Last week I took part in a coaching supervision session (something we coaches do to bring and discuss aspects of our coaching practice with other experienced coaches). We spent quite a bit of time thinking about space, which sent this former physicist immediately into a thought train of space-time continuum and parallel universes in one of which I am definitely reclining on a sun-lounger reading whilst people anticipate my every need.
However, back in the world of coaching, space is something I know I really appreciated in the coaching sessions I had when I was an academic. There was definitely a location/physical based space aspect to this – a place which was dedicated to me and the work I was doing on myself, somewhere where I wasn’t going to be interrupted by other things and other people, and somewhere I could feel safe and relax enough to let my brain unwind itself. In fact my coach at the time used the space in the room to get me to move to different physical positions and see things from literally a different perspective.
There was also a mental space aspect – a clearing of other things from my thoughts in order to focus on the coaching work and myself. Thinking about it now, part of this was a “sound space” too – a quietness and stillness – a space from “busy-ness”. Many of us can be uncomfortable with silence, but that space between a question and an answer, between one comment and the next, between a stimulus and a response, can be the most beautiful of things. Brene Brown talked about the importance of creating space in her recent blog announcing a sabbatical, and leaving even a micro gap between a stimulus and a response is often taught in crisis and anger management, habit changing, and difficult conversation training.
It’s tempting to link space to time here, but I think these are two different things. I often say at the start of a coaching session – “This is your time. What would you like to work on today?” I adopted this from a fellow coach because it always made me feel valued. But now I’m noticing that for me, the emphasis on “time” feels more pressurised, and what I’m actually looking for when I’m being coached is space. So maybe it could be “This is your space. Space to think, space to talk, space to be curious. What would you like to work on today?”
As coaches, we often talk about “the coaching space” as something that is co-constructed between coach and coachee. Some spaces are more structured with clear process, some are softer and invite free wandering, some are blank – an open invitation, some are colourful – full of analogy and metaphor. Different coaching spaces have different kinds of energy – there’s no right or wrong here.
If I were to imaging my personal coaching space (as a coachee), it would have some soft structure like a sofa or chairs, as well as windows and a door so that the session is defined in some way, but not rigid in how the session might evolve. There would be a lot of light to “illuminate” the work I am doing, but quite a lot of blank canvas style walls ready for me to create some colour.
What would your space look like?