Teaching Compassion and Empathy in Coaching Skills

Empathy Coaching

Teaching empathy and compassion comes with challenges. After all, coaches sometimes have to learn how to empathize with another person before they can show others that they care, which usually comes with unhurried time out to listen to what people say.

True Empathy Requires Active Listening

Before offering professional coaching services, people learning how to inspire or motivate others usually practice active listening. This may require an interactive approach different from what they used in the past.

Active listening will help coaches or teachers develop empathy. For instance, many people will share a story about something that happened to them, and someone else will respond to that by sharing a similar experience.

Sharing similar stories can make people not feel so alone if the listener remains present in the conversation. However, some people might feel invalidated if they need someone to just listen to them rather than respond. Instead, active listening calls for resisting the urge to respond to a person sharing until the person has stopped talking.

Asking questions also helps when a listener needs clarification. However, questions only benefit the person talking if that individual does not feel interrupted before finishing their thoughts.

How to Ask The Right Questions

Learning what questions to ask someone as they open up about themselves and share their stories takes practice. It may especially feel like a challenge when not naturally interested in the topics they speak about.

For instance, people who never had a pet may not know how to respond to another person who just lost a dog. However, almost everyone has experienced the loss of someone important to them, whether it be a spouse or parent that passed away, or maybe a relationship has ended.
Examples of questions that show empathy to a grieving person:

  • Is there anything I can do to help?
  • How are your family and friends doing now?
  • Can you tell me a little about this person (or pet)?

When asking people questions, trained coaches and experienced teachers or counselors usually avoid phrases that sound more like advice. For instance, someone who feels lonely may just want to know that another person cares.

In the process, asking that grieving individual, “have you ever thought about signing up for a dating service?” may alienate them. They also might feel “abnormal” rather than feel understood or heard.

Part of teaching empathy and compassion requires asking questions about people’s situations without offering solutions. In the process, they usually feel less judged. The only time to offer advice is when a person asks for it, but trained coaches only do so with caution.

When a person inquires, “what do I do?” asking that person additional questions before offering advice will provide clarification about the situation.
Usually only after that is when a person needing to talk to someone who cares will receive the advice given.

Make Eye Contact When Listening

Making eye contact with a person talking helps an active listener stay engaged in the conversation. When listening, it also usually calls for taking breaks from checking texts or social media until the conversation has ended.

It also benefits the person who needs empathy and compassion at that moment to feel heard if they can talk without feeling rushed. Therefore, active listening while making eye contact typically works best when sitting or standing still instead of fidgeting in a chair or walking.

Empathy and Compassion

Upon learning how to show empathy and compassion, coaches need to understand the difference between the two. Empathy involves feeling what another person feels as if experiencing what that person has suffered. Compassion involves offering love and understanding, and this starts with active listening.