If the thought of “intimacy” in coaching raises questions for you, it’s no wonder. There’s not much published on exploring intimacy outside of primary, romantic relationships. But intimacy not only has a place in coaching, it’s essential as a cornerstone for the learning that leads to sustained change.
As a baseline for this conversation, here’s what I mean by “intimacy.” It’s the closeness that occurs between two people when both are present in the moment and are comfortable in being seen (or heard) fully. Intimacy springs from deep connection, beginning with connection with Self.
One school of thought suggests there are different types of intimacy:
- Intellectual intimacy which occurs when people connect through shared thinking. (Book club members)
- Experiential intimacy which shows up when people share an activity. (Sports fans.)
- Emotional intimacy which results when people are willing to be vulnerable and authentic with each other.
- And of course, that old favorite, which many people associate exclusively with the word “intimacy” – sexual intimacy.
In a world filled with people yearning for deeper connection, I believe we’re feeling a collective call to evolve more into emotional intimacy, to expand our capacity to be fully, authentically present with each other.
You may find, like me, intellectual or experiential intimacy alone does not stand the test of time the way emotional intimacy does. On the January 16th H&S call, I shared my realization that the intimacy and connection I had experienced with a family friend for 45 years has shifted. Most likely this is because I have changed and no longer operate from the same thinking and cultural connections that formed a bond with this friend in the late 1960’s.
I’ve changed. And I require a different kind of connection now in order to experience sustainable intimacy with others.
Here’s where this connects to coaching: In coaching, you support your clients with making the changes they want, right? And – let’s acknowledge – most coaches I know aren’t exactly standing still in their own evolution. In fact, the moment you stepped on this path called coaching, I believe you upped the ante in your own personal growth.
The funny thing about intimacy is this: As you grow and change, those who aren’t growing and changing in the same way will fall away from your life unless you have the depth of intimacy that withstands those changes. The resilience nurtured by emotional intimacy.
Clients will disappear if you grow in a direction different from them, IF you do not have a depth of connection based in emotional intimacy.
They will fall away from coaching if/when there’s not a resilience in your connection that will withstand resistance when it shows up. And it will show up.
Emotional intimacy is essential in order for relationships to continue to thrive and grow over time, and to support those in the relationship to thrive and grow.
When you as a coach create the space for deeper connection, you are more likely to remain present in the moment to acknowledge whatever is there for the client (especially what the client has not yet articulated for her/himself). In so doing, you invite your client to be present with and for her/himself and acknowledge what is there. In other words, become more intimate with Self.
When this occurs, learning can occur more deeply, quickly and sustainably. When learning can occur, lives can change. And when lives can change, the world changes. And in the end, isn’t that what we’re all about?
If you like this article, you’ll find more on this topic including examples of how intimacy shows up in coaching, in the recording of the January 16th Heart and Soul of Coaching call. Register here to gain access to the recording. (If you’re already a member of the H&S community, refer to the email sent to you after each month’s call for direct access to the audio for that month.)
May your coaching this year be joyfully and profitably intimate, and may you serve as a gracefully powerful invitation to your clients to experience true intimacy with themselves!