The state of empathy, or being empathic, is to perceive the internal frame of reference of another with accuracy and with the emotional components and meanings which pertain thereto as if one were the person.
Rogers goes on to say, “To be with another in this way means that for the time being you lay aside the views and values you hold for yourself in order to enter another’s world without prejudice.”
The building block of a relationship is empathy. This requires interpersonal sensitivity – ability to place oneself in another’s shoes. Often, this quality is confused with sociability and extroversion. Ability to mix with people and being the center of attraction need not require empathy.
We talk about Emotional Intelligence in another blog. Empathy has two supporting faces. The first one is for you to be aware of your emotions and be able to manage them. The second is using this ability to read others’ emotions and manage them.
In coaching, we place emphasis on emotions. What a client says in words may be quite different from what is meant. Thoughts and words can mislead. Emotions usually are transparent. Voice and body can reveal more about what a client is trying to communicate than words can in terms of emotional content.
Not all of us are comfortable with emotions, both in expressing them and in responding to them. Men generally are less sensitive and responsive to emotions. But to empathize and to create an empowering relationship based on trust you need to connect emotionally. The coach needs to explore, understand, acknowledge and flow with client emotions, language and beliefs to support the journey to the desired outcome.
Coaching is partnership in which the client leads. The coach needs to accept this with unconditional positive regard.
How to build the client / coach relationship
Building an empowering relationship with the client requires the coach to partner with the client in several ways:
- Co-creating the coaching process in line with client’s personality
- How does the client learn: intuitively, reflectively, cognitively or emotionally?
- What energizes the client?
- How does the client build trust?
- How structured or flexible is the client?
- Seek client’s view of current reality and future direction
- Share non judgmentally one’s intuition and challenge (with permission, if needed)
- Check periodically if the direction is in line with client needs
- Show that client is cared for
- Create trust and confidence, treating client as an equal
- Provide space for client to express fully
- Create a psychologically safe space for client to enter and stay in
Questions for the Coach
- What makes you trust another person?
- How would you know that the client trusts you?
- How would you build trust with client?
- How comfortable are you expressing and receiving emotions?