In a previous blog, Empathic Coaching Conversation, we looked at the power of conversation that is creative in the coaching setting, moving both client and coach through the steps of discovering the beliefs and values of the client in new perspectives to meet the challenges in question.

Our present blog considers the empathic side of coaching like the other bookend that holds coaching in the secure framework of being effective and fruitful. In this blog, there are three elements that address how empathy must underwrite effective coaching: attention, appreciation, and acceptance – three keys that transform relationships. The reader of this blog will be introduced to three persons: Simone Weil, Marcia Reynolds, and Deepak Chopra.

Simone Weil, born in 1909, a child of agnostic Jewish parents, became a Christian mystic after a whirlwind journey as a French philosopher, political activist, teacher, factory laborer, and finally a mystic in a religious search for truth, completing her life in 1943 at age 34 due to poor health. Her writings have been translated and reached around the world. Of interest to us in this blog is her definition of attention, drawn from Awaiting God (Wait for God), published posthumously in 1951, translated to English in 2012 by Brad Jersak[1] and Sylvie Weil, Simone’s niece.

An empathic coach must first and foremost pay attention to the conversation of the coaching process to achieve the goal of creative engagement with the client. This is Simone Weil’s concept of attention:

Never, in any case, is any effort of true attention lost. … every time a human being accomplishes an effort of attention with the sole desire of becoming more capable of knowing the truth, they acquire a greater aptitude for it, even if their effort produce no visible fruit. … Attention consists in suspending our thought; letting it become available, empty, expectant, without searching, but ready to receive … the truth (pp 21 – 25).

What better openness and receptivity can a coach have in listening deeply to the client!

Our second coaching expert is Marcia Reynolds[2], author of her outstanding and most recent publication, Coach the Person, Not the Problem, A Guide to Using Reflective Inquiry (2020). Reynolds defines empathy in the context of appreciation, the art of affirming or validating a person or object with insight and approval.

Empathy is subjective. When you interpret why people feel the way they do, your opinion might be correct or not. The visceral rection you have when sensing the motions of others is real. Your understanding of the source may or may not be accurate. … Trust your ability to feel emotional shifts in your client; then use your curiosity to explore what triggered the reaction. … Then you can identify and understand what they feel and not feel it with them.(pp. 82-83) … Empathy is where you receive what another is feeling using sensory awareness, but when coaching, you need to let these sensations pass through you (p. 171).

The third key of transformative coaching relationship is acceptance as interpreted by Deepak Chopra in his series of meditations Renew Yourself[3], #13 – “Renewing and healing your relationships”, in which we give acceptance to others. Deepak Chopra’s spirituality is grounded on insights into the reality of the present moment in contrast to the unconscious ego that lives in the fears of the past and in the anxieties of the future, ignoring the richness of the awareness of the present moment, which is all that we have in reality. In loving relations, we accept others with love, trust, and compassion.

Embedded in the silent mind are all the highest values of life; this is the true self. The ego has no power to create love, have intimacy or compassion; the ego only sees relations as give and take. Love, trust, and compassion only come from the silent brain that accepts relationships that emerge from awareness, the true self. In silent relationships, everything you want in relationship is yours to give.

It is the empathic relationship of a coaching conversation that provides attention, appreciation, and acceptance in the relationship of client and coach as the two of them walk through a spiritual journey of discovery of the truth they are seeking together. The empathy of the coach is vital throughout their conversation.

Take away of this blog: We are all called to be mindful of each moment of life. It is true that when we are busy, we must pay attention to that which we are doing. There is an underlying appreciation of our tasks that are embedded in joy and pleasure, per Simone Weil. When finished, we consider our task as acceptable as well as enjoyable. This is the moment of mindfulness, a sense of fullness of life and joy, well attended to, appreciated, and accepted. Enjoy!

[1] Jersak, Brad, and Weil, Sylvie, (2012); Simone Weil Awaiting God, Fresh Wind Press, Abbotsford, BC, Canada
[2] Reynolds, Marcia, (2020); Coach the Person, Not the Problem, a Guide to Using Reflective Inquiry. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., Oakland, CA.
[3] Chopra, Deepak (2020); Renew Yourself: Body, Mind, and Spirit;