While there are a plethora of life coaching techniques and tools, there are however, a select few crucial skills that can make all the difference during a coaching session. This article will highlight the top 3 skills expert coaches always use.
Immediacy, when used as a life coaching strategy is an effective form of challenging that is based on an empathic understanding of the client that focuses on bringing their awareness to the present moment (Midwinter and Dickson, 2015). It’s intention is to share hunches, thoughts and/or ideas that are much less confrontational than conventional challenging, and does not need to be accepted by the client, but can serve as a gentle invitation to explore what the life coach may be noticing about the client (Milne, 2010). Furthermore, Hill et al. (2009) found that immediacy assisted clients to express their feelings to the counsellor and to become more open to exploring their concerns more deeply. They also noticed that therapists were better able to manage their own emotions and deal more effectively with countertransference issues.
I have personally found that when I notice indications from my clients that may benefit from immediacy I tell my client that my office is a safe and private space, free of judgment and/or criticism, that I have created for them to share their story with me. This subtle and compassionate challenge invites them to open up as fully as possible about the verbal/non-verbal cues I was noticing that lead up to the challenge. While this invitation is not intended to be acted on immediately by the client, it (hopefully) helps the client to build up the confidence to disclose personal information that they are only willing to share with someone they can trust (in this case myself), thus reinforcing a positive relationship with trust and rapport.
While silence can bring about an awkward tension in a casual conversation, it can provide tremendous value in a life coaching session when used appropriately (Milne, 2010). By removing the “noise” of a conversation, silence can help a client to reflect on their current experience and provide possible awareness around issues that are usually avoided or not even noticed. A sense of expectancy is created during extended periods of silence which can create connections and awareness around issues the client may be experiencing. Hill et al. (2006) noticed that silence most effectively facilitated the counsellor’s ability to convey empathy and help challenge the client to take responsibility.
It was noted by Alridge and Rigby (2001) as cited in Midwinter and Dickson (2015) that silence from the client may be “saying” something and it’s important for the life coach to know how to respond in such moments that seek to add value to the experience, such as asking the client to further unpack what they may be feeling, sensing or thinking in that moment. However, this must be evaluated on the fly as sometimes simply holding that silence may be effective enough for that moment, but the therapist must always be aware of the non-verbal cues to give prompts on how to proceed (Midwinter and Dickson, 2015).
While silence may be viewed differently across cultures, one must be attuned to the current clients potential meaning and focus on their needs in that moment.
Known as helper self-sharing (Milne, 2010) is when the life coach feels it is appropriate to share their own personal experiences and/or details with the client in order to create a more congruent relationship. Derlaga and Berg (1987) found that recipients of self-disclosure were more open to reciprocation and thereby disclosing things about themselves.
Three potential challenges when self-disclosure is used inappropriately
1. life coach’s must recognise that while the client’s information must remain confidential, the counsellor’s information shared during moments of self-disclosure may be shared with others beyond the therapy environment by the client. Therefore, life coach’s should practise caution with self-disclose (Midwinter and Dickson, 2015).
2. In no way should this be used to satisfy any needs of the life coach, but more to add value to, or help “normalise” the client’s experience. Self-disclosure is a balancing act and must not be over-used, nor must it be used to prop up the life coach’s expertise and/or life experience.
3. Furthermore, the counsellor must not get into a “me too” mindset where they try relating many aspects of the client’s story(s) to their own life experiences and memories.
Derlaga, V. J., & Berg, J. H. (1987). Themes in the study of self-disclosure. Self-disclosure: Theory, research, and therapy. Springer science & business media.
Hill, C. E., Kivlighan, D. M., III, Rousmaniere, T., Kivlighan, D. M., Jr., Gerstenblith, J. A., & Hillman, J. W. (2019). Deliberate practice for the skill of immediacy: A multiple case study of doctoral student therapists and clients. Psychotherapy. https://doi.org/10.1037/pst0000247
Hill, C. E., Thompson, B. J., & Ladany, N. (2003). Therapist use of silence in therapy: A survey. Wiley online library, 59(4). https://doi.org/10.1002/jclp.10155
Midwinter, R., & Dickson, J. (2015). Working with the relationship. Embedding counselling and communication: A relational skills model.
Milne, A. (2010). Skills used in counselling. Understand counselling (p54-63). Hachette UK.