We’ve all had clients who seem to need extra support. We may find them swimming in a bowl of soup full of challenges, concerns and questions.

Most often, we sit on the edge of the bowl using our coaching skills to help them navigate as they swim. But sometimes we might lose our balance and fall into the soup with them. In fact, some clients may even hope that we end up in the soup – it can be lonely in there.

But we know that we are most helpful to our clients when we remain on the edge where we can see from a larger vantage point and help our clients expand their awareness also.

So what makes us fall in the soup? Sometimes we fall in because we have experienced similar challenges and we find it hard to clarify the boundaries between our client’s situation and our own.

We might also fall into the soup if we think our client is in danger of drowning. All our best impulses tell us to throw a life line but instead we dive in to rescue her.

At times, we may mistake swimming in the soup as empathy even though we know that true empathy can only occur when we stay in our coaching role.

Why not take a little swim in the soup at times? Well, if we dive in, we create a situation where two people are swimming and no one’s there to throw in a life preserver.

Also, we may diminish the experience of our client by sharing that experience as if it is our own.
And finally, we distract our clients from their own process if we are eagerly performing the butterfly stroke right next to them.

So how can we stay on the edge of the bowl? Remember that even though we might share a similar experience, coaching is about the client, not about our own story.

And if we feel like coming to the rescue, remember that it is more important that clients go through their own journey to get their own answers.

Finally, find ways to express empathy that maintain your boundaries as a coach.

Whether it’s a backstroke, freestyle or breaststroke, remember that swimming is a solitary activity and the value you bring as a coach is to get as close as you can without getting wet.

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