Often, when you know – or think you know – what the root of your client’s problem is, and what they should do about it, it’s very tempting to stop listening and guiding, and start simply telling.
Another is that, if you jump straight to providing solutions, you could discover too late that you only had a partial understanding of the situation, and are missing vital elements that would have been revealed if you’d let your client keep talking. We all see things through the lens of our own experience, and assuming that you know what’s going on before you’ve heard the other person out thoroughly is a recipe for misunderstandings.
How to Avoid Only Seeing Things Through Your Own Experience
How can you avoid walking into these traps? Some of the things I’m about to tell you may sound cliché, but they’ve only become clichés because they work… and yet, they are all too frequently forgotten by people who only want the best for the person they’re talking to.
So please, take a moment to open your mind, and see if you’ve been applying these vital principles to your coaching practice.
1. Accept the fact that you don’t have all the answers.
Some of the worst, and yet the most well-meaning, advice comes from people who simply have an answer to everything. And they feel they have to share it right away.
Your client’s toxic girlfriend is trying to keep him small? Ditch her and move on.
The woman you’re coaching has a suicidal daughter? Get the child into therapy.
That person’s boss is making their life miserable? Tell him how you feel, and/or get a new job.
Is this advice incorrect? Of course not. Sometimes your first instinct is the right one, but sometimes it isn’t.
One thing I can say with certainty is that if you give your answers and advice too hastily, your client won’t feel heard. They’ll feel that you’re just dishing out solutions, and that you don’t really care enough to understand them. Which brings us to…
2. Your client wants to feel that the solutions you offer are tailored to them.
If you give answers too quickly, your client is likely to think that you haven’t considered their special circumstances. We can only get to where we’ve come from. Your advice is shaded by their experience, fears or factors that you hadn’t taken the time to learn about.
“My Life Coach thinks this will work for me, but she doesn’t know about ‘fill in the blank’.”
You can give the same advice to that person, in the exact same situation, and have very different outcomes depending on how well they perceive you’ve listened to them. If you’ve listened to them for half an hour, asked probing questions and come to understand the person’s obstacles and fears thoroughly, they’ll be more likely to believe that you comprehend their situation, are aware of and can solve their problems, and that your solution is a good fit for them.
However, if you haven’t even let them finish a sentence, they’ll probably listen to you about as carefully as you did to them!
So, instead of giving quick answers to display your expertise, slow down. Ask questions.
- “If (fear) happens, what do you think will be the result of that?”
- “What keeps you from doing (the thing they want to do)?”
- “I imagine that must have been (painful, frustrating, exciting, or whatever you imagine it would have felt like). Was it?”
Be sure to say this one with humility; you’re seeking clarity for your own sake, not to tell them what to feel.
Listen to them, hear them, and understand them. Guide them and get them to challenge their thought patterns if need be, without making them feel wrong for having had them.
In my Life Mastery Certification program, I teach you how to coach your clients gently but effectively, in a way that inspires them to take action and improve their lives. If you’ve been struggling to enroll and create results for your clients, I’d love to set up a time for you to talk with a member of my team about how we can assist you in serving your clients better. Just fill out the form on the right to get started.