Life coaches help people to become the best versions of themselves, equipping them with the skills to develop and make progress toward their goals and overcome their obstacles along the way. Their role can be challenging, requiring an in-depth understanding of the client they’re working with and the solutions best suited for their needs. So what enables a life coach to be successful? The answer lies in their ability to empathize. The development of empathy is fundamental for any life coach. Having empathy can lead to a more accurate understanding of a client, their personal perspective, and their struggles (Goh, 2019).
If you’re considering a career as a life coach, it’s important to understand what empathy is, why it’s important, and how it can be cultivated when interacting with a client. Read on to discover more about this skill.
What is Empathy? The Concept Explained for Life Coach School Students
Empathy can be defined as the ability to understand the emotions of another (“What is Empathy?”, 2021). This understanding can be applied to specific contexts and situations to interpret the actions, thoughts, or feelings of an individual (“What is Empathy?”, 2021). Empathy involves several different components, including the recognition of emotions in others, the recognition of others’ perception, the ability to avoid judgment, and the act of communication (Hall & Ip Min Wan, 2019).
When empathizing during your life coach career, you can achieve a heightened understanding of your client, while keeping your own thoughts and understandings separate (Goh, 2019). This separation (or objectivity) is essential in maintaining emotional distance from a situation, allowing you to coach a client without involving your personal biases or opinions (Blackbyrn, 2020). Through empathy, you’ll be able to more effectively work with your client in the promotion of beneficial change and progress (McNamara, 2020).
Why Empathy Is Important for a Life Coach
Research conducted on coaching shows that the key factor in achieving a successful outcome for clients is the relationship between a client and their coach (Hall & Ip Min Wan, 2019). This means that for life coaches, one of the most important parts of their job is facilitating a strong connection between themselves and their client (Hall & Ip Min Wan, 2019). The act of empathy plays an important role in establishing this connection (Hall & Ip Min Wan, 2019). Empathy allows life coaches to truly understand their client’s challenges, desires, concerns, and situation (Blackbyrn, 2020). As a life coach, building your empathy skills enables you to develop a better relationship with clients, using your informed understanding of the context at hand to develop an effective path forward (“The Role of Empathy and Sympathy in Coaching”, 2018).
Upon completion of training received at life coach school, developing empathy will be important for equipping a client with a clearer view of their personal situation and feelings (Goh, 2019). Empathy heightens your communication skills as a life coach, enabling you to accurately interpret what a client is saying and communicate with them from a place of understanding (Goh, 2019). When practicing empathy, you will be able to remove yourself from the situation, treating clients without judgment and embracing their personal perspective (Hall & Ip Min Wan, 2019). Empathy is not only important when interacting with clients—your empathy skills can also be used to teach clients about empathy (McNamara, 2020). Building a client’s empathy skills can often help them become more effective as leaders (McNamara, 2020).
How to Cultivate Empathy During Your Life Coach Career
Developing empathy is a process, and as a life coach, there are several exercises and techniques you can use to gradually improve your ability to empathize with clients. One of the first steps to developing empathy is to learn how to identify your personal feelings (McNamara, 2020). Try to take note of your emotions, reactions and actions as they arise, as doing so can help you to develop the awareness necessary to practice empathy (McNamara, 2020).
Additionally, you can enhance your ability to empathize when interacting with clients by using empathy statements (Hall & Ip Min Wan, 2019). Empathy statements indicate that you understand what a client is feeling. After a client has shared something, try using a phrase like “that must have been really frustrating for you.” These statements will improve your connection with a client and promote empathy throughout the coaching process.
If you’re seeking to empathize with how a client is feeling, you can also ask them for their personal feelings or perspectives (Goh, 2019). Checking in with a question will improve your understanding of your clients and make it easier to cultivate the skill (Goh, 2019).
It may seem easier said than done, but by starting out with these simple exercises, you can improve your ability to empathize throughout your life coach career, enhancing the success of the efforts you make to support your clients.
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Blackbyrn, S. (2020, September 17). The 10 Most Important Skills For an Effective Life Coach. Coach Foundation. https://coachfoundation.com/blog/life-coach-skills/#:%7E:text=Empathy%20is%20one%20of%20the%20core%20coaching%20skills,to%20help%20you%20look%20at%20their%20issues%20objectively.
What Is Empathy?. (2021). Greater Good Magazine. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/empathy/definition
Goh, G. (2019, October 8). Power Tool: Empathy vs. Over-Empathy. International Coach Academy. https://coachcampus.com/coach-portfolios/power-tools/george-goh-empathy-vs-over-empathy/
Hall, M., & Ip Min Wan, W. (2019, January 24). THE SKILL OF EMPATHY IN COACHING. The Coaching Room. https://www.thecoachingroom.com.au/blog/the-skill-of-empathy-in-coaching
McNamara, C. (2020, August 12). Developing Your Skills in Empathy. Coaching and Action Learning. https://managementhelp.org/blogs/personal-and-professional-coaching/2010/12/16/developing-your-skills-in-empathy/
The Role of Empathy and Sympathy in Coaching. (2018, November 8). Gloveworx. https://www.gloveworx.com/blog/empathy-sympathy-in-coaching/