It’s been many years since I felt as useless and incompetent as I did last night.
My gifts, the things that most people call “my skills”, had actually left me paralyzed and out of touch.
In this article, I want to tell you about the exact moment that I realized what a complete asshole I am for wanting to help everybody.
MY SISTER CAN’T DEAL WITH ME
Gabby called me last night for our monthly phone call. Not that it’s scheduled, but that’s honestly about how often I connect with my sibling who is only two years older than me.
While we grew up close in age, we were not very close as humans or as family members. She hated sports, I was an athlete. She like painting and playing video games in her room, I liked going out with friends and being the center of attention.
I never hated her or anything, but I had my head way too far up my own ass to notice that she wasn’t having as great of a time as I was in school being the cheerleader and the party-goer.
But as we aged and moved into our early twenties, we did find some common ground. I calmed down a bit, she opened up a bit, and we actually found it quite easy to talk to each other on the rare occasion we were around each other.
Since then, now both in our early- to mid-thirties, I realized last night that my lifestyle has once again pulled me away. Not because I chose to go out partying and drinking and dancing again, but because I am now a highly respected coach.
Let me explain…
THE WORST CONVERSATION EVER
Sure, I’ve been coaching gymnasts since I was about sixteen years old, but that was a different skill set. That was some emotional management, but mostly teaching skills, spotting positions, instructing biomechanics, and other physical things of the like.
And in my more recent years as a YouTuber, online physique coach, and podcast host, the set of strengths has developed into more of a pseudo “life coach” to most individuals I meet. The words I say matter a lot to a lot of people. And that feels good. (It’s honestly a bit scary as well, but I like the responsibility.) I don’t think I know everything, but I do think I have a solid opinion on most things that are asked of me and do my best to offer productive perspective to those who would like it.
I study people like crazy, I read books like crazy, and more importantly, people seek my advice like crazy. I now realize this might have created a bit of a monster.
All that said, my sister’s call last night was not for me to answer. I mean sure, she called me, but she didn’t want to hear what I had to say….And I couldn’t stop saying it.
Here is my shortened, paraphrased version of the conversation:
Me: “How are things?”
Gabby: “Here are four or five things in my life that are troubling me…”
Me: “You should totally try [insert three minute monologue of advice] for the first one.”
G: “I already thought about it and I don’t like your solution, but I have a couple others in mind.”
M: “And for the second thing, you might want to [insert another monologue] because that has been really useful for so-and-so and it will probably help you out.”
G: “Actually, I don’t want to do that. It just doesn’t feel right. I’ll keep thinking on it.”
Me: “But what is there to think about? You know the solution I gave is going to work. Why don’t you believe me?”
G: “Honestly, it’s just not a priority right now.”
Me: “Don’t you think it should be?”
G: “Please just stop giving me advice.”
OPEN MOUTH, INSERT FOOT
That’s when the sudden truth hit me.
I completely and totally had nothing to say. If I wasn’t giving advice or solutions, I literally couldn’t speak.
My first thought: “Holy shit. What if I always do this, but nobody tells me because they are not as blunt as my sister. Oh my god I have annoyed and alienated everyone.”
Second thought: “What do you say to people’s problems if they don’t want solutions? Like what words are useful in this situation? I got nothing.”
Third thought: “You’re such a piece of shit, Andrea. What makes you so high and mighty that you think you’re in a position to advise everyone you meet?”
Fourth thought: “Oh, maybe because your life has been set up as such that everyone around you really does ask you questions. Stop trying to be the leader everywhere you go. Put yourself in more vulnerable positions on occasion, will ya?”
THE EMBARRASSING LESSONS TO NOTE FOR MYSELF
First and foremost, stop coaching everyone. Please, Andrea, stop coaching everyone.
Secondly, learn how to listen. Not just to what they are saying, but how they react to the first tiny piece of assistance you offer. If they are defensive, if they say they “just want to vent”, then let them. If they say there is nothing you can do, then maybe there really is nothing you can do.
Third, as a flip side to my second point, perhaps the greatest gift is to just say your sorry for their situation and shut up. While it feels like we’re doing nothing, maybe it’s the treasured interaction they need. Perhaps they just need to be heard, and that’s enough.
Fourth, find different people. If the only people I talk to are my coworkers and my athletes, all people who depend on my solutions and skill set, then how will I ever learn to be around those who don’t want or need those things from me?
Fifth, remember that this, like anything else, can be improved on. I know how to learn, so being a better listener is something I know will come to me with direct effort.
And lastly, not as a part of the above list, I want to tell you, the reader, that I appreciate you. If you’ve read on this far, thanks so much for being the person that I could not be for my sister last night. You have been an incredible listener, and have helped me more than you’ll ever know.