Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

But how do you really feel?

A couple of weeks ago, our master's program director sent out an email saying our program was "twinned" with another masters, called " Professional Coaching".  A new session was starting, and did any of us want to be guinea pigs for their students?  It would consists of 10 sessions of 1.5hrs over the next five months.

I initially wasn't planning on it, but after talking to a classmate who had done it last year (and who subsequently obtained a gigantic promotion as a result), I decided to submit an application at the very last minute.

A week or so later, I started getting phone calls from potential coaches.  It was a bit awkward in a speed-dating sort of way.  Ie I had about five minutes on the phone with each person to decide if I wanted to meet up with them to see if the "feeling" passed or not.  I ended up picking three coaches to meet with, and very quickly narrowed it down to two.  One was a woman who could really relate to my work situation and one was a man who was quite familiar with the US.

I guess I should probably mention what I was hoping to get out of this - overall, I am happy with my job, but there are a few things that bother me on a pretty regular basis.  A lot of of it is linked to my boss being in China now, and I'm not sure if any of it can really be resolved due to the distance, but it is something I wanted to explore because there have been days this year where I have seriously considered changing jobs.  So basically the two questions I had going in were - "Can I find resolution to these issues? (or learn to live with them?)" and "If I were to change jobs, what would I want to do?" (and could I manage to integrate into a French company).

I am going on my eighth year of working for The Company, so part of me is wondering if I am just not freaking out about having worked so long for the same employer.  I have never really seen myself as someone who would spend my whole career in one place, so I worry about becoming complacent or ending up like a lot of French people and not changing jobs out of fear.   I guess I just see so many people on a daily basis here who hate what they do, but stay because of so many factors:  the famous CDI and the job security that comes with it, fear of not finding better, having a mortgage to pay, etc. 

Anyways, I ended up going with the guy because I didn't feel like the woman was objective enough about the situation.  She told me after our first meeting that she was convinced I would change jobs at the end of the coaching, and I definitely did not want someone to push me in that direction, especially since I left our meet-up feeling very negative about my job (and I slept very poorly that night too).  I really feel like our thoughts become self-fulfilling prophecies, and did not want to spend the next five months focusing on all the negatives, since there are also a lot of positives that come with my work.

But now I've had two meetings with the guy, and I am wondering if I made a mistake.  He spends his time asking me a question, and then he'll keep asking me the same question over and over again.  He says things like "No, don't answer me right away, take some time to think about it.  You don't always need to fill the silence".   And I'm like "Listen dude, I don't have a problem with long silences.  If I'm here today, it's because I have been thinking about these exact same questions for almost a year now, so I don't need to take five minutes to tell you my thoughts, I already know what they are."

Or he'll be like "Imagine yourself six months now from now. Your problems have been resolved.  Where are you and what are you doing?"  So I'll start to answer and he'll be like "No, no, slow down. Think about it first."  And again, I'm like "I don't need to think about it, I do a lot of positive visualization, and I have already visualized myself in that situation many-a-time. I can tell you exactly where I am, what I am doing and my surroundings."

There are also times where I get frustrated and feel like I can't fully get him to understand what I am trying to say (and you all know how sensitive I am about people not understanding me in French), and he will say things like "Your language is not an issue, you speak very well. I believe it is a deeper problem and that you have trouble talking about your true feelings".

At that point I thought "Ha!  If only this guy could read my blog - he would know that I am an over-sharer and have no trouble divulging personal information."

Instead, I tried to explain that I am not French, and that I say what I think the first time, ie he doesn't need to keep asking me the same question in a different way in order to get my real feelings on a matter.  But after all of that, his conclusion was that I am too "speed" and that I need to learn how to let go of things.  And that is what he wants to work on for the next 8 sessions...

So now I'm debating about what to do.  I know how much we struggled to find a partner for our thesis project, and I know this guy is depending on me for his thesis, but I just don't think I can take 8 more sessions. I have another meeting with him next week, so I will see how that one goes, but I may just have to cut the cord.  I know he is starting out as a coach, so it is normal that he is not an expert, but I am having trouble seeing how he is going to help me, especially since he doesn't even want to discuss my initial concerns.  On the other hand, I'm not a quitter, so the idea of stopping really bothers me too... oh well, to be continued!



Blogger The Paris Chronicles said...

This sounds more like a cultural problem than a personality one. I would think it would be tough, voire impossible to coach someone of a different culture, since effective coaching relies so heavily on shared cultural touchstones in the areas of analyses, motivation, and endgame envisioning(for both the coach and the coach-ee). What you've recount here illustrates this brilliantly. He is seeing you as "not reflecting enough" and you are simply being American in your way of thinking...on your feet, reactive, and analyzing issues rapidly.

You've actually just shown us a wonderful metaphor for our two cultures, haven't you?

February 18, 2014 at 10:50 AM  
Blogger Ksam said...

Thanks, that's what I'm wondering too...there might just be too much of a cultural divide for this to work. But at the same time, it's also part of the reason I wonder if I could ever be successful in the French workplace....

February 18, 2014 at 11:04 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I guess his advice to you would be to wait it out and not make such a speedy decision to cut him loose.

February 18, 2014 at 1:22 PM  
Blogger la fille en rose said...

ha! just thinking of you and your long silences on the phone when you're thinking. how on earth could he accuse you of being too "speed"?

February 18, 2014 at 1:41 PM  
Blogger jean laine said...

rien à voir avec un problème culturel, il ferait la même chose avec une Française. Il serait aussi pénible avec son " too speedy". Les situations que vous rencontrez ne sont pas toutes à mettre sur le " culturel ", un français aurait le même problème avec ce type.
Salutations d'un lecteur de la première heure qui intervient rarement. Je vous suis depuis votre vie en Bretagne !
Bon courage !

February 22, 2014 at 6:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OKAY, I had to weigh in on this one. Maybe you didn't know but I'm actually a trained professional coach (life and career coaching were my specialties). And I think I see why you are feeling frustrated with the meetings you had with this guy. First of all, either he is also a clinical therapist who also does coaching (there are many of those), because he sounds like one, or else he is a coach who is crossing the boundary into therapy when he's NOT trained as a therapist. Therapy and coaching are very different things. The woman you ruled out would probably have a different style (we all do) but if you felt she was already oriented toward what SHE thought you "should" do then you were probably right in not meeting with her, either. I'm not saying they might not be good coaches in their own right but the coach is not supposed to be steering the client/coachee in any direction whether it it to specific outcome the coach thinks is best, or whether the coach in question believe the client "should" be getting in touch with their feelings more. I started coaching in 1997 and was actually still doing it even when I first moved here to France, and that's not at all the way *I* was trained to do coaching. Just saying.

On the other hand it could be just that neither of those coaches were the right personality fit for you, and nothing more. Doesn't mean that coaching wouldn't be useful to you in the present circumstances. Perhaps you could get another name or two, to interview?

Or... If you want some coaching at the special, low-low "friend" discount (100% off) then let me know. I don't promise what results you'll get but if what you need is a place to work through your thoughts out loud with someone, maybe it would help. I do ask questions (that's actually what coaches ARE trained to do) that are designed to help you come up with your own solutions, though sometimes I may voice an opinion or brainstorm suggestions with you if the situation calls for it.

You know where to find me. :)

February 25, 2014 at 2:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

PS I missed the part where you said he's a new coach and that he is actually depending on you for HIS thesis. (sigh) Maybe try one more session but if he's still insisting you do it HIS way then it means he is not listening to YOU, which he ought to be doing. In which case, perhaps you could try to have a candid discussion with him; say that you realize he's a new coach and that YOUR understanding of coaching and what it is supposed to be is very different from what is happening in your coaching sessions. I realize that means you will be criticizing a French person and they often don't take that too well. But if he wants to improve as a coach then accepting feedback from clients is important. You could actually be doing him a big favor. Just a thought. And you could still do some coaching with me, too, to work on the job situation (we could do it over the phone although meeting for coffee would be fun too.)

February 25, 2014 at 2:43 PM  

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