The Role Of Empathy In Coaching: How To Build Stronger Connections With Clients

May 11, 2023

As a coach, you have a unique opportunity to guide and support your clients in achieving their goals. To do so effectively, you need to establish a strong connection with them and understand their perspective. This is where empathy comes in. In this blog post, we will explore the role of empathy in coaching and provide tips on how to build stronger connections with your clients.

What is empathy?

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. It involves putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and seeing the world from their perspective. Empathy is not the same as sympathy, which involves feeling sorry for someone. Instead, empathy is about understanding someone’s emotions and being able to relate to them.

Why is empathy important in coaching?

Empathy is a crucial skill for coaches to possess because it allows them to create a safe and supportive environment for their clients. When coaches demonstrate empathy, they are able to show their clients that they genuinely care about their feelings and perspectives. This creates a sense of trust and rapport that is essential for effective coaching.

For example, imagine a client who is struggling with a difficult decision at work. As their coach, you may be tempted to jump in and offer advice right away. However, by taking a moment to empathize with your client’s situation, you can better understand their underlying concerns and motivations. You might ask questions like “How are you feeling about this decision?” or “What do you think is the most important factor to consider here?” By doing so, you demonstrate your willingness to listen and understand your client’s perspective.

Furthermore, empathy helps coaches tailor their approach to meet the specific needs of each individual client. Different clients may respond better to different coaching techniques or styles, and by understanding their unique motivations and challenges, coaches can adapt their approach accordingly. This helps create a more personalized coaching experience that is more likely to yield positive results.

Overall, empathy is a critical component of effective coaching because it enables coaches to build strong relationships with their clients, understand their needs and goals, and tailor their coaching approach to meet those needs.

How to build empathy with clients

Building empathy with clients is not always easy, but it is an essential skill for coaches. Here are some tips on how to build empathy with your clients:

  1. Listen actively

Active listening is the foundation of empathy. When you listen actively, you focus on what your client is saying, both verbally and nonverbally. You pay attention to their tone of voice, body language, and emotions. Active listening shows your clients that you care about their concerns and are interested in their perspectives.

  1. Ask open-ended questions

Open-ended questions encourage your clients to share more information about their thoughts and feelings. They also show that you are interested in their perspective and are willing to listen. 

Open-ended questions typically begin with “what,” “how,” or “why” and encourage your clients to provide more detailed answers.

  1. Reflect on what you hear

Reflection is a powerful tool for building empathy. When you reflect on what your clients say, you show that you are listening and trying to understand their perspective. 

Reflection can also help you clarify your clients’ goals and motivations, which enables you to provide more effective coaching.

  1. Practice empathy exercises

Practicing empathy exercises can help you develop your empathy skills. For example, you can try putting yourself in your clients’ shoes and imagining how they might be feeling.

 You can also practice active listening with a friend or family member to improve your skills.

  1. Be authentic

Authenticity is key to building empathy. When you are genuine and authentic, your clients are more likely to trust you and be open with you. 

Be honest about your own experiences and perspectives, and be willing to share them with your clients.

  1. Use positive language

Positive language can help build empathy by showing that you are supportive and encouraging. 

Avoid negative language or criticism, as this can create a barrier between you and your clients.

  1. Show empathy in action

Finally, it is important to show empathy in action. This means taking action to support your clients and help them achieve their goals.

For example, you might provide resources or referrals, offer encouragement, or provide feedback.


Empathy is an essential skill for coaches who want to build strong connections with their clients. By listening actively, asking open-ended questions, reflecting on what you hear, practicing empathy exercises, being authentic, using positive language, and showing empathy in action, you can develop your empathy skills and provide more effective coaching.

Remember that empathy is not just about feeling sorry for someone; it is about understanding and sharing their emotions and perspectives. 

With practice and effort, you can build stronger connections with your clients and help them achieve their goals.

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Andi Perullo de Ledesma

I am Andi Perullo de Ledesma, a Chinese Medicine Doctor and Travel Photojournalist in Charlotte, NC. I am also wife to Lucas and mother to Joaquín. Follow us as we explore life and the world one beautiful adventure at a time.

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