Compassion in Practice


It’s rare that I have any real contact with a homeless person. I live in a big city so it’s not (tragically) unusual to see someone sleeping rough. But not so close to home. I never expected a 3 day stay to have a powerful effect on my life. Ironically, she started out sleeping almost on my doorstop but I had no idea. Until my dogs demanded to go out ridiculous early. Then all four of us got the shock of our lives. A day or so later on (on a late night dog walk) I saw her again, sleeping outside my local church. I reached out to someone I knew in the church who’d be able to help her, rather than just move her on. I saw her again the morning and it was miserable weather – cold and wet so I made her  hot drink to at least warm her up. I’m not proud to say I had a bit of an internal struggle over this simple act. Like I said, I’m a city girl and the rule of survival with strangers is you don’t get involved. You don’t engage, it’s not safe. My humanity won out and that was that. Or so I thought.

Turns out the Church already knew about her and were doing everything than could to help her get off the streets and under a safe roof. But it was holiday time and volunteer services were stretched thin. They asked us to pray. We did. And so this went on for 3 days over the holiday weekend. With all of us thinking, the weather’s changing into winter and its just not safe for a woman to be on the streets. A safe roof over her head and chance to get on her feet is what she needs. Then the answer to those prayers came. They were genuine in their desire to help. Problem? She didn’t want to be helped. Colourful language was pulled into play and her knowledge of her legal rights came to the fore. I was shocked. Why would you want to be on the streets? I don’t know. I don’t know that she did but she also didn’t want help. There’s a deeper story there and like all of us she is protecting herself the best way she knows how too.

The coaching moral of this story?  

People have to want to be helped. Or coached. They have to be ready. They have to want to change. Not “oh that sounds interesting” ready but “ this must change” ready.

You cannot do the work for them. It’s not about you. It’s about them. They need to be prepared to do the work for themselves.

The maxim when the student is ready the teacher appears is true for coaches too but;

  • It doesn’t mean the first time they find you they are ready to do the work.

  • You go onto their radar so they know where to find you when they are ready.

  • Your role may be to act as trigger for them to go deeper either by themselves or with you.

  • It may be for you to look at you (your clients are your teachers too).

  • They may also run the other way as fast as possible. It’s still not about you.

The bigger the change, the bigger the fear…until there is no other option.

Rock bottom. Always? Yes, actually. What rock bottom looks like is different for everyone. Sometimes it appears as a Fresh Start but for the new beginning something had to end. Depending on your niche, you may meet them at the bottom, desperately trying to do a U-turn or on the way back up. Gabby Bernstein said “you can’t deprive anyone of their bottom” and she’s right. They have to get their themselves. When they are ready, they will find what they need.

When a prospective client doesn’t sign-up or doesn’t get back to you and you’ve done everything you can:

  • They may not be ready. Your job is to be there when they are.

  • You may not be their person. You are not here for everyone. Let them go with love.

When a client doesn’t do the work:

  • Don’t get stuck on the behaviour, look deeper; what’s being triggered? Are they truly ready to do the work? Are they all in?

  • Ask them: How is not doing the work serving them?

  • Ask yourself: How can you meet them where they are now?

  • Remember: They don’t need you to be their best friend, they need you to hold the vision of what’s possible for them, with them. Sometimes, that’s uncomfortable.

  • Stand in your power and serve them powerfully. Sometimes that means (compassionately) calling them out. Enabling them to stay stuck is not serving them. Empower them to stand for what they want instead.

True story, one of my coaches recently told me it was time to cut the crap about 5 minutes into a session. Yes, I was taken aback. But. It made me think. She was right, I was stuck in an old story. By holding the mirror up, she empowered me to see the truth and choose to make changes. She stood for my higher self and served me powerfully. I’m still grateful. And planning to sign up for her longer-term offer.

We have a relationship where she can call BS and I can receive it. That’s not for everyone. If you are planning to call someone out on their behaviour, think about how to can frame it so they can receive it. (What I’m hearing is… Let me reflect back to you….I’m going to challenge this…etc)

In all cases practice compassion for your clients; they are doing the best they can with the awareness they have at the moment.

And remember, you’re someone’s client. Self-compassion would be good too.

RecipesAmy Biondini