We would all probably agree, helping create awareness in our clients is an important part of coaching, after all, it IS one of the ICF Competencies. But recently in class, a student asked, “What if a Client resists our efforts and doesn’t want to explore something? What if they say, “No”? What then?”
GREAT question! It’s a situation that will eventually happen to every coach AND is one that might lead us to ask ourselves a few more …
(1) Why do I want to know this information?
Sometimes it might feel that certain character traits, habits, self-limiting beliefs, etc. of our clients should be addressed in the situation. But we need to ask ourselves, “Is the topic or question I want to explore directly related to the coaching agreement set for that session?” Exploring a self-limiting belief can be helpful to clients, but if it is not relevant to the topic at hand, ignore it (for now).
If it is directly related, acknowledge the client’s choice, and simply move on. Remember, a client telling you they don’t want to talk about something doesn’t necessarily mean ever, it might just mean not right now. If you feel this topic is important, you can always try to broach the subject again at another time. They may be more receptive.
(2) What might their reluctance be telling me?
What is said (and not said) can tell us a lot. A series of vague answers like, “I don’t know,” is often a signal for a Coach to return their focus to rapport building—deepening the sense of safety and comfort the client feels.
We might also ask ourselves if we see any patterns? Is there a particular person or topic the client seems to be avoiding? Could a core value, belief, or emotion be at play? Some patterns may signal to a Coach that they, or coaching, may not the best support for the client—and signal a conversation and possible referral. (I often use the analogy of sitting in a car with my client. In this case, if it seems like we keep driving in circles, or are stuck in the ditch, it may be time to say good-bye.)
(3) Am I practicing the “Art of Non-Attachment”?
Can you easily let the client’s refusal go? Or does it bother you? Do you find yourself being distracted by a thought like, “This is important!“ or, “They need to explore this.” As a Coach, we need to always remember that this is our Client’s journey. Ideally, these types of thoughts won’t pop into our heads, but if they do, we need to stay mindful—acknowledge them and then let them go. If we go back to my car analogy, we want to avoid putting our hand on the steering wheel—influencing the direction of the client. If the urge is too great, again, it may be time to say good-bye to that client.
So there you go—a few possible questions and strategies to consider the next time a client says, “No.”