My mom passed away a year ago. There’s so much I want to ask her, especially this week. Why didn’t I ask her when she was alive? I ask her now while I’m out on my walks, but the answers are pretty unclear.

When I first started training with Presence-based Coaching in Asheville, North Carolina, in 2016, the cohort read The Mindful Coach: Seven Roles for Facilitating Leader Development by Doug Silsbee. Silsbee explores mindfulness, awareness, and seven basic voices used in coaching: the Master, the Partner, the Investigator, the Reflector, the Teacher, the Guide and the Contractor.

During one of the activities at my first coaching conference, the trainers Sarah and Bebe placed placards displaying the names of the different voices in parts of the room. They reviewed the basics of each modality and asked us to move toward the questioning voice we use most often.

My peers gravitated in different directions, some with conviction, others with uncertaintly. I stayed still.

Sarah asked me why I stood in the center of the room.

“Because I can’t use any of these voices.”

“Why not?”

“Because it’s none of my business.”

“What’s none of your business?”

“People’s lives. I was raised in a culture of MYOB – Mind Your Own Business.”

Sarah was speechless.

That evening, I journaled about whether or not this leadership coaching thing was for me. MYOB never bothered me. I was good with it. I was safe. Questions can get a little dicey. I knew I needed to address this fundamental sense of my place in the world.

I am sensitive to the dances between intimacy and privacy, connection and autonomy. In the context of coaching, I freely ask questions. It’s expected, necessary, and enlightening. Growth and discomfort don’t sit in the same room.

When I talk with a friend, I am careful. I prefice inquiries, “Do you mind if I ask a coaching question?” as if to emphasize that this is not really me asking, it’s me acting as if I was a coach.

After eight years of extensive training, I admit that I am a coach. I am slow with identity shifts.

Most people will ask, “What sport?”

That safe question that does not violate the MYOB rule. Kind of like asking about a restaurant, or a recipe, or a good book, or a beautiful park, or a deal at Marshall’s or the price of blueberries at Aldi.

Few people ask about what really matters – love, loss, mental illness, faith, terror, lab results, pain, parenting, purpose, joy, awe, eternal life.

With my mom gone, I sit with a lot of unknowing, just like I did when she was alive. She did not like questions. She was private. And that is something that is really cool about her. Hence my tug-of-war with my new life’s work.

Last year, I asked my mom what it was like to be married to my dad.

She paused, reflected and replied, “He was quiet. He liked a good time.”

I didn’t ask for more.

6 thoughts on “Ask

  1. Barbara Hanson

    Your Mom’s timing was impeccable.
    Last year, “we were street walkers.”
    This year, “He was quiet. He liked a good time.”

  2. Aunt Aggie

    Love your blogs, Nancy. This one especially touched home. We were brought up to never ever ask questions to those we were talking to. It was considered impolite and sometimes even rude and nosy. I obeyed the rule and think twice even to this day. Sometimes I wonder if people think that I don’t care.

    Recently I watched on You Tube David Brooks talk about his new book, “ Know a Person” and how to let a person know you. It really blew my mind away and raised a lot of questions that I don’t really know what to say. It hurt my Mom ver much when people asked her a question and we witnessed that response….she felt very inferior.

    1. Nancy Scannell Post author

      Hi Aunt Aggie,
      I never understood why we were raised not to ask questions. At times, I thought my parents were too tired to answer. They had a lot going on! And they were so tired at night. And I didn’t want to bother them. I just bought the book How To Know a Person last week. I am going to start it now! I love you so very much!


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