, we can look at the situation from a new perspective, or in coaching terms, learn to “reframe” our experiences. It’s about using language to support a new and more empowering outcome, such as seeing a stuck relationship as an opportunity to learn where I might be stuck personally and where I can take action.

I’ve outlined a few coaching techniques that I invite you to look at as a possible new way to approach any upsetting situation. The great news about how we as humans are wired, is that the more we practice a new behavior or thought process, the more it becomes a habit pattern. That’s one of the blessings of neuroplasticity. Our neural pathways and synapses in our brain can change up until our last breath. This means we always have the option and ability to transform ourselves.

So, if you’re currently in the throes of handling a sticky or upsetting life situation, such as dealing with a tough-coworker, partner, or spouse, or experiencing parenting doubts and pitfalls, this could be a good place to pause and see where you can put on a new pair of proverbial glasses and change your approach to the situation you’re in.

1. Awareness

Whatever your current upset is, a great place to start is to first acknowledge yourself for being self-aware enough to know that something in your life is not sitting well with you. I don’t believe we can make any personal changes without first realizing what we want to change.

2. Story vs. Phenomena

Acknowledge and get clear about both the ‘story’ you’re telling yourself about what you think is happening and the ‘phenomena’ of what is actually happening. For example, let’s say you’re not feeling heard or listened to at work. Your story might be that it is because your coworkers don’t value you. However, the phenomena could simply be that your coworkers are so busy that they’ve lost their senses of connection and awareness – not that they don’t value you.

As humans, we make up stories; it’s just part of what we do. Perhaps look at how a particular story you’ve been telling yourself might be clouding your perspective, and look to see whether it might be attached to a possible past story. We also tend to take past events in our lives and make meaning from them, then apply those outcomes to a current situation, thereby bringing our past to the future, with no possibility to create something new. Be on the hunt for where you start to take on your story as ‘the truth.’

3. What’s My Part in the Mix?

We all have a part in any interaction. By definition, we are connected to any communication between ourselves and another human. Do a little digging to see what your part could be in a particular conflict with another person. Is there anything you can do to authentically clean up your past comments, interactions, or encounters? If so, be courageous enough to own your side of the street. My belief is that if something is not going as I would like, there’s a good chance that I have a significant part in it to address. This approach is not only much more empowering, it also creates space for open conversations and new possibilities. So for instance, admit to your partner that you realize you have been very judgmental of them, and yourself, and that you are not ok with this anymore. As Margaret Wheatley says, “be brave enough to start a conversation that matters.”

4. Develop a Birds Eye Perspective

Look at the issue from a different perspective, otherwise known as balance coaching. Take a step back. Imagine you’re in a hot air balloon looking down at the challenging parenting moment. What do you see and feel from up there? Maybe you realize that this is part of your child’s normal four-year-old development to throw his tenth tantrum in just eight minutes. I’m guessing your situation is going to look a little different from a wider angled perspective. From that new vantage point, sit with how you might address this encounter. Instead of having a tantrum yourself, maybe you realize you need a time out and share with your child the importance for everyone to have time to calm down.

5. The Power of Choice

You can’t change others, but you can change yourself. After looking at the situation in several ways, you now get to decide how you are going to be, no matter how others are. It’s quite empowering to realize we can powerfully choose our actions, regardless of how others act. My hunch and experience is that when I change how I am, others often shift how they are around me. On a daily basis, I try to consciously choose how I’m going to be that day, such as being authentic, compassionate, or generous. Life typically shows up for me in that way. Become empowered about how you want to be and then put it into action.

As always, I like to say, take what you like and leave the rest. I hope these coaching techniques will help you to find more ease, joy, compassion, and perhaps a deeper understanding of yourself, and certainly, many more opportunities to play and dance with life.

Julie Reisler is a student in our health and wellness coaching master’s degree program. She is certified by the International Coaching Federation as an Associate Certified Coach and is also recognized as a Certified Personal Trainer by the National Academy of Sports Medicine and a Certified Group Fitness Instructor by Aerobics and Fitness Association of America. Learn more about Julie on her website, juliereisler.com.