A client got me thinking last week as she confidently said ‘nobody cares what you think’ when referring to herself in one of our coaching sessions.
What did you notice yourself thinking as you read that heading? Wounded? Curious? Argumentative? Perhaps relieved. Or something else entirely.
Is it true?
Well, it certainly could be true for you – and in a whole variety of ways – depending on your interpretation of the statement, of course. In NLP this statement can be referenced as a universal quantifier – a generalised statement that precludes exceptions or alternative choices; instead, implying absolute truth.
The clue, of course, is in the word ‘nobody’.
Yet, obviously, it totally depends on how each reader reads and interprets it.
Reading it literally; until we share what we’re thinking, it’s quite true, what we think stays inside of us – sitting there. What we’re thinking are just thoughts that belong to us, personally. So, nobody (else) can care – one way or another – about what we think, until we decide to share that thinking.
We’re just not giving anyone the opportunity.
Alternatively, you could have read that statement and automatically pre-supposed – or made an assumption – that this is just a view one person holds about someone else – perhaps even after they have shared what they thought!
Or maybe you assumed that this view: ‘nobody cares what you think’ actually is the universal view held by absolutely everyone because it’s your view too.
There are many, many more interpretations and viewpoints here, of course, but you get the picture… it obviously depends on our own personal frame of reference.
The point is, something happens inside of you when you read this. And that’s the thought – or insight – to notice. That’s the hidden gem of awareness which may reveal something new about yourself.
In coaching, when I hear someone use one of these universal words like ‘nobody’, ahead of a ‘strong’ statement (by which I mean, a statement they really appear to wholeheartedly believe in) it’s a cue for me to hone in and help them explore further. To get to the bottom of what they mean.
Do they really mean nobody?
Tell me more about nobody. How do you know nobody cares? What evidence did you see, hear or are you finding to support that belief?
When has someone cared about what you think? How did you know they cared?
And has there been a time when you have shared what you thought and everybody cared? How did you know that? What happened?
When do you choose not to share what you think? What might your reasons be for choosing to share or choosing to stay quiet? The circumstances?
I might wonder where this belief may have been ‘used against them’ harmfully, by others in the past. Perhaps part of their childhood story – where the residue remains unquestioned in their identity as an adult. Or maybe through direct experience in previous job roles or dysfunctional systems, groups or teams – where this was actually true.
These things stay with us.
I’m also curious about how universal statements like these operate in empowering or disempowering ways in a client’s pursuit of happiness – in their relationships, working towards their goals and with all their intentions for having a good life.
Following much of that exploration, I wondered with this client what the healthier, more balanced – and maybe truer – statements might be, as ‘nobody cares what you think’ had become obvious to us both that it was actually untrue.
And she came up with ‘sometimes it feels like nobody cares what I think’.
This awareness brought with it realisations that the belief ‘nobody cares what you think’ was actually not true at all. It was a state. A feeling, brought about by thinking and believing things which were no longer true for her. These beliefs drove her to behave in ways that undermined her confidence, silencing her when she actually wanted to speak, and generally to act in ways that were counter to both her personality and goals for living.
As much as listening out for clients’ hidden beliefs in these areas, it’s also important I watch out and listen-in to myself and how these kinds of phrases impact me and my own beliefs as a coach.
Which phrases might I completely miss or not hear my client say?
What might that be saying about me as their coach?
Just imagine for a moment the impact of a coach blindly agreeing with a client who said ‘nobody cares what you think’, therefore colluding with this disempowering dance without uncovering the deeper understanding of what this might really mean for their client.
We all have our blind spots, of course, which the age-old Johari Window model can help us with, but if a coach also held their own version of this belief (without realising or questioning it) and wasn’t aware of their own process during the session, they may not be serving their client well!
This is why coaches need to be ever-vigilant in their own personal development and continue to engage in ongoing coaching supervision too, which supports their work.
A coach will never know exactly what the client means (spot my universal ’never’ here…) until they explore a client’s interpretation of their statements and phrases. They’d be making massive assumptions about the meaning of what is being said, which would be based on their own world-view.
And that’s what our relationships with friends and family are for! Not a coach who is being paid to help with the transformation of old belief patterns so that they can grow in self-awareness :).
Do You Care What You Think?
So, my invitation to you today is to notice what you noticed as you reflect on your reaction to the sweeping generalisation of this headline. What were your thoughts and your feelings?
And did you spot any beliefs emerging that you didn’t fully appreciate were there?
Jot down a few universal statements of your own. Where, in your life do you make statements like this, using words like everybody, nobody, never, everything…[fill in the blank]?
Have fun, play around with the words that come up for you, and if you’d like to connect or share any insights, I’d be happy to hear from you…because I care what you think.
Contact Sarah for a free, initial coaching conversation.
You can also view this article on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/nobody-cares-what-you-think-sarah-thayer
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