Giving Up Plausible Deniability
Years ago, I was about to meet up with an old friend. When messaging about a time and place, she suddenly backed out. She bluntly wrote that something felt off about meeting me – that it felt like my true intention was different from what I expressed and that she didn’t like to meet with someone she felt a hidden intention from.
Indeed I had been attracted to her and never expressed it, but that was years ago. Those feelings had faded over time and when I looked at the messages I couldn’t find any hint of a hidden intention. My case was strong and I denied the suggestion entirely, including my secret from years before.
Yet, in the following days, I realized that I would always hide feeling attracted to a woman unless she shows it first. I thanked my old friend for being so blunt about something she could never really prove if I wanted her not to.
Logically, my denial would always be very plausible. In a way, I’d even convince myself whenever I would hide or lie about my attraction before. But somehow it did feel better, back then, to voluntarily admit my deceit – of her, but especially of myself. It was one of the most liberating experiences I ever had.
The pay-off from confronting reality
My point is that someone can structure self-deceit in such a way that it becomes impossible to expose for a spouse, friend or even a coach. You can still express it and it’s then up to the receiver to either give up their bullshit or not (yet). It can liberate to share such feeling when you have it, even though you wouldn’t be able to substantiate it with evidence and it might lead to an irreconcilable difference with someone you like.
Likewise, when you receive such feedback, it can be liberating to give away your show, should you notice that you haven't been entirely honest to yourself and others. It’s a way of confronting reality, which is always rewarding, even though it can be agonizingly uncomfortable for a moment.
You might be wrong about the self-deceit of others and others might be wrong about yours. But that's a risk to consider if we want to get past our own self-deceit and that of getting involved in other people's self-deceit, which can feel equally inauthentic. You'll learn by doing when the feeling is correct and when not.
Radical honesty, when appropriate
With most coaching clients, I simply assist in locating and resolving omissions or inconsistencies in someone’s hierarchy of beliefs. This kind of logical inquiry usually makes it clear which changes or decisions are to be made – the objective of most sessions.
But, occasionally we don’t really seem to get there. There are various reasons and solutions, but when I feel that the obstacle is the result of some self-deceit and I perceive the client ready for my perception of their behavior, I do share my observation.
It’s better to consider this before you book a session with me. It’s probably not what people teach in coaching school, but I prefer to do it anyway, even though a client could just deny it. It can be a bit of shock or doesn’t have any effect at all, but it has also led to some of the most spectacular breakthroughs.