Over half a century ago Carl Rogers (1) suggested that a successful ‘coaching relationship’ was based on three core conditions: unconditional positive regard, empathy and congruence.
“The quality of a coaching relationship, says Peter Bluckert (2) is not just a critical success factor, it is the critical factor in successful coaching outcomes. Good coaches create a safe enough space for the individual to take the risks necessary to learn, develop and change”.
So how do we aspire to and fulfil the quality required of coaches to ensure a successful outcome in their coaching relationship ?
Let us take one of Rogers’s core conditions, that of Empathy. It is not simply a coach understanding their client’s thoughts and feelings, although that too is important. It is more of an attuned relationship where one another ‘feels felt’ which is crucial, Daniel Siegel (3) suggests if people in relationships are to feel alive, vibrant, understood and at peace.
10,000 years ago man had to work in small teams to survive. As the success of those teams grew so too did the size of those groups. ‘Relationship’ developed from the success of those teams creating the genes we have inherited today. We have a remarkable ability to read the inner states of others derived from neurological mechanisms which enable us to empathise with others. We have the capacity to sense and stimulate – within our own experience, others’ thoughts, emotions and actions.
Our neurological networks sympathetically activate strong emotions in you when you see others having the same feeling; the better you understand you own feelings the better you will be at understanding those of others’. We grimace when we see others in pain, although we do not feel that pain in our bodies to the same extent as the ‘other’.
All this comes from our own experience and crucially, how well we know ourselves. Our experience we have already, but there is much more we can learn – or be mindful of our own thoughts, feelings, sensations and impulses. The more we understand these the better the Coach will be able to ‘tune in’ and be empathetic to the Coachee.
(1) Carl Rogers was an American psychologist and among the founders of the humanistic approach to psychology.
(2) Peter Bluckert is the Chairman of the Standards and Ethics Committee of the European Mentoring and Coaching Council.
(3) Daniel Siegel is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine (USA) and Executive Director of the Mindsight Institute.