by Maravi Melendez-Davis
New Manager: Ask the question.
New Manager: Why don’t you ask the question?
New Manager: (silence)
Shortly after this conversation, I resigned without a plan. For a while, I woke and went to sleep thinking, “what was the question I was supposed to be asking?”
During my stint of unemployment, I read a story about a man who was reading a dense, non-fiction book. He must have looked perplexed because another man, familiar with the printed work, approached him and asked, “do you understand what you are reading?” The baffled man looked up and said, “how can I unless someone explains it to me?” At once I thought of my former manager, Luke, and our silent conversation that was full of mutual, unspoken, and unfulfilled expectations. My head and heart became in sync.
I recognize Luke as the man asking the question, and myself as the man needing the explanation. I began reaching out to a woman, Veronica, whom I admired. First, we emailed. Now, I go to her house for lunch and tea. She listens to me; I always feel seen and heard in her presence. Veronica asks me questions. I ponder each aloud. Sometimes, I am frustrated by what I clearly do not know. However, it is a feeling that does not last or take root. Veronica patiently awaits as I take a familiar thought-route—from stuck to Aha!
Veronica is still my master coach. I often think about the difference between my responses today versus my reactions of yesterday. Where would I be if I only knew the questions to ask? Truly, I know the answer to this question does not matter. The most beneficial queries come as I notice someone struggling and boldly ask, “what can I do to help you understand this moment?”
Now I am on the journey to becoming a coach!