When Stabilizers (SJs) Neglect Self Care: How to Help: Part Three on Customizing Your Coaching
In this five-part Customize your Coaching series, we are taking a closer look at how the Survival Strategies Model can be used to optimize your results in coaching or counseling each of the four temperaments.
In part one, I introduced Felix the ISTP Improviser, Maria the ESFJ Stabilizer, Evan the INTP Theorist, and Lola the INFP Catalyst, and discussed some of the main challenges a coach or counselor faces in working with each.
Part two focused on how to coach Felix, who is a reluctant participant in the coaching process.
In this segment, we take a closer look at Maria, the ESFJ Stabilizer, who has come to you at the recommendation of her physician to address her high levels of anxiety and stress and poor management of her type two diabetes.
During her first session with you, although her out-of-control diabetes can have gravely serious consequences for her—blindness, the loss of her limbs, kidney failure, etc.—Maria glosses over that topic in favor of discussing her children’s grades, her husband’s drinking, and her mother’s heart problems.
Maria is typical of many Stabilizers I have counseled, in that she operates with the faulty belief that the way to make herself feel better is to “fix” the problems of those she cares about. Not only is this impossible to do—it also causes her to neglect the only person she IS capable of changing—herself. As a result, she suffers the mental, emotional, and physical consequences of putting herself last.
Maria operates with the false assumption that she is completely responsible for the happiness and wellbeing of those she loves. The result is that others take advantage of her kindness, concern, and desire to be of service. It also leaves her with little time to take a yoga class, get a massage, or go out for a walk.
Here are some helpful actions to consider when coaching Maria:
· Consistently, gently, and kindly bring the focus back to Maria and her own thoughts, feelings, and behavior when she begins talking about what others in her life are thinking, feeling, and/or doing. You may have to do this frequently in your initial sessions until Maria learns how to refocus on herself.
· Give Maria permission to take care of her self. Some Stabilizers feel more justified in taking care of their own needs after being told to do so by a physician, counselor, or coach. Perhaps for the Stabilizer who does not want to appear selfish, this legitimizes their self-care behavior in the eyes of others.
· Since Maria is concerned about the wellbeing of others, one way of motivating her to engage in better self-care is to ask her what the consequences to her family might be if she continues to put herself last on her list.
· Sometimes it is also helpful to ask Stabilizer clients what they are modeling for their children. Chances are she does not want to teach her children to sacrifice their health and wellbeing in the interest of being of service to others.
· Help Maria devise a concrete plan that includes exactly what she is going to do to relieve her stress and manage her diabetes. Put it in writing, have her sign it, and review and revise the plan as needed at each weekly session.
· Make sure Maria’s plan is reasonable and achievable. In the interest of pleasing you, she may suggest that she goes from zero minutes of exercising per week, to 300 minutes per week. This is unreasonable and a setup for her to fail. Should she suggest something unrealistic, help her pare it down to something she can easily accomplish, to help her be successful. So—maybe begin with 60 minutes of walking per week, in 10 minute increments. A good app for Maria to use for this is Active 10.
· Help Maria determine exactly how and when she is going to carve out time in her busy schedule to follow through on her commitment to herself. Again, if her plan is not realistic, it will fail.
· Ask Maria what she anticipates her greatest challenges will be in sticking to her plan, and help her write down how she plans to deal with them. Encourage her to “buddy up” with someone else as motivation to follow through with her exercise plan.
· Teach Maria how to relax and calm her mind and body using guided meditation. Make her a guided meditation audio file on her phone or recommend some apps that offer guided meditations, like Calm or Buddhify.
· Refer Maria to a mindfulness class in which she can learn to keep more of her focus in the present moment, rather than worrying about the future or regretting the past. Stabilizers often do well in a structured class environment.
· Urge Maria to attend marriage counseling with her husband. This would be an opportunity for both of them to learn new ways of communicating with each other that make things better, not worse. It would also provide a safe forum in which to address her husband’s alcohol consumption.
What about you? What other tips do you have for helping Stabilizers who are putting their own health and wellbeing at risk by ignoring self-care in the interest of being of service to others?
Next up: Coaching the NT Theorist.
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All the Best!