Coaching with Nonviolence

I recently joined the inspiring Simon Cavicchia and Helen-Jane Ridgeway on their two day masterclass: Coaching with the Body in Mind. The course drew on Hakomi (Ron Kurtz) and a Hakomi-based technique, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy (Pat Ogden).

Hakomi integrates elements of systems theory, body-centred therapies, and Eastern philosophies, and is founded on five core principles: mindfulness, nonviolence, mind-body integration, unity, and organicity.

Green fieldThe concept of nonviolence is both powerful and intriguing in the context of a coaching relationship. And it is something which I understand as implicit within my coaching practice, but without the explicit label.

I am familiar with nonviolence (Sanskrit: ahimsa) through yoga philosophy; but how does it manifest in a coaching context, and to what extent is it congruent with my coaching principles, one of which is challenge? How does challenge emerge from a place of nonviolence?

According to Kurtz, ‘To work nonviolently, we must drop notions about making clients change and, along with that, any tendency to take credit for their success’. Applied to a coaching context this speaks to me of the coach as enabler, and the importance of non-attachment to the client’s outcomes.

Nonviolence does not mean passivity; it is an active choice. It means an absence of force: cognitive, emotional, or physical. It means collaboration and invitation. And it means respect for a client’s dignity and wellbeing, privacy, and boundaries.

From my own perspective as coach, challenge must always be introduced with sensitivity, with support, with permission, and in the service of the client. It operates at – but not beyond – the client’s edges, and explores resistance with curiosity alongside the client.

So when a client asks for challenge, I know that I can meet their request while honouring my commitment to ahimsa… remembering that ultimately it is the client’s perception and interpretation of the relationship, over and above the coach’s intention, that determines whether their sense of self has been preserved.

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