Learn how to be a more compassionate coach so that you can maintain your own emotional and energy in the session, AND help your clients get into more of a creative, optimistic and motivated state.

If you are a coach, especially a new coach, then sooner or later you will learn that your clients will show up in various states of excitement, fatigue and motivation.

Sometimes they’ll come into the session feeling flustered and agitated.

Sometimes they’ll show up serene and calm.

Sometimes they’ll show up stuck, demotivated and negative.

And unless you have a way of facing whatever comes up, you will probably struggle to maintain your own focus, energy and sense of self-confidence in that session.

You might take their emotions personally, or you could start feeling like you need to ‘give them something’ or ‘fix them’ by the end of the session. 

But none of those are true.

What is true is that emotions are contagious.

So when a client shows up in any given state, you need to be present in your own space, resilient, and able to meet them where they are at.

If you want to remain neutral, open, objective and empathetic – to be focused and in the moment, thinking only of the client’s agenda….

…..then you need to know how to show up to the session the right way AND how to handle a client’s negative emotions in your coaching sessions.

This episode explores three ways to be a more compassionate coach, so you can do just that.

Why Emotional Balance Matters

Your emotional state has an enormous impact on your brain’s capacity for learning.

More specifically, if you or your client go into a session feeling frazzled, self-critical, angry, sad, exhausted or frustrated, or any other negative emotion, then it reduces the ability to learn new skills, listen, take in knowledge and remember things.

If you are thinking things like “I’m no good” or “I don’t know what to say – help!” then you will bring your focus to that and be less present, attentive and focused.  

Using self-compassion and compassion are great ways to maintain your own emotional and energy in the session, AND help your clients get into more of a creative, optimistic and motivated state.

If your client is verbalising things like “I’m no good”or “I failed”, then they will bring their focus and attention to what isn’t working and their negative feelings, effectively sapping brain resources and becoming stuck.

Our prefrontal cortex is impaired by negative emotions, and this stifles creativity, cognitive ability, curiosity and strategic thinking.

And unless you manage this properly, you risk being sucked into the vortex of your – or your client’s – emotions!

When I started coaching, I sometimes took on the client’s state at the start of the session. 

Sometimes I took their emotions home with me or expected the worst from some sessions when I had clients who were stuck or overly negative.

This didn’t do me OR the client any favours. 

It distracted me from their agenda. And finally, one day, I had a powerful aha moment after feeling particularly miserable – that these feelings were all about me and how I felt, and I needed to switch into focusing on the client instead!

I needed to develop some strategies to help me get into that ‘all about the client’ headspace so I could truly serve them as a coach.

When you and your client are able to be emotionally neutral or positive, your prefrontal cortex is activated and you are both more ready, willing and able to listen, reflect and learn.

You will be calm and present, mindful and truly hear the needs so you can respond appropriately.

Your client will remember more and be able to come up with more of their own solutions. 

And when a client starts talking about positives and opportunities, it gives you an opportunity to broaden and build those positive emotions so that your client gets more out of the session.

I’m sure you can see why emotional balance matters for both the coach AND the client.

As the coach, your priority is to learn how to manage your own fears, insecurities and inadequacies, and to be able to handle your client’s emotional state, however they show up to the session. 

So let’s talk about how to be a more compassionate coach.

Using self-compassion and compassion are great ways to maintain your own emotional and energy in the session, AND help your clients get into more of a creative, optimistic and motivated state.

Self-Compassion Being Skills – How You Show Up

The first thing you can do to be a more compassionate coach is to show up to each session with a compassionate coaching presence.

The being skills of compassion are warmth, patience, mindfulness, calm and empathy.

Showing up with these skills helps you to be fully present for your client, and to put your own beliefs, judgements and bias aside so you can truly focus on their needs, wants and agenda.

I would like to share the process I use for building self-compassion.

This really helps me to avoid being sucked into my client’s energy and emotions and get into a more compassionate headspace, so I can be present and maintain the client’s agenda.

Here are the FOUR things I do to build and maintain the being skills of self-compassion:

  1. I work with my own coaches for my own personal development
  2. I use a pre-session ritual, and
  3. I intentionally practice my being skills. 
  4. I manage my own emotions through compassionate self-coaching.

I am always banging on about working with a coach, so for now, I just want to talk about the last three of these things.

Let’s start with pre-session rituals. 

1. Pre-Session Rituals

There are LOTS of different things you can do as a pre-session ritual to help you develop the skills of compassion. 

Here are a few ideas:

  • Spend 5 – 10 minutes meditating (e.g. Headspace app)
  • Spend 5 minutes doing a breathing exercise e.g. 4 7 8 breathing exercise
  • Take a short walk in nature, standing upright, striding purposefully and breathing deeply
  • Visualise yourself being present 
  • Listen to calming music

Basically, you are looking for any ritual that quiets the inner voice and brings you into a calm, present state.

What could you do to relax and become present?

What would best suit your learning style?

What equipment, resources or tools would you need?

2. Intentionally Practising The Being Skills of Self-Compassion

Here’s a fact – when you radiate warmth, patience, mindfulness, calm and empathy, then you will show up with compassion AND those feelings will rub off on your clients.

Remember, emotions are contagious!

Your clients will be better equipped to settle down, let go of the past, to accept themselves and to feel self-compassion.

Then, they will be more able to make peace with their challenges and move forward.

If you are self-compassionate, you will be better equipped to help them zoom out of any emotional reactions so they can objectively review events and see things as they are, and start seeing opportunities for change. 

Here’s what I do to intentionally practice the being skills of self-compassion.

  1. At the start of each calendar month, I choose a being skill I would like to focus on.
  2. I write that in my diary.
  3. I find at least one opportunity each day to intentionally practice that skill in a conversation with a friend or family member.
  4. I reflect on that skill before a coaching session and look for opportunities to bring it into the session, to either
  • Help a client move into a neutral place, or
  • To help a client to broaden and build on a positive moment.

This is my personal practice – what would you do to strengthen your being skills?

3. Managing Your Own Thoughts – Being Self-Compassionate

Those of you who know me know that I am a big advocate of self coaching using the Model that Brooke Castillo created.

That is about changing your internal dialogue – to stop catastrophizing, criticising and blaming – so that your self talk becomes more neutral and factual.

I can’t stress enough how important this is. 

The analogy is that you are learning a new language – one that is more empathetic, nurturing and compassionate.

You can learn more about the model at the Life Coach School Podcast.

So the first thing I do to be more self-compassionate is to use the Model to rewire my thoughts.

The second thing I do is to use the tools of self-compassion both as a regular practice and in those moments that I feel emotional pain.

You can learn more about self compassion in episode 76 and you can visit self-compassion.org for some useful tools 

My practice for those more intense emotional moments of suffering is as follows:

  1. I watch my self talk
  2. I catch my inner critic in the act, calling me a name, judging me
  3. I practice self-kindness by replacing my negative thought with something kind – and to do this effectively, I imagine that I’m talking to a friend who felt like this
  4. I remember that other people feel like this. I consider others I know who have suffered.
  5. Then, I bring myself to the present moment by focusing on my breath, or even better, something in nature.

I find that nature helps me to zoom out and get perspective, to feel gratitude and then warmth, and to become calm again.

Summary – Charity Begins at Home

To wrap things up, I ask the question – how can we show up with empathy for our clients, and put judgement aside, if we can’t be compassionate with ourselves?

I truly believe that charity begins at home.

If you want to be a more compassionate coach, then you need to do two things: 

  1. To manage your own emotions and self compassion, and
  2. To show up with compassionate being skills in your coaching sessions with clients.

When you radiate warmth, patience, mindfulness, calm and empathy, then you will show up with compassion AND those feelings will rub off on your clients.

I described my own practice of four things that I do to build self-compassion and compassion:

  1. Working with my own coach
  2. Using pre-session rituals to enhance my being skills for my client’s benefit
  3. Intentionally practicing being skills every month, focusing on one at a time
  4. Managing my own thoughts with self-coaching and self-compassion tools and practices.

If you would like to become more self-compassionate, visit melaniejwhite.com and click the Free Chat page, to enquire about a good fit session with myself or another coach in your area.

Ready to be a more compassionate coach?

Both coaches and clients are better off with compassionate coaching! If you’re truly ready to break old habits and get out of the rut I encourage you to check out the Habitology membership.

Learn more here: