Don’t deny that the customer has a problem. Even if you don’t think they do. Even if it’s unlikely.
They think they need the perfect super customized training program. They think they need to count macros, grams, calories. They think they have a hormone imbalance. They think they have a vitamin deficiency. A food intolerance. An allergy. They think that menopause means they can never lose weight. That the baby weight will never come off.
Here’s a summary of a conversation I see unfolding frequently between coaches.
“My client says she has absolutely no time to exercise. Any tips on where else to start?” “That’s ridiculous! Everyone has SOME time to exercise!” “I agree with you, but she has two small children, and two jobs, and says there is absolutely nothing she can do right now to change her commitments!” “There is always something that can be done! No time is just another excuse. It’s all about priorities! This is a story she is telling herself.”
This goes on for a while.
Meanwhile, I invite you to zoom out a bit, and see the bigger picture here.
Is it true that the client in question absolutely cannot find even a minute in her busy day to exercise?
No. Probably not.
Does it matter?
No. Probably not.
Do clients tell themselves stories sometimes? Create narratives that do not serve their goals? Perpetuate self-limiting beliefs? Of course.
What matters is that this client has indicated in not so many words that changing her commitments, and starting to exercise is simply not something she is ready, able or willing to do right now. To push against this will create more resistance, not less.
I have not yet met a single person who said: “You know I kept the time log just like you told me, and you were absolutely right, I have ten minutes before breakfast that I can now use for exercise! I would not have realized this without you. Thank you so much!”.
We are so excited to help others that we cannot help ourselves – as soon as a problem is named, it MUST be solved. Never mind that the client is not ready to tackle the problem yet. They are only now realizing it is a problem at all!
You can’t argue with personal experience. Well… you can. You just shouldn’t expect a positive outcome. Your conversation partner will feel unheard at best, and attacked at worst. Not exactly the coaching atmosphere you want to create.
Reality is subjective. And if your client invites you into THEIR reality, don’t violate their trust by immediately questioning the realness of their reality.
Remember Carl Rogers? And the underlying principle of all effective communication? Unconditional positive regard.
I don’t have to agree with you, but I accept that what you are telling me is true for you. I accept your reality. And if you are asking me for help in changing that reality, I am happy to help.
That’s where reframing, and questioning self-limiting beliefs can come in. And yes, even time logs.
Of course, there is another plot twist:
There is no “they”, is there?
It’s just… “us”, humans. And if we think we have a problem, we have a problem.