September 16, 2022

Does the client really want what the client says they want?

Hi all, today I (Kirsten) have the great honor to introduce you to one of our participants and today’s guest blogger, Ruth Nelson-Andorf. Ruth is a Solution Focused Coach and helps clients create their thinking space to find the steps leading them forward. Here is what Ruth has to say about the above topic:

Does the client really want what the client says they want?

This headline could read like we should assume to know better than the client, what they really want to achieve. Well no, that would be leading.

The topic here is, when might it be valuable to check in with the client if what they say they want is really their true goal.

Sometimes when we realize that we want something to change, we might begin by changing ourselves, to adjust to the situation, and we don’t always take all of our possibilities into consideration; for example changing or adjusting the situation might also be an option.  

I’ll use a recent example from a colleague, in which the client wanted to get coached on “getting up early”. The client (he) says that he needs to go to sleep earlier in order to get up earlier for work. He stays up late playing video games, and he wants to get up early in order to feel fresh for work.

When asked “When have you ever gotten up early, feeling fresh?” the client couldn’t remember a time.

If this answer stays the same even when we ask, “when did you do this even a little bit, or once?” we could — or better should, go back to the coaching agreement and help the client get really clear on what they want to change.

This made me think (from the comfortable position of observer); “Is the client’s goal really what the client wants? In this case, does the client really want to change himself (and get up earlier), or does he really want to keep his lifestyle (if he says he can’t remember ever getting up early), and maybe get a different job which allows him his lifestyle?

Is it a should or a want? It would make sense to explore different options around making the change first.

So, we could ask slightly challenging questions like:

  • “What tells you that getting up early (doing xy) is what you really want?”
  • “How certain are you on a scale from 1-10, that getting up earlier is what you really want”
  • “How realistic is this goal for you?”
  • “What difference would it make for you?”

Also questions which would support the client in observing his environment and circumstances, and discover who the true beneficiary of the change would be.

  • “Who would notice?”
  • “What would they notice?”
  • “Who would benefit from the change?”
  • “What would they benefit from the change?”
  • “What else?”

Another way to help the client get more clarity for their goal is to explore the implications and readiness. This could help the client see how realistic it would be for them to impliment this change.

When our client says “I can’t remember a time when I’ve ever gotten up early”

We could ask:

  • “What emerges for you with realizing this?”
  • “Would you like to explore what this means for you?”
  • “How ready are you to start getting up early every morning, on a scale of 1-10?”

We could use visualizing or experimenting.

We could ask a miracle or tomorrow question to help the client visualize what getting up might feel like, who would notice, what would they notice and is this the direction of change that the client wants, and can really put into practice?

If there is a subsequent session, we could ask the client if he would like to explore signs of knowing and trying an experiment between the next session.

“So, maybe there was a time that you got up early, but you can’t remember this time. So how do you know what getting up early even feels like for you?”

“Would you like to try an experiment? And go to bed earlier and get up early even just once.? You can decide if it is 2 hours earlier or 1 hour or just half an hour, or more than once.”

Happy coaching and kind regards from Ruth!

From Kirsten: If you would like to write a guest blog and newsletter post in response to our articles or about your own thoughts, do write us an email at

We would love to hear from you and as always – if you would like to chat with us, come to one of our free meetups and exchanges:

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