“I think I just fell in love with my Dad a little bit more,” I said to myself as I was finishing a peer coaching conversation. I was raw, teary, transformed.
Recently, I had the opportunity to have a peer coaching conversation. Peer coaching is distinct from mentorship or coaching, wherein people have a structured conversation with the goals of deeper self-awareness, mutual understanding and a clear path of action. Prior to this conversation, we each completed a purpose assessment that revealed the type of impact we care about, our values and what sort of contribution most fulfills us.
As luck would have it, I was paired with someone who has different values than me. Although we all have a collection of individualist and collective values, depending on our formative experiences, we end up slightly favoring one set of values over another. In our current climate, one driven by identity politics, polarities, “yes, I’m like that” and “no, I’m not like that”, these can show up and edify divides between genders, ethnicities, professions, religions, generations and political parties.
What if we become our highest selves through understanding why we feel so strongly about our values? What if what it takes to actually be our best selves, to live our purpose in our careers, and exceed our goals is the full embrace of our dualities? What if what it means to be a whole human is to honor and accept the gifts and challenges of each other, so that we may honor and accept our own?
I experienced that peer coaching does just that, fostering a deeper understanding of our own purpose and those of others, creates psychological safety and trust, and frankly, just has me want to collaborate and be with people who are different than me.
Before I was set to begin this conversation, immediately, I felt myself tighten. Cue the internal chatter: “Oh great, I’ll have to listen to her spout the same rags-to-riches, bootstraps, personal responsibility gospel I’ve been nauseated by since the 80’s.” And anger — I went from 0–60 in just a few seconds. I started to feel like I was about to go to war with someone who didn’t care about others.
I’m not sure what my partner’s initial attitude was, but it could have been similar, e.g. “Oh great, another hippy who likes to blame others for his shitty life.” What I know is that I was blinded by my own judgments. Deep down, I still have a dualist frame (many of us do), wherein we simply don’t trust or like people with different yard signs. And this is after spending 15 years doing inner work, forgiving myself and my parents, making peace with my family members, engaging in spiritual disciplines, going to India, meditating, countless personal development programs.
“Breathe, Brandon,” I told myself. And our conversation began. We invited each other to share about our purpose with open ended questions and as I began to learn more about her life, I actually fell in love with her values and saw them in myself. I felt myself soften and my curiosity and affinity towards her expand. I got that she sees the power and potential of other people and ardently tries to help them overcome their limitations. I learned she was a first generation American who has continually overcome barriers of language, culture and gender. I got that everything she did sprung from her love of humanity, to empower people to realize their own greatness. And boom, I saw myself in her sharing.
I was moved to tears. I felt a deeper love for my Dad, an individualist, a staunch defender of the 1% and a man who is also a great coach, a fierce stand for people’s greatness, prosperity and contribution. In 30 minutes, I went from rage to empathy, from distrust to curiosity. Of course, this wouldn’t have happened by accident or even after a few beers — in fact it’s likely it would have gone the other direction. This certainly wouldn’t have happened in a more hierarchical coaching or mentoring relationship either.
After the conversation, we returned to the larger group to debrief and a common response keeps arising. “This is just like Love Languages.” Indeed, this is exactly what it felt like. The Five Love Languages is a best-selling book by Gary Chapman, published almost 25 years ago, that reveals that we each like to receive and give love in a particular way. I favor the languages of quality time and touch, whereas my wife favors service and gifts. Learning to speak each other’s languages makes our marriage stronger, more loving, playful and generous. Same is true at work. Understanding, honoring and invoking the purpose drivers of our peers has us feel “gotten”, honored, connected and more excited to work together.
This is the magic of speaking the language of purpose in a peer coaching context. Of course this isn’t all just gooey team building stuff, but actually at the heart of individual and team performance. These conversations, grounded in in awareness of our individual purposes, empower us to empathize, to trust our peers more, stand for each other and collaborate. The result is a deeper level of fulfillment, longer tenures, productivity and leadership effectiveness.
Source: Activating Peer Coaching
With empathy and curiosity,