Riddle me this: What is the very thing that people need to start their day? It wakes them up? At times, it keeps them up? It can be strong. It can be week. And while many like this thing with sugar and cream, there are many others who simply prefer it to be black. Sometimes, this thing is easily digested, and with others, not so much. Further, there are indeed some who simply cannot live without it, and others avoid this thing at all costs, because maybe the taste or the aroma just does not sit well with them.
What are we talking about? We’re talking about coffee; black coffee to be specific. However, we’re not speaking of black coffee that you would physically ingest. We are talking about black coffee with respect to constructive criticism, feedback, and courageous conversation. It’s telling it and receiving it like it really is.
So, do you prefer “black coffee”? Or do you prefer it served with sugar and cream? Sugar and cream tend to dilute the taste and impact of the black coffee, which ultimately modifies its essence. Adding sugar and cream softens the blow and allows some to swallow easier.
What you opt for is probably dependent upon a few factors: The type of conversation and feedback you’ve been accustomed to; how introspective you are and how much you’re willing to be; your motivation to change; how full or empty your cup (mind) is when you enter into conversation; and your passion and mission to develop and evolve into all that you are supposed to be.
Not that one is vastly better than the other, but we would venture to say that the folks who treasure black coffee are more likely to take an honest look at themselves and make the case and action for change versus those who crave sugar and cream and having their feedback fashioned in such a way where egos won’t be bruised, feelings won’t be hurt, and there’s time to adequately digest the courageous conversation coming their way. People are different and diversity should be welcomed and appreciated. That being said, our communication with one another should be governed in accordance with the outcome or impact that is necessary considering the circumstances.
What we’ve learned in coaching clients, employees, family and friends is in order to learn and grow, criticism and feed back require courage and must pack a certain punch in order to be effective. However, many people are afraid to either deliver or receive honest criticism and therefore, sweeten or lighten the message, delivering a pinch instead of a punch only later finding ourselves frustrated because it appears the lesson was not learned and undesired behavior continued.
If you want to effect constructive and necessary change in yourself and in others, we strongly suggest black coffee be served. This holds especially true when it comes to the success in a coaching relationship – business, executive, life or otherwise. The hallmark of a trustworthy, transparent and effective coaching relationship is the ability to serve and receive black coffee.
Part of a coaches’ mission, among a number of other things, is to help clients see the “man in the mirror” and transform themselves, to work through obstacles and improve in some way, to accomplish goals, and to become much better versions of self. The challenge to turning over the proverbial new leaf starts with black coffee. In fact, in the article Reinvent Yourself in the May/June issue of Psychology Today, it states that “One challenge to self-evaluation: Most of us have a tendency towards illusory superiority—the belief that we are above average in our abilities, even though all of us can’t possibly be. That’s why it’s crucial to be brutally honest as you assess yourself and the effort needed to achieve the reinvention you seek.” Brutal honesty is in fact black coffee.
The lesson and wisdom gained in this regard is, whenever you are building or bettering relationships with yourself or others, invest in black coffee. It’s worth the punch!
Coauthored By: Lisa Anderson & John Haynes, III