“Being with” and/or “doing with”

I’ve just come off a podcast interview with the highly influential Prof. Jonathan Passmore.

Too much in that conversation to summarise in a nugget, but one thing that stuck out for me, which ties in with my passion for existential coaching and my recent musings on AI developments:

When coaches start out, their focus tends to be on getting things done, with and for clients. Even as coaches develop and mature, they’re often eager to gather effective tools and interventions to accelerate their clients’ development or expand their awareness. Passmore himself, with a number of his colleagues, published a whole book with coaching tools (which I was honoured to be invited to contribute a chapter towards).

Tools help us when we’re in “doing with” mode. And there’s no doubt that they can really do the trick for clients. “Being with” is harder to fathom and quantify, hence more difficult to research, and more challenging to teach.

Being with someone is not just “being there”, at the same time in the same space. It’s offering your full presence, holding space, meeting the other with empathy, positive regard and congruence. It means not to judge, push, pull, advice, rescue, analyse or interpret. It’s simply being with the other person as they are navigating their world. The only thing you dowhen you’re with someone in this way, is to resist the urge to do something – to interrupt, save, guide, intervene, or ask a “powerful question”.

The existential coaching space has “being with” as its foundation, and (combined with a believe and mindset that the client has access to their own solutions) often that’s all it takes for someone to progress or figure things out.

The “doing with” part can be an excellent combination. And the interplay between being with and doing with makes for a powerful catalyst.

My hypothesis is that AI will cover a lot of the “doing with” going forward, probably more effectively than most human coaches. Jonathan sees in it the potential to truly democratize coaching, to make it available to all people with access to the internet, at near zero cost.

But I reckon that more and more people will be craving the experience of “being with”, with a coach who’s trained to hold space for them in the way described above. I can’t really see AI catching up with that, and I think it’ll have huge implications for all helping-by-talking industries.

I’m tempted to leave you with a question. Instead I’d love to hear what question(s) you’re left with!?


New content: Exploring Coaching Mastery


Dr. D is quite the character! And a masterful coach! Back in 2020 I had invited him to run a module for the ACIC, and last year he was my guest in the Coaching Lab. I was happy to see him scheduled in for Animas’s Coaching Uncaged podcast and this week his episode got released during which we talk about what makes a masterful coach, and I also got to finally ask him what’s the deal with the dozens of certificates and diplomas that spread throughout his Zoom background (and apparently even further through his house). Everytime we chat it’s been great fun and super interesting, so I reckon you’ll enjoy this one! 

You can watch and/or listen to this episode.