Coaching as an Active Witness to your Client

An in-depth look into the role of coaches as witnesses to their clients and how to be present clients’ needs. This is the fourth Core Coaching Competency covered by our experiential online course ‘Decoding The Coaching Genome’, which is accredited with 21 CCEU by the ICF. Find out more about here.

All humans have a need to be seen, heard and acknowledged for our own inherent essence. When coaching, we are able to provide that for our clients, we transcend everyday experience and both we and our clients know ourselves and each other in the most intimate of ways.

Being an Active Witness

In order to be able to witness our clients in this way we must be willing to let ourselves be vulnerable, to put down our mantle of being “the one who knows” and enter the liminal space of “the one who is curious and who is feeling into whatever wants to emerge next.” This is the place of actively watching and waiting for the signs emerging from our clients and those coming from within us. Sometimes the signs will be clear and obvious. Other times, they will be subtle and quite nuanced. As an active witness you are constantly scanning 360 degrees, taking in the entire space in you, between you and around you; listening, looking attending to each moment you are present.

Actively witnessing means just that, you are attentively watching without judgments, attachments or ego. This means that some of the time you will have some amount of attention on yourself rather than on your client. The ego demands management and so we must do a dance of partnering with and managing our egos and in the next beat partnering with our client minus our ego and judgments. From this space you can step into the depths of your shared creativity and can evoke a new awareness and insights that will provide fuel for the next steps of the journey.

Actively witnessing our clients requires us to be fully conscious and present in the moment. But how do we do this? The key is to focus on one thing at a time. Usually, our attention is jerked in many different directions at the same time. This causes us to lose connection with our bodies and minds as well as with our clients. The antidote to this scattered state is to pay attention first to your body and then to your client. Notice your breath. Feel it entering and exiting your nostrils. Feel your bottom connecting with your chair and your feet on the ground.


Focus on the Client

Now you can focus on your client. Notice the sound of their voice, how fast or slow are they talking? What is their emotional state? What do they notice about their body? What impact do their words have on you? Are they conscious of what they are saying to you or have they lapsed into an automatic monologue with you or themselves?

Allow yourself to be fascinated by them. Underneath the words, there is an energy that is emanating from them that is yearning to be met and that demands your active interaction. It is this energy that will fuel their determination to reach their goals and is your shared precious experience of aliveness in the present moment.


About the Author:

Judith has been following her calling for the past 33 years, originally as a licensed psychotherapist and then for the past 20 years as Co-Active Coach. After training her, CTI (The Coaches Training Institute) invited Judith to become a faculty member in 1996. She received her Master Certified Coach certificate through the International Coach Federation in 1999. Judith currently is a Senior Faculty member at CTI as well the principal of her own international coaching practice.

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