If we're good at our job, we model this courage. But sometimes—like improv actors—we wimp out. Frank really is intimidating, and rather than challenging him or finding out how Ellen is feeling, we act like her and let him go on with his rant. Sue probably is alcoholic, but we're tired and don't really know much about addiction treatment, so we rationalize to ourselves why we should just continue with our standard list of assessment questions. Brian and Teresa once again start complaining about chores, but instead of nudging them to take concrete action, we only half-listen till they wind down, then change the topic and ask how the kids are doing. We give up our leadership and sink into the client's emotional climate and ways of coping, rather than taking active steps to help them change. It's our anxiety and fear that stops us. We choose to stay in our comfort zone, rather than taking the risk of busting out and seeing what happens.
"Well, you guys just caught me off guard there with all your hospitality. Whoo-ee!" Ann shakes her head. "Just a little problem I've had since I was a little girl. I'm fine now." She stands up and pulls down on the front of her imaginary suit jacket. "Well, now," she says, regaining her saleswoman composure. "How about I show you both our new spring line of men's aftershaves?" Her voice is bubbly. She mimes opening a large sample case.
"Uh, I need to go to the back and check that block order," says Brad on cue, in a shaky voice. He begins to back up.
"Hold on, Joe" I say, patting him on the back. "Don't leave. We can do this."