By Rob Stringer, ICA Faculty
Youth Coach, CANADA
Acknowledgement is a powerful tool in a Coach’s toolbox—helping clients feel heard, encouraged, and even motivated to stay the course. But what if you disagree with your client’s actions? Or their goals are out of alignment with your own core values? Today, let’s explore a topic that often comes up in class … what to do if acknowledgment feels awkward?
(1) Acknowledgment ≠ Agreement
A common worry about acknowledgment is the idea that it means you agree with your clients’ decisions or actions. It doesn’t. It merely shows that you are recognizing or noticing something about them that you feel will support them. For example, clients often get down on themselves for achieving or doing less than they expected between sessions. Telling a client, “Although you didn’t meet your goal, I want to acknowledge the progress you DID make this week. You are closer to your goal than if you took no action.” Remember, acknowledging is not about you—it’s about your client, and it must sound authentic. That said, if you ever feel you cannot suspend judgment, it would be time to have a conversation with the client. (E.g. “I’m not sure I’m the right Coach to help you with that goal.”)
(2) Get Curious About the Discomfort
There can be many other reasons why acknowledging others might feel uncomfortable. For example:
- Are you afraid of making a mistake?
Don’t worry if it doesn’t sound perfect, or you stumble over your words. Remember the wise words of Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
- Are you not sure WHEN to acknowledge a client?
Here are a few perfect times: to cheer them on; to celebrate an accomplishment, or to raise awareness about the effort/skill/quality/progress of the action or some aspect of their character.
- Are you uncomfortable with praise?
Depending on your own upbringing, you might be uncomfortable with receiving (and giving) praise. However, think about how acknowledgment is often different than praise. Praise can be hollow and unfounded and used to manipulate people. However, acknowledgment is based on noticing the clients’ actual actions/behaviors. You are commenting on what you have seen, heard or directly noticed.
Just like any skill, deliberate practice helps us to refine our efforts. You might decide to:
- Practice acknowledging others in your day-to-day activities outside of coaching
- Work on this with your own Coach
- Make this a focus for your next Mentor Coaching session. Tell the student observers you’re working on this skill and would like some feedback
So, there you go—a few strategies to potentially help raise your comfort level. But before I go, I just want to acknowledge you for reading to the end of this article! Well done! 😊