Coaches: How You See the World Impacts Your Clients
I was sitting across from an educated, articulate corporate professional who came from a country very far away from my own, with a different language and culture to my own. We were speaking in English, however, a language in which we were both fluent. And yet it seemed that, beyond the words, we weren’t connecting. We were struggling to develop trust and intimacy. I noticed the thought in my mind, “Ah, I think I know what’s going on here.”
This conversation took place in Dubai, one of a number of cities that have become hubs for people all over the world to gather, meet, live and do business. Here we have people from every nation, culture and ethnic group. When different people meet, there is also a meeting of ideas, thoughts and worldviews.
Worldviews affect everything. They are “A particular philosophy of life or conception of the world,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford English Dictionary). They are the lenses of our beliefs about the world, ourselves and the nature of reality itself. Everything we experience through our senses or process internally is colored by the worldview we hold. They have profound impacts on the ways in which we think, feel and act.
Worldviews can be hard to see.
They are not culture, although cultural norms may adhere to a common worldview.
They are not behavior, although behavior may demonstrate the worldview.
They are not religion or faith, although religious norms may adhere to a common worldview.
All people, cultures, faiths and even coaching schools rest their understanding, at least primarily, on one of three worldviews. Philosophers call these Naturalism, Monism and Realism. You may recognize yourself, others or your coaching school in the description below.
For Naturalism, only what can be seen, touched or measured is real. Anything other than this doesn’t exist. All emotion, thought and anything “spiritual” is understood to exist within the physical body, predominantly the brain.
Monism comes from the word “mono,” meaning one. In this worldview, everything is part of the same, one thing. The worldview here states that both material and immaterial things exist; however, the dualities that we see (e.g., good vs. evil, material vs. immaterial, ourselves vs. others) are illusory. In addition, reality is relative, often meaning that we (and our thoughts) create our own realities.
Lastly there is Realism. This shares the view with monism that both material and immaterial things exist. However, it states that reality is objective and that dualities exist. We do not create reality. The world is separate from us, and our actions help to define that reality. Our growth comes as we more fully and accurately perceive reality as it actually is.
Handling Our Worldview in the Coaching Space
As coaches, our mission is to help our clients achieve their goals and grow as people. In pursuit of this, we refrain from bringing our content, and our ideas, into the conversation. What we can’t keep out of our conversation, however, is the way we think—our meta content. When engaging in conversation with another person, we bring our worldview with us. If we’re unaware of this, we will be inadvertently influencing our clients to our agenda.
So, if we can’t help but bring our worldview into the relationship, how do we best serve our clients? What can we do knowing what we already know as coaches? The following two-step process employs our Active Listening (ICF Core Competency 5) and Direct Communication (ICF Core Competency 7) skills.
- Active listening: Firstly, by knowing our own worldview and paying attention to our client and ourselves, we can pick up on any possible differences of worldview. This will show up in our client’s words and also in our own thoughts and shifts in emotional state. From these we can ask ourselves, “What am I noticing about possible differences of worldview?”
- Direct communication: Secondly, we communicate our observations with our client. For example,“I may be off here, but I sense we may be seeing things a little differently here, and it could be getting in the way of us moving forward together. Perhaps, I could I explain how I see it and how I think you’re seeing it. Would that be OK?”
By bringing the unspoken and unseen out into the open, both coach and client can notice what has been happening, can normalize it, and choose how to move forward. In doing this, there is a shared deepening of trust and intimacy.
In closing, may you go into your future sessions, noticing both your own worldview and that of your client and may you have deeper, more fruitful, more intimate conversations leading to greater impact for, and through, your clients.