I had a coaching session with one of my clients this morning that left me with what I call a heart glow.
As you may know, I provide impact design services for people and projects around the world. One of my current favourite clients (who I’ll talk about more some other time) is this inspiring agri-business woman that lives in the Mwanza region in the northern part of Tanzania. We’ve been working together for about 3 months now and have always had other people joining our sessions, except today.
In all our previous sessions she had always presented herself in a introverted and demure way, which had always been explained by mostly her well intentioned supporters and her as a language barrier. My Swahili isn’t incredible by any stretch, certainly not at the business communication level and so I had just resolved that this was the nature of our relationship, until today.
Earlier this week, I received an email saying everyone else was away travelling and therefore couldn’t participate in our weekly session. I had previously encouraged her to have sessions without anyone else, so based on her reluctance in the past I automatically expected that this change would mean that we’re cancelling this week’s session again. To my surprise, my she emailed me and said she would still really like to proceed just the two of us – so we did.
In our session this morning I was immediately struck by seamless flow in the business coaching and general conversation. We barely spoke Swahili and she shared so many insights on her business, context and observations. I even saw her sense of humour and unscripted passion really shine through organically, probably for the first time since we began working together.
At the end of the session I decided to tell her how struck and impressed I was by her conversational English skills and asked her why she says she doesn’t speak. Her response was just so beautiful to hear. She chuckled with what sounded like pride and relief… as if she was hoping I would notice.
“You won’t even believe how scared I was about speaking just you and me alone. I was thinking I would not be able to understand on my own or communicate what I want to say but I can. I am so happy that you can understand me.”
She went on to tell me how she has been anxious the entire day (Tanzania is 8 hours ahead) in anticipation of the session and how shocked she is that she can do it. This story is special to me on so many levels, with the main reminders being;
- Dare to even try. For many of us, it is so easy for to underestimate our abilities because we feel we need to be perfect before we debut. This is a reminder that you will get perfect because you try try, so just try. Had she not had the courage to dare to get out of her comfort zone by proceeding with the session, she wouldn’t have known just well she can communicate.
- Elevate those who try. As colleagues, bosses, friends or fellow humans, we must always seek to elevate people who are trying so that they are inspired to keep going. In that moment it was important that I acknowledge her abilities so that she gains confidence to now say “yes, I speak English” vs “I can’t really speak.”.
Doubt is the biggest thief of actualization. So if you’re thinking about putting yourself out there for something you really want, I say go for it and just trust that someone will be on the other side to acknowledge you.
live + love