What A Client Is *NOT* Looking For From a Coach
When I travel to new places I always go out wandering the streets, exploring. After many turns right and left, following intriguing alleys, browsing through exciting shops and restaurants, I sometimes come to the realisation that - I have lost my way. I don’t know how to get back. I’ll probably stop someone to ask for directions. I certainly don’t expect the person to tell me: “You should have taken a map. Next time it would be best if you don’t venture too far from your hotel”.
Not only would it be rude and extremely belittling, it would also prove highly distressing and not at all helpful.
What makes us feel safe
When we feel we somehow got lost in the geography of our life we look for help through coaching or therapy.
There were times we were happy but we lost it and don’t know how to get back. We were satisfied but something happened and we can’t go back there anymore. We started with a clear idea of where we want to head to, but on the way there we lost our bearings and now we don’t know how to move forward. Think for a moment: what is it that you’re really looking for from a coach/therapist? As a coach, the best thing I can do to help people is to empower their autonomy and love them for who they are. In other words - what we really need is to feel safe. When we don’t feel safe in the coaching/therapy room we hide what we really feel, hide what we really yearn for, hide our authenticity, and with that the path to realigning our life is hidden from us too. Poor and rich forms of help If the subject of the conversation is not so precious to your heart, if you’re not in a vulnerable place, then perhaps for you another person’s opinions will be like water off a duck's back. When it comes to opening our heart and our life’s most precious rooms, we need someone who can park their own opinions and be there for us like an open map showing all the many possible routes to where we want to be. Rather than sharing opinions, which tend to be quite narrow and inflexible, I share with my clients different perspectives they might not have seen up to that point. That can raise their curiosity to explore, expand their own way of seeing a particular event and strengthen their autonomy in life.
Isabelle (fake name) told me how her therapist expressed her personal opinions about the stories Isabelle was sharing with her. It made Isabelle feel very uncomfortable. It made her feel she’s not talking to her therapist but to her mother (and who wants to have therapy with their mother ?!).
and her therapist’s opinion certainly didn’t serve that purpose. So Isabelle decided to stop the therapy. Once she shared her decision, the therapist expressed her opinion, once again, without being asked for it, that Isabelle should probably, nevertheless come for few more sessions.feel accepted, Isabelle was looking to didn’t know exactly what she was looking forEven if she
As a coach/therapist you might have in mind a destination for your client, but if that destination is different than theirs you’ll just have to stop and give it a rest. No means NO! As a coach you might see what your client cannot see. You might know something they don’t know. But that doesn’t make it Truth. It’s a perspective.
Sometimes not knowing is the best medicine we can have. Because we might not be ripe yet to learn what is there to be known. Sometimes you head for the view from the top of the Alps but your client is not fit to get there and just needs to stop at the chalet to have a cup of hot chocolate and a rest. Digest. Recuperate before continuing with the journey. Are you going to try convince them they need something else? We may not know what the end result might have been if we had just stuck with those coaching sessions, that therapy, that course, but when we sense we have had enough for the time being - it is a powerful knowing to appreciate and respect. Honesty is the best coaching and healing tool. If you have a different destination in mind for a client, be clear about it. Tell them what their destination is, what yours is, what the difference between the two is - and let them make an educated call. But when they say no - they mean no. Someone actually mocking you for not knowing is going to hurt. But to have what you DO know or even just sense and intuit dismissed by your coach/therapist will create real damage to your sense of autonomy, to your capacity to love yourself and to your ability to grow from the situation. There’s no room for opinions in the coaching/therapy room! I have plenty of opinions! If you ask me for my opinion I’ll probably have one for anything you ask about- even on topics I know close to nothing about. That’s the nature of opinions. When I’m coaching, I know that my opinions are mine. To keep. To make art from. But not to share in a session. What really empowers people
‘Self-knowledge is the best medicine’ is my favourite home-made saying. You can learn a lot of tools and ways leading to self-knowledge. I listen to the language that my client uses to speak about themselves to describe situations. I share with them how a certain kind of language makes an impression about how they look at themselves. And also how a different kind of language may reflect a different state of mind that is closer to the way they want to feel about themselves.
Perspectives offer options.
Other times I’ll share a personal story or an anecdote from similar experiences to allow them to step out of their own story and look at it from outside. But mostly what I do is opening a new space for a potential by finding with them where their real starting point is! Starting from the start Frost’s poem “the road not taken’ has been dear to my heart for years. We can so easily build temples to lament what hasn’t happened or what could have happened, to get lost in thinking over choices not chosen.
Most of us want to start from the end. We want to be happy without looking directly at what doesn’t make us happy. We want to be fulfilled without going through the inconvenience of changing the things that don’t make us feel fulfilled. We want to know without opening up to the shame and guilt that not knowing raises in us.
It’s like placing the needle at the end of a record, and yet still expecting to hear the whole symphony and have the marvellous experience of listening. We place the needle at the end over and over again and it keeps on falling off. Instead, together, we find where the real beginning point is that will open up like a clear map the way to manifest and embody that potential you intuit is possible. The road not taken, for me, points to one thing only: The roads I left behind, for any reason, are not because of someone’s opinion of them, but because the one I’m on just feels, somehow, right. How to know your coach/therapist is the right one for you S/he is able to put in words what you cannot - and it feels right. S/he is giving you a sense of freedom to be who you are. S/he is ALWAYS leading you to experience and discover your strength and find your courage to be yourself. S/he is teaching you how to find the life that you want from the life that you have.
Shelly is a Life Alignment Coach and a meditation teacher who brings close to 15 years experience in helping people grow from challenging feelings and life's questions through self-knowledge. She is a pioneer in the movement of integrating authentic conversations about feelings, healing and vision in business.
You can get in touch with Shelly here.
Photos credit: profile by Caroline hancox
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