To look at boundaries in coaching, we have to look at healthy boundaries for humans first. Because no matter how professional your work is, you take your own inner maps for boundaries with you into your session.
Part 1: Boundaries for everyone
Boundaries are life-giving.
When too much of our boundary is severed, we literally cannot live.
Boundaries are life-sustaining.
They define what is within and outside of us, and support our ability to balance what is within and what is outside of us, making sure that we are resourced and can decide when to give and what to give.
Boundaries give clarity.
In behaviour. As Brené Brown says: clear is kind, unclear is unkind.
In understanding sovereignty. If there is no clear boundary to you, it’s hard to decide what you have ‘supreme power’ over (the dictionary definition).
Boundaries come in many shapes & sizes.
State boundaries protected like the Berlin Wall or dotted lines on paper only (Europe these days).
The garden fence between the neighbour and ourself. The hole in the hedge where kids can play with their neighbours.
The near absolute guarantee that a coach or therapist works in confidentiality – except when crisis health intervention is needed or when that coach or therapist shares some anonymised information about a client session in their own supervision.
Personal boundaries like fortresses – with things like an absolute refusal to see someone or speak to someones, do something.
Or personal boundaries like a dance, taking into account the music, the day, the inner resourcefulness, the situation of the dance partner(s).
There is no right or wrong way to do them – the circumstances matter a great deal – and they all have consequences. Plus we can always choose to change them.
What helps to do personal boundaries well?
Be aware of how you would like them to be in this & each moment, giving yourself permission for them to adapt to serve you and your healthy relationships. Grow your ability to notice what you need.
Develop your ability for clear, drama free communication, so that you can share what you need, with some explanation to help people understand but never to justify. And so that you can ask others what they need, with curiosity, and without it meaning that either of you have to provide what the other needs. But you can if you want to. There are always other options.
And nobody will always get what they want.
With boundaries come potential boundary violations
Take action when boundaries are crossed. What kind of action, depends on the situation.
To be very clear: your personal safety always has to be a prime concern. If you are being hurt, emotionally, physically, by staying in a situation, find support and leave the situation. We know from studies on narcism and sexual abuse within relationships that these dynamics start with small boundary violations. This is not to say that every small violations leads to abuse, but it is to say that small violations are as important to pay attention to as bigger ones.
In my book, people that do not show in their actions that they respect you have no place in the inner circles of your life. You can still love them if that is how you feel.
Develop your ability to speak up about boundary violations in a way that is clear and your ability to make clear requests for what you need to see happen.
Develop your ability to walk away if you feel it is needed.
Learn to listen more deeply and understand what happens for the other person.
Develop your ability to stay true to yourself and your inner knowing while being in connection with someone else.
Develop your ability to see what is triggered in you, and what you need to be able to grow without that becoming a reason you stay somewhere or allow something that your intuition tells you ins’t aligned.
Boundary violations can be emotionally messy, they can also be very clear. Which one it is is not 100% within our control, but we can take responsibility for our own state and contribution.
So what does this mean for coaches?
Part 2: Boundaries for coaches, therapists & healers
Your boundaries matter
Our own maps for healthy boundaries are brought into our sessions. You literally cannot not do that. So explore your own ideas about healthy boundaries and realise from part 1 that there is not ever one truth.
Know which boundaries to set in your sessions
As we shared in the prep-work to the Masterclass Boundary Magic in Coaching, it’s your job to create a safe space that supports the work. Having clear contracts & policies in place helps that. So does your time management and addressing when a client keeps being late or reschedules often. Make sure that you charge appropriately so that coaching can be a viable livelihood. Know how to discern who and what you do and don’t want to work with, and know how to communicate this clearly with your clients.
Know how much of yourself to insert in your sessions
In terms of how much of your personal life and personality you wish to share. A ‘not done’ in therapy. A ‘yes, do’ in a lot of online coaching spaces. In Soul-based Coaching we think that being a warm-blooded human being is good, but within the sessions, you do not want to make yourself a focus.
And in terms of how much space you want to create for the magic to unfold. A coach, therapist, healer is by definition an authority figure who can easily sway the client to pay attention to other things than their inner knowing is whispering to them. It takes consistent practice to create a sacred space that does give that breathing space.
A session without crystal clear boundaries easily becomes an entangled messy space with hit-and-miss results for the people you want to support.
The practices we did in the Masterclass Boundary Magic in Coaching help you expand your ability to do so:
1. Holding Space
Being fully present, with compassion, witnessing and receiving the other’s experience, without interfering, so that the flow of Shakti, of life energy is restored and healing and transformation happen.
We practice with 6 guiding principles for Holding Space within 1:1 sessions in Soul-based Coaching:
We let go of outcome
We let go of judgment
We open our heart and connect
We stay present
We have deep trust
We step in where we feel it’s not serving them
To learn more, download your free ebook here.
2. Asking Clean Language Questions
These questions were developed by New-Zealand psychotherapist David Grove in the 1980s. As he was working with trauma survivors (childhood sexual abuse and war trauma), he noticed that his clients would start to speak in metaphor when they came closer to reliving their traumatic experiences. He wondered: ‘What if these metaphors are a function of a well-functioning human being?’, and from there on started to experiment with his questioning, so that only a minimum amount of interference from the therapist was possible. It was a golden insight, because that is how he found out about the incredible healing power that is hidden in these client-generated metaphors (another part of the Soul-based Coaching toolkit).
Here are some of his questions to start practising with:
- And what kind of … is that …? (for example: And what kind of ‘rose’ is that ‘rose’?)
- And is there anything else about …? (And is there anything else about ‘garden fence’?)
- And where is …? (And where is ‘red’?)
- And what would you like to have happen? (to invite the client’s Desired Outcome)
They may look strange, but don’t be fooled by appearances. They are very powerful.
If you want to experience their magic in action, join us for our free workshops.