Friends vs. Clients

Last week I talked about how great it is to have friends. Friends who are there for you, who'll alert you to the fact that your fly's undone, who share your burdens, who'll pass the bottle or the box of chocolates when you've had a rough day. Afterwards, I came across this article. The combination got me thinking about the relationship I have with my friends, and about the relationships I want to have with my clients.

Pretty early on in my training I realised that I shouldn't be coaching my friends, and that I shouldn't be friends with my clients, either. Before this offends anybody, let's have a look at this statement, shall we? At first glance, a friendship and a Coaching relationship isn't that different. There are two (or more) people involved, who respect and support each other while believing that the other holds the keys (answers) to their own set of doors (or windows! a.k.a. problems). They meet at regular intervals, they share the sometimes most intimate details, and they spend a good amount of quality time together. They trust each other, are secret-keepers, laugh and cry together.

This is probably where similarities end.

First of all, in a friendship, usually no money exchanges hands; friends aren't rented by the hour. Plus, the support is mutual and not one-sided, unless you're a Client who is happy to pay to hear about the day the Coach has had. (No? Didn't think so! :-) )

As a friend, I'll ask you tough questions and make comments when we discuss an issue and you invite my opinion. As a Coach, I'm able to be more effective and level-headed in helping you find your solutions, because I'm not as emotionally involved as I might be if you're a close friend. As a Coach, I'll have no reservations holding you responsible for your own decisions. As your friend, I'll be glad to slack off and spend a day at the spa with you, but as your Coach you can be sure I'm keeping you accountable as you take the necessary actions we discussed to follow through with your projects. Also, seeing that I'm available to an international clientèle, we might actually never meet, physically. There'll always be a degree of anonymity involved that can be beneficial for the Coaching process, since you as a Client might be more inclined to open up to a relative stranger. And hey, if you want to become friends after the Coaching process is concluded, I'm open for renegotiation on a case-by-case basis. ;-)

I've come to the conclusion that it's fair to say that the roles of friend and Coach, though similar, have some inherent and important differences. None is better than the other, but they are different enough not to be confused and intermingled. So, next time you wonder who to speak to about the issues in your life you're unclear about, I invite you to look inside what sort of assistance you're looking for. If it's a shoulder to cry on, call your friends, you'll feel all the better for it. If it's something you'd rather discuss with someone who has a proven track-record of helping people bring out their individual but possibly hidden resources, someone who won't tell anyone else, someone who won't shake their head or finger at you like a family member or a friend who's known you forever might, hiring a Coach is the way to go.

Til next time!

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