For Stronger Client Relationships, Deepen Your Self-Intimacy
Some coaches and consultants seem to effortlessly connect with their clients, while others struggle to move the relationship beyond the transactional level. While experience and strategies developed over time are important, the biggest differentiator often is the level of ease and awareness of themselves. Those who form strong client relationships — and often gain repeat business in the process — have higher levels of their self-intimacy.
Self-intimacy, defined here as a mature, open, and compassionate relationship cultivated with yourself, is the cornerstone for deepening your connection with others. The greater your self-intimacy, the greater your presence and the deeper you can connect with others.
So if you’re wondering how to build strong client relationships, the first step may be to look in the mirror. In the sections below, we’ll explore how you can get started. In the tumultuous world in which we live, clients are less interested in bright and shiny tools and more interested in trusting relationships with self-aware practitioners they can count on.
Understanding and Cultivating Self-Intimacy
The journey toward building strong client relationships begins with cultivating self-intimacy. An expansive experience of self-awareness and self-compassion, it requires you to dive deep into your inner landscape. It raises essential questions such as,
- How well do you know yourself?
- How comfortable are you with who you are?
- How well do you care for yourself and your needs?
- How committed are you to your own inner work?
Self-intimacy is foundational. We can only connect as deeply with others as we are connected with ourselves, and vice versa. Once you've started to foster this deep relationship with yourself, the next step towards forming stronger client relationships is learning to inclusively surrender.
Inclusive surrender is a willingness to fully engage in the present moment, welcoming all that is present and all that unfolds. This surrender isn't about loss or defeat but about consciously leaning into the unknown, releasing control, and noticing what is being called for.
Inclusive surrender invites you to accommodate both yourself and your clients in the moment, acknowledging your distinct identities while also consciously embracing the shared experience. Inclusive surrender moves you out of the driver’s seat to walk alongside your clients to help them discover what is next on their journey and what is calling them now.
Transitioning from 'I' to 'We': Intimacy in Coaching Relationships
Moving a client relationship beyond a transactional interaction to a shared journey of discovery requires intimacy. This transition necessitates a shift from the individual identities of 'I' and 'you' to the collective 'us.' It is an improvisational ‘yes, and’ where 1+1 = 3.
Standing at a threshold of change often leaves clients feeling vulnerable and perhaps afraid, which may postpone their growth. At these moments, the intimate safety net of 'us' is often needed for the client to feel ready to move forward.
Creating 'us' involves a delicate balance, where you truly see your client without sacrificing self-awareness or asserting your need to control the moment. ‘Us’ involves seeing your client and their current reality as they are, creating a safe and open space for your relationship to evolve, and staying radically present to the moment as it unfolds. When you do this, your client will recognize the safe space you’ve supported and is more likely to take the next courageous steps. A sustained sense of 'us' will evolve into a sense of a 'we' identity in time.
The "We" Identity: A Catalyst for Sustainable Growth
The essence of an effective coaching relationship lies in the transformation from the individual identities of 'I' and 'you' to a collective ‘us' and ultimately to ‘we.’ ‘Us’ is between you and me; ‘We’ is how our relationship moves forward in the world.
This 'we' identity signifies a shared understanding and mutual growth. The mutual respect and understanding within the 'we' space allow the coach and client to delve deeper through moments of meeting where each of them is being asked to step into a higher level of the working relationship. By embracing the 'we' identity, coaches can tap into a potent catalyst for sustainable growth and transformation.
The Invitation to Intimacy
True intimacy relies on radical presence and inclusive surrender. As you surrender to the process, releasing preconceived notions and control, you will drop into a more profound presence and strengthen your ability to fully engage with the person before you.
The invitation here is not just to enhance your coaching practice but also to embark on a journey of personal growth. Deepening self-intimacy can enrich your life, broaden your perspective, and amplify your capacity to contribute positively to the lives of others.
Will you accept the invitation?