Why Being Myself Makes Me a Better Coach: The Beauty of Not Being For Everyone
Here’s something you may not hear from other coaches: I’m not for everyone.
I might curse during a session. I will definitely be direct and straightforward. Whether you’re a client, a friend (or both), or a family member, it’s in my DNA to tell it like it is. I don’t sidestep the tough issues or try to hide what I’m thinking. I always say what needs to be said. It’s part of who I am, both as a professional and a person, but it’s also how I believe I can best help my clients. If you’re a client, there’s no shame in needing or wanting a different approach.
Different people and personality types respond differently to certain coaching styles. When it comes to my style and my business, I value the freedom to do things my own way, and I’ve seen how my approach resonates with clients and helps us build a rewarding and productive professional relationship.
I do acknowledge that being direct has certain connotations. Often, people worry that by being or speaking in a direct way, they may come off as being aggressive or even rude. In most cases, it’s possible to be direct while remaining polite, considerate, and respectful. (And in fact, being direct with someone is actually one of the most respectful things you can do, as it show that you value their time and energy). Not everyone feels that way about direct communication, but as long as genuine thoughtfulness and mutual respect are at the forefront of the interaction, it usually feeds a positive and productive relationship.
Practically speaking, here’s what it means for me to be a coach who says what I’m thinking:
From the first day of my journey to become a certified coach, I was determined to do things my way. I’ve met a lot of people, including coaches, who don’t tailor their technique to fit their own style. While there is a lot of inherent value in the lessons from my coaching training program, I don’t believe that my clients are best served by me simply channeling that information to them. I’m not here to be a robot that regurgitates what I’ve learned; I’m here to listen and develop a real, meaningful relationship. Why would they want a formulaic, general approach that I don’t believe in? When I sit down with clients, they’re getting me. That means that I’m ready to listen, to assess how I can help them, and to ask the questions that are particular to their situation. I’m dedicated to building a respectful relationship with them with a foundation based on candid and real communication. In my experience, this is how progress makes leaps and bounds.
Sometimes, until we start talking about issues, problems, or ideas out loud, we don’t really see where our trouble areas lie. We all have blind spots, and even when we’re really trying to get analytical and cover all the bases, our minds have a way of making us avoid certain topics. Coaching lets the light in. During my conversations with clients, I listen carefully and am often able to read between the lines of what they’re saying. When I rephrase their thoughts in a more direct way, they often say, “Wow, you are so spot on.” It may have been a thought that occurred to them but they pushed it to the back of their mind, or it may have been a topic or problem that they were so actively trying to avoid that they chose to minimize it or ignore it completely. Or, it could be something seemingly very small, when in reality it may be affecting things on a larger scale. In any scenario, by bouncing back their ideas in a straightforward way, we’re able to dig deep into topics that may otherwise have stayed hidden. Many times, once we tackle these areas, clients find that they were more important or weighty than they previously thought.
Think for a moment: How many times have you used the word 'should' (or 'shouldn’t) today?
I should be making more money. I shouldn’t have said that. I should take out the trash.
What about the word 'just'?
I just thought...I just wanted to say...I just wasn’t sure….
I try to help my clients reframe their thinking about “should” and “just.” These are both words that deflect what we’re really thinking. Take “should,” for example. When clients say that they should do something, I say, Should according to whom? I encourage them to think about whose opinion they are holding in the highest esteem—because all too often, it’s not their own. Using the word “should,” however, can reinforce outside expectations without people even knowing it. The word “just” accomplishes something similar. Because people worry about being too direct, they use words that make their statements sound more deferential. In reality, though, saying “just” undermines whatever comes after it, and it can be be easy to fall into a habit of saying it.
With me, reframing the conversation is part of the territory. I want my conversations with clients to be direct on both sides, and that means encouraging them to be candid when they express themselves and when they think about their short-term and long-term goals for their businesses and themselves. “Should” and “just” don’t have to be in the picture, and in fact, they really have no place there.
Of course, I value the many different ways my clients communicate, and I don’t pressure them to change or reframe their thinking in any way that doesn’t feel authentic to them. Instead, I encourage them to speak as directly and decisively as they want. I’ve learned the beauty of being myself, and how freeing it is personally and professionally, and I want the same for them.