That hated moment — your client has finished talking. Maybe even while the client was talking, you were thinking: “Uh-oh — where is this going… what am I going to ask next?” and then some more of that thinking and then slowly and surely thinking yourself into a grinding halt: you are stuck. I don’t know any coach (or negotiator, leader, salesperson… ) who has not been in this situation. It is awful: feelings of incompetence and self-criticism can creep in and exasperate everything further.

But fear not: SuperKirsten to the rescue! I am kidding, of course. The only person who can dig you out of that hole is yourself. Let me throw you the four lifesavers that help me when I am feeling that way (and yes, you can be MCC all you want, these situations of not knowing what to do will continue to happen, but they feel much less bad when you know about the lifesavers):

  1. “When in doubt, be appreciative”. When that first thought of “Uh-oh” creeps in, start focusing on what you are noticing about the client that could be a resource for achieving their goal. Lets say the client goes off on a tangent about “why my parents-in-law never support me and why I therefore cannot get a job because they will never accept a working mom….” Resources could be: “Wow, you have already identified some obstacles and you still want to create a career for yourself — how are you coping with this?” or “It seems to me that your view on working mothers is different from that of your parents-in-law, is it? Would you like to explore that a bit?” etc. So basically, instead of thinking yourself into the dark night of coaching despair, focus outward, focus on the client, be curious about what they are able to do, think, feel that is going in the right direction.
  2. Be curious about what the client wants. Ask yourself: “What can I hear in what the client is saying that might point to what the client really wants?” Again, in becoming a detective for “signs of the preferred future” of the client, you start focusing on the conversation between the noses and not on the conversation in your head. Focusing on what is wanted and what is already working well is always useful.
  3. Ask the client: “Would this be a good moment to capture what has emerged in our conversation for you that has been useful so far?” I call this question my “get-out-of-jail-free card”. Even if the client says: “Nothing, really”, it gives you a chance to recalibrate and ask the client how they would like to continue, which is….
  4. Our forth lifesaver. Simply tell your client: “Hm. As I am listening to you, I feel a bit stuck as to where we should move our conversation to — do you have any idea what would be useful for you to talk about next?” Worst case, the client says: “But you are the frigging coach!” (which they usually don’t) — even that gives you the chance to go back to the beginning and ask: “Ok, so let’s go back to what you wanted from this session. If I remember correctly, you wanted to find a way to earn your own money. Maybe it is a good idea to collect what you already know about this and then think about what you could add?”

What are your lifesavers?

If you want to explore more around these types of situations and exchange brilliant ideas with your coaching peers, come to one of our free coaching meetup and exchanges. In fact, the case example in this blogpost came from a lovely job-coach who joined one of our meetups (thank you, you know who you are :-))

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