Research Paper By Daria Kral
(Life and Relationship Coach, GERMANY)
Trust plays a central role in coaching.
What is trust? “Trust is choosing to make something important to you, vulnerable to the than actions of someone else “What is distrust? “What I have shared with you that is important to me is not safe with you” (Charles Feltman)
BRAVING Connection: Trust is a big word, but often it slips quite easily over our lips “I trust you”, ”I don’t trust you” or “you can trust me”. It takes a fair amount of courage and vulnerability to truly trust somebody or that someone else feels that we are worthy of it.
Understanding what trust means is significant in our day-to-day life just as in coaching. For us coaches it is essential to create a trusting relationship where the client can open up and together establish a space of growth. Through our support and challenging their beliefs and perspectives the client can come to a place of awareness and accomplishments.
Brene Brown is an admired and recognized researcher and public speaker. In her teachings, she speaks about “BRAVING”. It is an acronym for Boundaries, Reliability, Accountability, Vault (confidentiality), Integrity, Non-judgment, and Generosity. It explains and breaks down what trust truly means.
B – Boundaries – I trust you if you are clear about your boundaries and you hold them and you’re clear about my boundaries and you respect them –
Boundaries are necessary for creating any kind of healthy relationship in one’s life. It supports building a positive self-image and self-respect and minimizes the chance of stress, confusion, anxiety, and other negative feelings and emotions. By setting clear boundaries is a protection of our own being, through creating a line between what is representing me as a person and being and what is not.
We as coaches create the first boundaries in our contract where we clarify what we offer and whatnot, what we as a coach are expected to bring to the session as well as what the client brings to the session.
The absence of boundaries creates for others the opportunity to influence and determine our thoughts, feelings, and needs. As a coach, we might very easily fall into the savor or helper mode, where it isn’t anymore about the client to find the answers by their own strength and pace but ourselves by making the client co-depending through leading them in a direction where we might think that’s the best for them and make them feel grateful for us. By creating clear boundaries we determine what behaviors are acceptable as a coach and for the client and what not.
There are two types of boundaries:
Physical – my body, personal space, and privacy. Violation is physically too close, inappropriate touch, looking through the phone
Emotional – separation of own feelings from others. Violation is taking responsibility for another’s feelings, sacrificing your own needs to please others.
As coaches, we can sometimes lose objectivity by the story of our clients because we see ourselves in the client or had a familiar situation in our life. We mix our own feelings with the feelings of the client and in the end, may also feel responsible for their emotions.
Clear and strong boundaries protect our identity as individuals being with the right to make our own choices. We are in charge of protecting our boundaries and it is sometimes difficult to identify when these are being crossed.
A good way to identify if boundaries are crossed when we feel resentment, stress, anxiety, guilt, fear, and discomfort. We can also ask ourselves these questions: I can’t make my own decisions, I can’t ask for what I need, I can’t say no, I feel responsible for other’s feelings, I’m resentful around that person.
R – Reliability – I can only trust you if you do what you say you’re going to do –
To put it simply, being reliable means that we do what we are saying. The words are aligned with the actions. Someone who keeps their word with the small things will be trusted with the big stuff. If we are not reliable to ourselves or others, we will know it and feel it. We feel like we don’t have control over our behavior and maybe ultimately our life. Missing deadlines, last-minute rescheduling, making promises that we can’t keep, and being known for always the one who is late can harm our personal and professional life.
It is super important to be very specific about what is the expectation of ourselves, from others, or both and the intention behind it. With this, it gets harder to make an excuse for it. This is again a very essential quality as a coach and we need to understand and be clear if we as coaches are reliable to our client or not. How can we be unreliable in our private life but reliable in our job as a coach? Are we showing up at the right time or 5 minutes later than agreed? We promise to send some material regarding the session we had with a client, are we sending it? We need to prepare material for a session with a client but do it just right before meeting with him/her/them, which might create stress and frustration and go with these feelings into the session. It might help to set appointments and tasks in the calendar so that we are reminded of what needs to be done. We need to understand the specific intention of a task, assignment, or appointment to hit the goal we are setting for ourselves or others.
To be reliable means setting specific targets to hit. Reliability means precision.
A – Accountability – I can only trust you if when you make a mistake you are willing to own it apologize for it and make amends. I can only trust you if when I make a mistake I’m allowed to own it, apologize and make amends –
Accountability is often associated with negative feelings because there is this belief that admitting a mistake has been made, the feeling of judgment or/and failure might arise. But it is more than that.
True accountability is completely owning everything that occurs in our life.
It means you understand that you are responsible for your attitude, actions, reactions, teamwork, communication, and relationships. It also means you hold others accountable for the commitments and effort they give forth
Accountability leads from dishonesty to honesty, from trying to commitment, from pity to compassion, and so on. Kerry Siggins has shared a view examples when we are accountable in a situation and when no. I wanted to take the opportunity to share some of my own relating to coaching.
A client shares that they didn’t like an exercise or tool we provided them and shares their frustration:
How to be accountable in this situation: Say thank you for the feedback and ask more questions about what caused this frustration or what the clients would need now and how he/she/they would like to move forward.
How to not be accountable in this situation: Getting defensive, making the excuse that these exercises/tools helped already so many other clients.
We had a difficult start in the morning and everything seems like it could go wrong. We feel like slipping into irritation and getting saucy with others before our first session with a client. What should we do?
How to be accountable in this situation: We go out for a walk (walk the blues away) and get some fresh air. Reflection on what was so upsetting and communicated that with the people in our life. We do a meditation, a gratitude list, or something that supports us to get in a space of presence.
How to not be accountable in this situation: We let ourselves fall into an unpleasant mood and make up the excuse that “everyone in a while has a bad day, so what?” We are anyway miserable because of the incompetence of people around us. In the end, we go with this attitude into the session with a client. In this state of mind, it is so much harder to be present for our client.
To be accountable might be at times challenging and sometimes a painful process but in the end, we empower ourselves and we build trust, clearing up issues, and developing a deeper understanding and relationships with ourselves, family, people around us, and clients. Choosing to stay positive and owning our attitude helps to see the opportunities rather than the challenges.
Of course, we could also be the victim of circumstances and giving our power away to change the situation and finding solutions for our issues. It gives us the excuse to have a poor attitude that creates poor relationships and it nags on our self-esteem.
We need to choose every day if we want to be empowered to live a happy life or be a victim and live in pity.
V – Vault (confidentiality) – what I share with you, you will hold in confidence. What you share with me I will hold in confidence
Being given something in confidence means that there is a trust that it will be kept secret. There are different aspects where confidentiality plays a role in coaching. One of them is the coaching space itself. Whatever is shared, discussed, or talked about in a session is confidential. Some types of information are protected by law, including personal information. General Data Protection Regulation sort GDPR, is a good guideline for that. Sharing information or gossip about a client is not just unethical but it could also expose us to legal actions.
Let me give some examples: one of our clients is a lawyer, a good friend of ours needs a lawyer and we pass on his contacts without his consent. We give a seminar/webinar and give an example of an experience we had with a client and using that client’s name. It can get back to us and ruin our reputation. One of the things clients are paying us for is confidentiality.
What would be appropriate in these examples I gave: Ask the client for permission to share the contact information with a friend that needs a lawyer. Before using a client’s story and progress we need to seek permission and might use another name and change up the sorry a little bit.
We as coaches need to create a space of trust and intimacy with the client. We can take the saying “Do as you would be done by” as a guiding principle for confidentiality. To put ourselves in the position of the client can help to consider how we might feel in a situation where our personal information is handled.
I – Integrity – Choosing courage over comfort, choosing what’s right over what’s fun, fast, or easy, and practicing your values not just professing your values.
A person of integrity stays true to oneself and their values and beliefs. They constantly strive to stay in ethical standards and do the right thing in any given circumstances.
The values and principles of a person of integrity define what that person will do or say in any situation. They consciously focus their behavior on the understanding of what is rightful and false. Authenticity is the core of integrity. Their inner character stays stable despite any outward situations.
Honesty is a quality included in integrity, but we need to keep in mind that there is a need for inner commitment to be reliable and communicate the truth without dilution.
A person of integrity is not hypocritical nor two-faced.
They don’t declare to be perfect rather recognize their own flaws and mistakes. Their truthfulness comes from a place of wanting to do what is right even if it can be unpleasant. In times of difficulties and challenges is the integrity put to test.
What makes integrity important?
Our behavior and actions reflect our character and values, which build our reputation. They don’t have anything to hide because integrity doesn’t compromise or cheat.
It gives us a sense of peace because we don’t start second-guessing our decisions.
What does integrity look like in coaching?
- A client transferred more money than agreed. We contact the client and make him aware of the situation and either transfer the excess money back or put it as a credit for the next session.
- Not gossip or talk badly about a client or anybody.
- To keep promises to the client or anyone, even it takes extra effort.
- When we have a sensation that we can’t support a client in the way they need, we communicate that to the client and refer him to another coach or even therapist.
What is the opposite of integrity?
A contrast to integrity is hypocrisy. When someone agrees to something they don’t agree with, make others believe they value something that they are not, or pretend to be someone or something they are not, are a hypocrite. Their true beliefs and values aren’t aligned with their actions and words. Hypocrisy is hurtful and damaging because it comes from a lie.
What is the reason that a person would do that?
There are many reasons, so perhaps they want us to think better of them or maybe they want to cover up the truth because it is shameful for them. In any way, as said already hypocrisy is hurtful and can damage trust because its dishonesty origin comes from a lie.
If we notice that we are about to do something hypocritical in a situation, we need to stop and ask ourselves what we want to achieve with it. Is the desired action in order with our beliefs and values, and rightful and good? By getting aware of it and wanting to understand what might be good values and supportive beliefs or learn what needs to be changed or improved in our behavior to stay in integrity, we can develop into a more trustworthy and whole person with a clear conscience and good relationships.
Choose to live in integrity by clarifying your values and beliefs. Evaluate your words and actions to see what needs to change so you can more consistently express those inner commitments.-
N – Non-Judgment – I can fall apart ask for help and be in struggle without being judged by you and you can fall apart be in struggle and ask for help without being judged by me –
To accept people for who they are even if we don’t agree we need non-judgmental behavior. By a non-judgmental attitude, we take away our own biases and create a space of acceptance. This attitude is shown in our actions, body language, words, facial expressions, and choices. We as coaches are observers of what the client brings to the table, it’s not up to us to say what is right or wrong. We are there to support the client to figure it out themselves. By observing our internal reaction we are more likely to understand and empathize with than judge or evaluate other people.
This is the great thing about coaching, we don’t have to “FIX” anybody and we don’t need to have an answer to the questions the clients have. If we come into the place of fixing we judge. We might think we know exactly what to do in this situation because we have experience in this particular situation or topic that the client brings to the session. We compare ourselves to them because we might have the impression we know more. This is not our position.
We need to develop an empathic approach to become non-judgmental towards people. We can start by learning to ask ourselves non-judgmental questions and observe and then ask others. It is necessary to first clear up our minds by taking our knowledge, biases, and experience aside.
Requests for ourselves:
- What is my bias concerning the present situation?
- What are my experiences related to the present situation?
- So what am I observing now?
Observing our feeling in the present situation
- What am I feeling at this moment when observing this situation?
- Am I emotionally disturbed now?
Identifying our feelings before reacting to another person
We can handle our feelings or express them only if we have been able to identify them. To understand another person’s feelings and needs through identifying them we need first to be clear about our own. For that, we use questions and reframing to understand their clear points and support them that they understand themselves.
G – Generosity – Our relationship is only a trusting relationship if you can assume the most generous thing about my words, intentions, and behaviors and then check in with me –
If we were able to make the most generous assumption about people’s behavior, intentions, and words, what would the world look like? It might sound simple and even easy but being in relationships with people like family, friends, coworkers, and strangers, is one of the most challenging tasks. What if a car cuts us off in the morning traffic – to assume they were rushing to their child’s performance in school, would we feel different about it? What about the insulting comment from our sibling, can we assume that came from a place of feeling isolated and left out?
That coworker who is always so serious and upset about things maybe is feeling overwhelmed and powerless in their private or work life. Nonetheless, having a generous assumption or compassionate reaction in any given situation is a choice and requires mindfulness.
We need to be in the moment, aware of our feelings to be compassionate and generous. Each of us experiences a situation different from any other person. We might grow up with a sibling that experiences growing up in the same household is completely different from our own. To be mindful of the fact that each one of us is facing our unique reality. If we are reactive or responsive to the urge is up to us to be mindful about it. By taking a balcony view or stepping out and not reacting is a way to practice mindfulness. This is helpful to make a generous assumption.
This mindfulness and taking the balcony view is also very helpful in coaching. It gives us the ability to see what the client might not be able to see because of the reaction mode. In the coaching session, the client comes with a topic or issue but as often revealed it’s not about the story but the feelings behind it. By making generous assumptions, being mindful, and reminding everyone is doing their best they can, we support the client to get to a place of awareness and accomplishments.
We all had challenges at some point in our private or professional life with trust. By being able to break down trust in different areas we can see and experience where we need to work to build trust. We can talk about it and be specific on what is and what is not working about building trust. What we might often forget is that when our trust is broken, experience failure or disappointment, we feel like we can’t trust ourselves anymore. “Why was I so stupid…?”. How can we trust others or be trustworthy without trusting ourselves? The great thing about BRAVING is that it supports us in our self-love and self-trust. This is important for us as coaches to create this self-trust and therefore establish an atmosphere of trust for the client.
“When we trust, we are BRAVING connection with someone.” (B. Brown) which makes the point that trust plays a central role in every coaching session.
Dr. Brené Brown: The Anatomy of Trust | Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations
Charles Feltman: The Thin Book of Trust: An Essential Primer for Building Trust at Work