Originally published in Coaching for Transformation
We can open our sessions as though we are opening a gift box with a rare gem inside. We hold our own agenda lightly as we tune into the client’s agenda. As coaches, we are not the expert, the problem solver or the one responsible for the results of the session. We don’t have to offer a life-changing piece of wisdom. We don’t have to make them change. All we need to do is witness their exploration. Witnessing becomes a building block for authentic change and empowerment.
We create safe space by including the five elements of trust: reliability, acceptance, openness, straightforwardness and caring. When we consistently do what we say we’ll do, accept others without judgment, openly give and receive feedback, speak our truth and show we care, we build trust.
Julio, I am moved by your courage and the loving way you explained to your parents about being gay. I honor your commitment to your authenticity, and I’m touched by the depth of love you feel toward your parents while wanting them to see all of you.
The author Mary Rose O’Reilley talks about how listening like a cow helps people establish radical presence. She says, “Cows cock their big brown eyes at you and twitch their ears when you talk. This is a great antidote to the critical listening that goes on in academia, where we listen for the mistake, the flaw in the argument.” Critical listening crushes the spirit and weakens trust. Empathic listening builds awareness and trust and encourages hidden talents.
Holding the container
There are tangible and subtle ways that we create a “container” or an environment of trust and support. The tangible ways include clarity about the process, regularity, reliability, keeping agreements, tracking progress, clear boundaries, follow-up on requests, challenges and homework. The subtle ways of holding the container include all the core principles, such as seeing our client as resourceful with unlimited potential. In service of the client’s agenda, the container of coaching holds both safety as well as fierce courage, and this in turn opens the door to authentic exploration.
When a coach walks the talk and engages in soulful and spiritual development, there is more room for clients to do their own exploration in these areas. The dual exploration that happens in coaching is invigorating—as our clients do their inner work, they call us into working more deeply on ourselves.
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