Photo Credit: PublicDomainImages / Pixabay
When I was in my early 20s, I was head over heels for a photographer named Christopher Bailey. With wavy blonde hair and a big laugh, Christopher was not only creative and rebellious, he was also make-my-heart-skip-a-beat handsome. He was several years my senior, drove a little too fast, and took me to corners of the city that I didn’t know existed.
I thought Christopher and I were evidence that opposites attract. I grew up in a rather sheltered, definitely preppy corner of New England. I wore pink and green Lacoste shirts with the collars turned up. He wore his uncle’s leather jacket and had a friend with a pet leopard. Really.
Opposites, though, don’t always stay attracted. After a few months, Christopher’s attention began to stray. Our dates became less frequent. He no longer wanted to hang out with my roommates. And one day, he gently broke up with me using a line that, at that time, was new to me.
“It’s not you,” he said. “It’s me.”
I know. It’s a cheesy break-up line. But, as I’ve navigated relationships in the three decades since that heartbreak, I’ve learned the truth of Christopher’s cliché. When that sentiment, if not the exact words, is uttered with sincerity and even humility, it’s possible to convey honesty, integrity and personal responsibility.
So I found it surprising when someone who sells coaching services recently turned this phrase on its head and said, “It’s not me. It’s you.”
This coach and I had been talking about relationships – a topic that’s endlessly fascinating to me and deeply entwined with my work in Authentic Communication.
The way I see it, being in relationship is among the highest expressions of our humanity. It doesn’t matter if the relationship is with your spouse or your co-worker, your daughter or your accountant, your BFF or your barista. Every relationship is a dance in which we create connections, exchange ideas, share insights, explore what it means to be alive. It’s a source of opportunity to probe more deeply into the questions that orbit our existence. It’s a chance to come to know some as-yet-undiscovered part of ourselves.
When Christopher Bailey showed me how to eat Ethiopian food with my hands, I learned something about myself that would not have been available to me otherwise. Sitting on the floor, I plunged my fingers into the doughy flatbread and used it to scoop up garbanzos, beef and chicken that held tastes and textures I’d never before known. Laughing as I ate, a part of me that was previously dormant came into being.
Relationships ignite life. They make it as rich and juicy and exciting as an Ethiopian meal in Adams Morgan on a summer Friday night with a new beau.
And all relationships need care and tending. They need attention. They’re cultivated through communication. Because communication itself is radically relational, relationships thrive when communication is clear, consistent and true.
Authentic Communication is possible when we take personal responsibility for ourselves – for the way we show up, for our presence or lack thereof, for our choices and behaviors. We are privileging our relationships, the vibrancy of life and the very nature of love when we practice rigorous honesty, when we admit our part in whatever pain we suffer and whatever joys delight us.
So, when this coach recalled the demise of a relationship of his own, what surprised me was how clear he was about who was at fault. “It’s not me,” he had told his former partner. “It’s you.”
I don’t know the full story here – how could I? – but I know the ripple effect of blame. It gets in the way of being accountable for my own behaviors. It blocks the chance for deeper connections and thriving relationships. It’s not a great hallmark for a coach.
When we take responsibility, we get grounded in reality. Deep roots of honesty prepare us for the buffeting changes and break-ups that life will inevitably send our way. Personal integrity and self-awareness are starting points for radically relational and fully authentic communication that nurtures all our connections, revealing new and unexpected surprises that bring rich color and subtle nuance to this one, good life.
If you’re looking for a coach – someone to challenge your assumptions about the world, to introduce you to new delicacies that were formerly unknown to you, and to help you open to greater possibilities in your life – do your research. Choose someone who is trained, experienced and might risk being cliché but is certainly sincere. Choose a coaching partner who is not afraid to say, “It’s not you. It’s me.” And who might encourage you to do the same.
There are so many wonderful coaches out there. If you would ever like to explore coaching work with me, I’d be humbled and delighted to hear from you. Please be in touch.
Here you'll find some of my thoughts about communication, contemplation, yoga, life and various other topics. Thanks for giving them a read.