Competency 4:1 Making Sense of Trump, Boris and others you might not agree with!

This week, we’re starting with one of our favourites: Competency 4.1, which is part of the broader area of cultivating trust and safety. In our opinion, this speaks to the heart of coaching.

Competency 4.1 is defined as “Seeks to understand the client within their context which may include their identity, environment, experience, values and beliefs”. There’s so much packed into this one short sentence.

This competency is a reminder that we are all different. How I experience the world will be different to how you experience the world. That might seem very obvious, but it’s also easy to lose sight of this basic premise.

For example, take any of the particularly divisive issues of recent times: abortion, Brexit, gun control, covid, vaccines, Trump, Boris… sadly, there’s no shortage of choices. These issues have a lot of emotion and division because there’s an underlying assumption that the way we see the world is the right way and everyone else is wrong.

Pause for a second and reread that last sentence. I’m not saying that I have to agree with everyone who holds a contrary opinion to myself. Instead, it’s about recognising that they consider their world views as true and real as I consider mine.

As a coach, would it not be very arrogant to assume that I know how you experience the world? In doing so, I’m making a flawed assumption that you experience it in the same way I do. I can’t assume I know what your world is like for you. Many things are unknowable to me. For example, a male coach working with a female client or vice versa. And now bring in religion, skin colour, nationality, and other ways that fundamentally shape our context. If that wasn’t enough, you could also add in a systemic view: family, education, employers and friends, to name but a few, will further shape and impact our context. Even if we have some things in common, say gender, there will still be as many differences as similarities.

Can I really tell you that I have the solution that will work for you? A tried and tested framework that worked for me and that if you follow these five steps, you’ll live a happier and fulfilled life? Or that because I quit my job and found my passion, I know what you’re going through? If I do, is that coaching, or have I fallen into the role of expert, teacher or mentor?

And that brings us back to this beautiful competency 4.1. Seeking to understand your client within their context isn’t about changing your context or anything that stems from it. Instead, it’s about first recognising and accepting that we have different contexts. Only then can you seek to understand your client’s context in a non-judgemental way.

In respectfully and appropriately asking questions about your client’s context, you’re building trust and demonstrating empathy. You’re also sending out a message that you’re listening. And by setting aside judgement, you are creating a safe space for your client.

And notice just how broad “context” can be. By saying it ‘may include’ things like identity, values, beliefs and so on, it’s also saying that there may be other areas. This also means that there’s a broad array of interventions that a coach can make which will demonstrate this competency. Take a moment and see if you can identify some interventions that might demonstrate this. For example, “What is that like for you?” or “What might that say about who you are?” might be two generic examples.

Outside of coaching, If you want a way to challenge yourself to practise this stance, next time you talk with someone on a divisive issue, rather than argue your viewpoint, ask them questions where you genuinely try to understand where they’re coming from and how is it for them to live with those views. You might notice something exciting if you do!

From the 1st of August 2022, the International Coaching Federation will start assessing all new credential applications against their updated core competencies. At Reflective Coach, we’re pretty excited by the updated competencies as they provide a rich source of exploration and reflection to aid coach development. To celebrate, over the coming weeks and months, we’re going to dive more deeply into our favourite competencies and explore each in more detail.