Fellow Coaches, Therapists, Healers and Helper-Types: please stop.

Over the past few months, I’ve become more active on social media. I’ve broadcasted on Periscope and posted on Facebook and Instagram about heartbreak, how I make decisions, owning myself as a writer, patterns of people-pleasing and social anxiety.

I’ve been deeply intentional that every post follows a similar format:

Here’s this hard, painful thing I went through.
Here’s how I learned, grew, became stronger because of it.
Maybe my story will help, inspire, or be a model for you.

I don’t post what I do on social because I’m looking for a grand ol’ fiesta of a pity party. I do it because I’m tired of the glossiness that is vague and unrelatable. I do it because I believe that the collective grows when individuals share their hard won lessons, instead of hoarding them.

And yet, I’ve noticed that on my posts, and on similar posts from others I pay attention to, there’s this pattern:

Coaches, therapists, counselors, healers and truly well-intentioned people are commenting with unrequested advice, detailed solutions and ‘fixes’. I’ve seen things like this:

  • I think you’re misinterpreting that. Here’s what I think it means…
  • I think you just don’t love yourself enough. Make that your priority.
  • I think you need to do these 14 things and it’ll all be fine.

And for the love, I’m asking you to stop.

– – –

Deep emotional sharing is just that: deep emotional sharing.

Some people share their story because they can’t see a way out, and they are asking for your suggestions and advice. 9 times out of 10, we know which posts these are. The person directly asks for help, or their tone makes it so clear that they’re yearning for connection and feedback.

But assuming that every single social media or blog post is shared with this intention is like assuming all Americans are voting for Donald Trump, and hallelujah, that’s not the case.

Sometimes, people share what they do on social media because their intention is to entertain, inspire or just simply be helpful. 

Maybe they don’t want anything from you.
Maybe they want to give something to you.

Before you tell another Facebook friend that you think they’re misinterpreting their life experience, or counsel them on what they should do in their business, pause for a second. Re-read what they wrote.

Is there a request anywhere in their words?
Does their writing suggest they currently feel hopeless or confused?
Is it possible that this story from their past is intended to uplift and support YOU?

Everyone isn’t our client.

We’ve chosen the careers that we have because we want to help. We want to make a meaningful difference. But we have to be careful about assuming that every conversation, every Facebook post or Instagram caption is an invitation to publicly coach, counsel or problem-solve.

We take liberties in private client sessions (where trust has been formed, and an explicit request for our input has been made through payment and clear intentions). But we cannot assume that those same liberties are ours to take when we’re talking to any person, on any street corner, at any time of day.

We cannot assume that every person on the planet is looking for a ‘fix’. They’re not.

Sharing your lessons learned and most poignant experiences on your blog or your own social media channels is a gift you give. Thank you. Keep giving it.

But please don’t bust up in someone else’s space and plop your solutions and advice down, unrequested.

Be with people. Ask more questions. Be sure they want your advice before you drop it. And if they do express a desire for your input, offer it with lots of grace and flexibility, because pat answers and black & white decrees work in textbooks, but not in the unique contours of someone’s heart.

None of us are broken. Nobody in these streets needs to be fixed.

Let’s ask more and assume less. Let’s give each other the most valuable gift we have to give: our presence.