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22 Jan, 2009

Compassion and Coaching

Posted by: The Coaching Academy In: Coaching Articles|Life Coaching Articles

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Since I first became involved with coaching three years ago, I keep coming back to a couple of important questions. First, why spend your life helping others to achieve their full potential instead of just fulfilling your own?. The second question concerns rapport. Building rapport is a vital element in any form of relationship, and particularly important for us if we are to coach effectively, but what is it about human nature that demands that sort of connection?

There is a clear motivation behind coaching, and an obvious business opportunity to be had from coaching both private individuals and corporate clients, but I sense that there is a deeper force motivating coaches to share their skills.

From watching and listening to people who have been coaching for some time it seems to me that there is a common thread that runs throughout their approach – a passion for what they do combined with a compassion for people. As well as being deeply satisfying from a subjective viewpoint, the transformation that coaching delivers in others seems to catalyse a chain reaction within coaches, generating an ambition to bring that chance of fulfilment to as wide an audience as possible.

I can see three explanations for this compassionate ambition, which also provide a rationalisation for our need for empathy and rapport. Whether you look at human behaviour from a spiritual, philosophical or psychological perspective, each explanation holds a degree of validity.

The French Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin first postulated the ‘evolution of consciousness’ in the 1930s, but his work was out of tune with Catholic doctrine at the time, and was not published until after his death. In The Phenomenon of Man he describes a ‘noosphere’ – (from the Greek meaning soul or consciousness) – an envelope of human thought that surrounds the world. He believed that humanity was moving towards a unified organ of consciousness, a collective reflection, describing a force ‘driving us together into a contact which tends to perfect each one of us by linking him organically to each and all his neighbours.’

Just a hundred years before, Arthur Schopenhauer expounded a similar proposition. Outside the world of experience, he argued, there is a single undifferentiated reality beyond time and space, and as individuals we are, ‘In the ultimate ground of our being … one and undifferentiated.’ He believed that this was the basis of our human compassion, ‘the ability of each of us to identify with one another, feel for one another and share each others suffering and joy.’

Contemporaneously with de Chardin, Carl Jung developed his ideas of the Collective Psyche or unconsciousness – breaking this down into two components – archetypes and instincts. Largely biologically driven, our instincts direct us towards survival, while our archetypes represent a collective set of human psychic responses, common to all cultures – our unconscious minds respond communally to a given set of circumstances, reinforcing the idea of a bias towards rapport.

Whatever their premise, whatever position one feels more comfortable with, the explanations of the theologian, philosopher and psychoanalyst provide sufficient commonality in their propositions to lead me to believe that there is indeed some common and overarching selfless motivation that drives coaches to share their experience and knowledge. It also seems to me to be no coincidence that each explanation also directly leads to an insight into that part of our nature that seems to intrinsically desire a bond based on trust and empathy.


Tielhard de Chardin P, 1975, The Phenomenon of Man, Harper Colophon, USA

Magee B, 1998, The Story of Philosophy, Dorling Kindersley, London

Hyde M & McGuinness M, 1999, Introducing Jung, Icon Books, Duxford

By John Duncan


4 Responses to "Compassion and Coaching"

1 | Mark Walsh

January 23rd, 2009 at 10:32 am


The Self expands to include wider and wider groups as it develops and paradoxically diminishes. We dont get less selfish, we get a bigger Self and less self.

Ken Wilber and the integral theory guys are worth a look on this stuff, my knowledge is pretty basic.

All the best,

2 | Sue

January 24th, 2009 at 12:15 pm


In response, I think it is at base level a form of self defence! If the people around us are happy or at least ok then that affects our own happiness and ability to be ok. Some of us are not willling to lleave it all to chance and want to be pro-active in creating a healthy environment in the wider world.

3 | Maddie Millett

January 26th, 2009 at 10:18 am


Thank you, this was just what I needed to hear! I keep thinking ‘but i don’t just want to help someone make lots of money or make lots of money myself – there has to be more to it than that’. I love coaching for the very reason you state in this article – the reaching out to someone else and helping them to see the best in themselves, the connection – it raises us all up. And if we can help them become better off financially then that is a nice off-shoot, and of course we need to value our time and be paid appropriately, but the other stuff has to come first. You coach because you love it and it does benefit us as well as them when we see the spark light up in the clients eyes, it’s so worth it.

4 | Coaching School

May 29th, 2009 at 10:24 am


Agree with Maddie.. it’s all about thing called “passion”.. and there’s a love inside :)

Keep Coaching.

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