There’s an old joke about the therapist who was counseling a middle-aged woman who sought his help because of her ongoing marital problems. The wife complained that her husband was losing his mind: “He thinks he’s a chicken. He walks around all day clucking and strutting. He never pays any attention to me, and can’t even speak except to make chicken noises…”
The couples therapist suggested she bring him in with her for the next session, and that he could probably get to the root of the problem and cure the poor fellow.
“I don’t think I want that,” said the wife.
“But why not?” queried the therapist with a growing concern.
“Because we don’t have money for food and I need the eggs!”
If you are a marriage or relationship life coach or counselor, you have no doubt run across couples like this. The wife complains to the therapist about a problem the wife also has, or vice-versa.
The main advice to any coach or counselor is to simply listen. Couples – starting with the wife – just need to be heard to sort through the problem and get better. Even most husbands report that having someone really listen to them helps them feel the respect they often miss from their wives.
If you can listen without taking sides, you have allowed more than 80% of the problem to be resolved on its own. The remaining steps would simply be to give each partner something to do in order to clarify his and her goals for the marriage, and to give them a bit more understanding, and teach them listening skills they can use to resolve their own issues.
How to Teach Listening
the trick to teaching couples how to listen is to help them understand what brought them together in the first place. By cultivating the mutual love and respect they once felt, you have a chance to “NLP them” into a different state where they can feel that same love and respect again. Once done, the advice for them to listen to each other becomes an easy task.
If there are hidden agendas or resentments that won’t go away, however, you may need to resort to other measures. Sometimes this could be as simple as having one partner sit mute while the other unloads on him or her. Then that partner also gets a chance to do the same. The risk you run here, however, is that resentments might actually build instead of lessen. This is a judgement call you will need to make, based on how you perceive their relationship, and how deep the resentments might be.
At times, there will be couples whose resentments run so deep you won’t be able to help. In cases such as these, having the phone number of a colleague – a psychotherapist or psychologist who can help – is important. In rare cases, couples will simply need to divorce each other to get peace. At other times, they may need medication to keep them from harming themselves or each other. As a coach, you shouldn’t have to deal with these cases . . . and in many states, you would be required to refer them to another professional!
The bottom line is: to be a good relationship coach, learn how to listen . . . not with an eye towards “fixing” your clients, but mainly to allow them to vent and communicate with each other. If you can do this, you will be a great coach!