When you’re a life coach, there’s one question that most of us dread answering.
And it just happens to be one of the lamest questions you can ask someone…
“So, what do you do?”
I always find this question to be shorthand for I don’t want to invest too much time learning about who you are, so let me put you into one of my mental boxes so I can just use my stereotypes instead.
And yet I notice that lots of self-employed artists (life coaches included), feel the pressure to come up with some canned “elevator speech” to quickly convey the essence of what they do to a total stranger. Certainly, having an answer for this question makes complete logical sense. After all, we’ve all been asked the question a zillion times. We know it’s coming. We want people to understand us. And hey, maybe just maybe this other person will be so impressed that they will start throwing their credit cards at you immediately… So when a marketer tells you to have a clear answer to this question, well, that’s what smart people do.
Well, I’ve worked with well over a thousand clients in my career, and no one of them came from chatting to someone between the floors of a high rise. Or from having a clear answer to the question of what I do, for that matter. Art is better experienced than explained. It’s taken me a while to be okay with not having an answer, to be okay with people being confused, but I no longer really care whether someone gets me or not. Not really any of my business.
When I first jumped into coaching, I had success going to networking events. This is what I was told to do, and hey, I’m an obedient student. As a writer, I’d agonize over using just the right words to introduce myself, hoping that the other person would get what I was all about in 15 seconds.
But looking back, no one cared what I said… At least the people I cared about were not fixated upon my networking chops… The people who hired me back then did so because we spent some time together and they got to know who I was, not a description of what I did. And they resonated with something about me. Pretty simple.
More to the point, if you ever feel like you have to explain yourself to anyone regarding what you do (or perhaps just your personal preferences for something), you choose to put yourself on the defensive. It’s a choice, folks. Just because someone asks doesn’t mean that it’s your job to meet their expectations. Good little boys and nice little girls do this, but you’ve outgrown that.
Acquiescing to someone else is just another form of protecting yourself from looking bad to someone else. And in short, defending yourself kinda sucks. When you’re defending yourself, you’re not really attractive to yourSELF. You can feel you gut tightening, a clear indication that you are choosing to follow someone else’s alignment instead of your own.
Professionally speaking, when you stand in your own alignment and share who you are in ways that are meaningful to YOU, clients will find you. You’ll be shocked how little explaining you have to do. Or selling. Instead, things just line up and working together is just the next logical thing to do.
In a larger context, you don’t have to explain who you are, what you like, or why you want something to anyone. They won’t really hear you anyway because they’re not really listening. Just like the person who asks you “so what do you do?”