How An Empathetic Life Coach Helped Me

There was a time early in my life coaching career that I found I was losing direction, not fully understanding the counselling environment, and lacking the skills to communicate effectively with my clients. I thought it necessary to consult with a good life life coach in my area to assist me with my concerns.

I find that when I am in a new environment, I tend to become more closed-off in my behaviour as I approach new situations with hesitation and often-times, scepticism. I will often guard and hide my feelings around people I do not know to appear that I am un-phased by what is happening and may even appear indifferent. However, meeting my therapist was refreshing as his friendly and welcoming attitude made me feel comfortable to get the process started. Even though I may have appeared stand off-ish, I really wanted someone who would accept me, listen to what I have to say, and understand my feelings towards my situation. My life coach’s  attitude ticked those boxes straight away, and he skilfully brought in a deep empathetic approach throughout the life coaching process. This created, what Pedersen called “an inclusive cultural empathy” the flowed smoothly during our interactions.

Upon deeper reflection I was looking for a role model, someone to boost my self-esteem, and someone I could aspire to be one day. I desired to feel respected as someone with potential to create positive changes in people’s lives.

My life coach made excellent use of the common counselling techniques such as making use of good questions; being able to correctly paraphrase and even summarise what I was saying; helping me to work on some core issues; accurately reflect on key emotions and affective states; and express empathy in a way that really made me feel supported. He confidently and effortlessly embodied what Carl Rogers defines as the three attributes of a skilled therapist. These are: (1) congruence, (2) unconditional positive regard, and (3) accurate empathic understanding, as mentioned by Midwinter and Dickson.

During my therapy sessions I noticed the questioning process he used seemed to be intentionally picked to stimulate certain reactions in me. Most questions were used as open questions, but each type of question would allow me to further explore my issues as if noticing them from many different angles. Sometimes the questions would confront certain limiting beliefs, while others were used to create momentum in my own thinking and problem-solving abilities. I always felt like we were on the same team as he was able to leave out his own agendas, while his use of questioning seemed to provoke a deeper understanding of me and my concerns, as opposed to pacifying his own curiosity.

His ability to pay attention and to remember critical information in the stories I was sharing was admirable. By paraphrasing short sentences and summarising much longer statements really made me notice how focused he was on me, without ever needing to interrupt me. He seemed to understand that I was responsible and capable enough to come up with my own solutions.

Becoming skilled as a Life Coach requires the use of empathy as a tool that helps deliver a certain outcome, and in this case is used to help counselling clients (1) gain a deeper understanding of themselves and their behaviour; (2) provide a sense of hope and motivation that they can achieve their goals; and (3) a space where they can feel safe to be open and vulnerable. It is important to remember that there are no hard and fast rules to abide by when using empathy, but more so that the therapist will have some useful guidelines that can be adjusted to their own style and most importantly customised to fit the needs of the client. Each component that makes up a well-rounded style of empathy needs to be learned with proficiency and then fine-tuned to make best use of it. Coaching should also understand the importance of knowing when not to make use of any components of empathy that are not best suited to the task at hand.

Making good use of high quality, intentional questions helps the clients to explore and really open  their imaginations when delving into their issue. While inappropriate use and overuse of questions can make a client feel intimidated, interrogated, judged, and victimised. Being aware of what one would like to achieve with a question is vital. Questions should be used to identify feelings, underlying motives, core meanings and/or limiting beliefs to name a few, and not to try confuse, trap, or mislead the individual.

The ability to paraphrase and accurately reflect a client’s affective state is a skill that requires active listening and memory recall. Clarkson noted that it can also be used to check the counsellor’s  understanding of what has been said and to spark further elaboration. Such skills must be used with caution due to the negative consequences that can occur if misused. If done too often can make the client feel like the therapist is just pretending to understand  and not really “getting” the what they are saying. Paraphrasing the incorrect information, and/or reflecting the wrong affective state back to the client can likewise make the client feel that the Life Coach is simply not listening, or perhaps hearing the wrong thing. However, done correctly and with tact, can help the client identify their feelings, to feel understood, and feel encouraged to explore their concern further. Correct use of paraphrasing and reflection can demonstrate that the counsellor’s  attention is solely focused on the client and their needs. Rogers and Farson found that when people are listened to sensitively, they tend to listen to themselves with more care and to make clear exactly what they are feeling and thinking.

Knowing how to summarise lengthy pieces of dialogue is a vital asset in therapy, as most often clients will come for counselling with numerous problems that need to be resolved; and an entanglement of different issues that relate to each other at certain intersections. Clients also often feel that the people in their lives either do not listen to them, or do not really understand what they are going through, so it can be difficult for them to freely discuss such issues with them. Over time this can create a build-up of unexpressed emotions and issues, which are then released as a barrage of incoming information when with a Life Coach. The counsellor must use great skill in (1) staying with the conversation; (2) remembering crucial bits of relevant information; and (3) knowing how, according to Angus and Greenberg, in their book Working with narrative in emotion-focused therapy, to integrate the mix of information into a coherent story that resonates with the client.

During my own counselling sessions I found that my inability to paraphrase and/or summarise the correct information back to the client, while at the same time trying to stay focused on the conversation has been a difficult task for me. In trying to “get it right”, I often lose focus on the topic and do not pay attention to using active listening processes such as verbal fillers, eye contact, open body postures and/or providing targeted questions. Being attentive and responsive to the client’s needs are essential elements of becoming a great life coach. In order for me to be my best going forward, I feel that staying focused on the topic of the conversation and on the feelings that it brings up, will help me to formulate the correct response so my client is always assured that I am truly engaging in the conversation. As mentioned by Egan, I must learn to be more perceptive so I can identify key emotions and points of interest in what is being expressed, so I can then respond accurately and with empathy for the greater needs of the client.

So sum up I would like to share a quote by Norcross that emphasises the importance of empathy in life coaching, and goes as follows: “Empathy is linked to outcomes because it serves a positive relationship function, facilitates a corrective emotional experience, promotes exploration and meaning creation, and supports the client’s self healing”.


Lynne E. Angus, L. E & Greenberg, L. S. (2011). Working With Narrative in Emotion-Focused Therapy: Changing Stories, Healing Lives. American Psychological Association.

DeVito, J. A. (2019). Foundations of interpersonal communication. The interpersonal communication book. (15th ed., pp. 15-42). Pearson education.

Egan. (2013). Empathic responding: Working at mutual understanding. The skilled helper: a problem-management and opportunity-development approach to helping (10th ed., pp. 104-131). Brooks/Cole Cengage Learning.

Midwinter, R. & Dickson, J. (2020). The skill of communicating. Embedding Counselling and Communication Skills: A Relational Skills Model (1st ed.).

Pedersen, P. (2009). Inclusive cultural empathy: A relationship-centered alternative to individualism. South African Journal of Psychology, 39(2).

Rogers, C. R & Farson, R. E. (1987). Active listening. Communicating in Business Today.

Life Coaching Questioning Skills: A Useful Tool [Guidelines]

Guidelines To Asking Questions

Making good use of questions in a Life Coaching session can help the client to feel their presenting issue is heard, acknowledged and respected by the Life Coach. However, working with useful questions is just one of the many tools the Life Coach has at their disposal and must be used sparingly. The counsellor must frequently ask themselves what they want to achieve with each question; who they are asking the question for (them or the client); and if it is assisting or hindering the helping process. If not used with a delicate approach, questions can make the client feel interrogated and unsupported, and may start to drive the client away from the therapist.

Clients come to Life Coaching to feel that they are being listened to with sensitivity and empathetic understanding as they try to make sense of their situation. Some issues may need time to unfold as the client explores their thoughts and feelings around what they are experiencing. Therefore, “the golden rule when therapy is to use your ears and eyes more than your mouth!”

Counsellor’s should pay special attention to asking one useful and structured question at a time, and then be patient as the client works with the answer. The therapist must be aware of what is being said, how it is being said, and even what is not being said in response to the question. Clues about potential answers and solutions may spontaneously arise, and this should be the reason why the Life Coach chooses each question.

Questions should be used to clarify and probe deeper into the meanings and feelings the client is experiencing about their issue and should not be used to simply satisfy the therapist’s curiosity.

Open Questions

When working with questions Coach’s should mostly use open questions as these allow the client to get in touch with their feelings about the subject. Open questions will bring out any personal meanings, associations, assumptions, beliefs and values about what they are trying to say. They serve as an invitation for the client to openly talk and explore their situation in a way that will make them feel safe from judgement and/or criticism. Coach’s can then work with the answers to understand how best to serve the client.

Open questions will often begin with “How”, “Where”, “When”, “What” and “in what way” to mention a few.

Socratic Questions

Open questions can lead on to working with Socratic questions which serve to help the client generate new ideas and more positive beliefs about themselves. Socratic questions provide the opportunity for the client to explore deeper levels about their beliefs and assumptions. This then can help the client to evaluate the usefulness and/or limitations of such beliefs and assumptions, and then to alter or dispose those aspects that are not conducive to the client’s growth.

Socratic questions should either provide 1) clarity, 2) probe assumptions or 3) probe reasons and evidence.

1) Questions for clarity:

·         What do you mean by… ?

·         What do you think is the main issue here?

2) Questions that probe assumptions:

·         What are you assuming, and is that always the case?

3) Questions that probe reasons and evidence:

·         How do you know that?

·         What difference does that make?

Why Questions

“Why” questions can often feel accusatory and may elicit a defensive response from the client.  “Why” questions should be used very sparingly and only if it serves a valuable purpose. If not used correctly, “why” questions can create a disconnect between the client and the counsellor and may prevent the client from feeling safe to be open and vulnerable enough to explore deeper into their issues.

Leading Questions

Leading questions are biased and imply the answers that the questioner would find acceptable. They are instructive and may make the client feel judged if their answer is not in accordance with the underlying instruction. For example, if the therapist says: “You wouldn’t leave him for that, would you?” This puts immense pressure on the client to agree with the counsellor. Therapist’s can have a great amount of authority during a Life Coaching session in the eyes of a client, so counsellor’s must be sure to never impose their will on the client.

Closed Questions

Closed questions should only be used for information gathering or to know specific facts about the client. Clients will often answer closed questions with one word responses such as “yes”, “no” or “maybe”; short sentences such as “I don’t know”; or nonverbal responses such as a shrug of the shoulders, or a head nod. They don’t allow a deep exploration of their concern as closed questions don’t seem to make good use of the emotions and feelings associated to the problem.

General Rules For Questioning

·         Use open questions when possible.

·         Avoid closed questions which invite ‘ yes ’ or ‘ no ’ replies, except when requiring the client to be more precise or when seeking specific information.

·         Use indirect questions as a softer approach.

·         Use questions sparingly.

·         Be aware that some forms of questioning can suggest disapproval or criticism.

·         Use one appropriate question at a time.

·         Check the purpose of your question before you go ahead.

·         Be aware of the tone of your voice, the speed of the question, how it’s generally delivered and the message it might convey.

Improving My Skills as a Life Coach

I realise how delicate this relationship is that I am building with my clients. My clients are hoping to be in an environment where they can feel safe to freely express themselves without fear of judgement or criticism. I must adhere to the highest standards and respect my role in this relationship. Intelligent and well-timed questions are a great asset for me to use when appropriate. When working with questions I must always ask myself why I want to ask the question and how will it benefit the conversation.

Thanks for reading,

Donovan – Life Coach

Mental Well-Being Tip – Stop Being So Hard On Yourself [Action plan]

The Hero In Our Own Life Story
Life coach’s love a good ol’ action hero movie where the baddies get the boot and the good guy gets the girl. We thrive on the hero winning at the end of the day. Why do we feel so close to this affinity of a hero and his/her heroics? Why do we always want the good guy to win? A good hero movie allows us to connect very closely with a hero, their personal lives and their triumphant successes. This connections allows us to live in their mind, as if we are the same person. We want to win in our life so we want them to win in theirs. Deep down inside ourselves, we want to win at life. We want to be the hero in our own life story.

We want to succeed, thrive, conquer and win… AKA: The Ultimate Hero Story. This concept serves us very well when we are children, but then we grow up and our life story becomes more a dull drama, than an action packed success story.

Nothing Is Ever Good Enough & I Don’t Celebrate Successes
So why the dull drama? As a Life Coach, I have found that the people and institutions that have the greatest influence on our habitual thinking and perceptions of the world. As children, our greatest influencer’s are usually our parents/guardians.
Take a minute now and think about the shared beliefs, values and worldly perceptions that you share with your parents/guardians. We share these ways of thinking because, as children our growing brain wants to learn the best methods of survival so that we can grow up and live out our lives. These “methods” that we adopt aren’t always in our best interests. Example : Your dad is hard on you and your success is never quite good enough (looking back, you can see that your dad was always hard on himself and never felt good enough, so he projected his learnt behaviour’s on to you). Although you may not enjoy being treated in this fashion, your subconscious mind is storing these moments for future use. Later in life you find that when you “fail” at something, you beat yourself up and sit with regret for days on end. Worse still is when you do achieve success, you are too modest to celebrate and just move on to the next thing.

At the very least you can forgive yourself for the way you treat yourself, because its all you knew. You no longer need to hold onto such patterns and limiting beliefs. Its time to start releasing what was not yours in the first place.

Perfection Is An Illusion
There are few things in life that come out perfectly. Even nature produces its products with minor errors. Machines are another culprit of error during the creation process. There are too many factors on any given day to create the perfect setting and the perfect outcome. Think about this, Penicillin was discovered by mistake. If the scientist had done his experiment perfectly, then what would have happened to the discovery of Penicillin? Trying to seek absolute perfection is in itself a fatal flaw that can prevent people from starting projects, finishing them on time and enjoying the creative process. The human body, with its inter-connecting, interacting functions is not made to absolute perfection. Yet, just the simple act of keeping your body alive day after day is a miraculous act. What does a sports team do when they lose a game? They go back to the drawing board to discover where they went wrong, find out an effective method to correct their error and practice that method until their “mistake” has become a strength.

I hope you are seeing how the need for perfection may be more a need to satisfy your mind, than a need to be perfect. Regardless of whatever you decide to undertake, all you can guarantee is that you commit 100% of yourself, your energy and your focus to the task at hand. The rest as they say is history! When you are angry at yourself that you didn’t perform 100%, does that anger bring back the past so you can amend it? No, there is not much that can be done.
Maybe your boss sees a mistake in your work and lets you have it. Well, you did your best at the time. Learn from your mistake. Our mistakes are often absolute gems that, when someone is going to make the same mistake, you will be able to correct them before it even happens. Let your mistakes be the fertile soil that allows your wisdom to grow and develop.
School says that perfect grades will make you great. That may be true for school, but once you leave school and have to create an adult life for yourself, you quickly discover that perfection is not possible. You don’t all of a sudden know how to cook. You try it, make some mistakes, realise what you may need more of or less of some stuff and then try again. When you drive a car, you pop the clutch until you learn how to control the pedals.

Our genius lies not in never making a mistake, but in learning from our mistakes.

When Someone is Being Hard on Themselves
Below is a simple and effective life coaching exercise :

Lets say you get a job where you have to mentor some teenagers. You love inspiring them and watching how their inquisitive minds work. However, there is one kid who is very hard on herself and acts exactly how you used to act when you were hard on yourself. You heart goes out to this kid because you know from your own experience how unproductive and destructive such behaviour can be.

What will you say to this child? (Really visualise yourself having this discussion.)
You look again at that kid who was so hard on herself and you notice that is in fact You.
What will you say to yourself?
Accept What You Cannot Change & Move On
Ask yourself these questions:

“I cannot change what has happened. Why do I still feel the need to hold on to this memory and why do I allow it to hurt me so much?
“Will I be more, or less empowered by beating myself up from this issue?”
“When I play this issue over in my head, is it allowing me to move forward with my life or is it keeping me glued to my past?”
Take a look at your “event of failure” as if you are a scientist observing an event in an experiment. Look at the event as if looking through someone else’s eyes. Now, ask yourself :

“What mistakes did this person make?”
“How can they do it better next time?”
“What was out of their control?”
“What emotions served them in the moment?”,
“Which emotions did not serve them and tended to be destructive?”
When you get your answers, allow yourself to move on from this experience. What’s done is done. You have taken everything of value from the experience. These valuable moments will serve you next time something similar happens.

We hold on to issues because it serves us some sort of purpose. Does this issue serve you a valid purpose that helps you to grow and develop into a better person? If not, allow yourself to let it go. Let it go and move on. Life is too good and too damn short for you to beat yourself up!

What Can You Do About The Past?
1. You can learn from it.
2. You can let it go… Or
3. You can hold onto it with every ounce of your being. Carry that crap on your shoulder and let it weigh you down. Hmmm… Option 1, 2 or 3? What do most people do? They choose option 3! Why? Because they don’t want to detach themselves from the experience. Our emotions are what hold us onto our past. The emotional toll of an event, holds us prisoner to that event. Ask yourself this : “Who will I be if I don’t hold onto this way of thinking?”. “Am I able to become a person who is not a prisoner of their negative thoughts and behaviour’s?”.

How A Life Coach Can Assist
By subduing the conscious mind to a major extent it is possible to analyse the part that feels it is necessary to be hard on you using a technique called parts therapy. This can be a real eye-opening experience into the workings of the mind and gives great insight into why a person will choose self-destructive behaviour over a more empowering behaviour style. From this point on it is possible to create positive and more empowering behaviour characteristics that are in closer alignment with your higher needs and goals.

You can free yourself, if you want to. You can allow errors and mistakes to let you grow from your experiences.

You no longer need to be so hard on yourself. Live an inspired life as apposed to a life filled with self-pity and anger.

Thanks for reading

Donovan – Life Coach

Life Coachs Learn From Their Own Mistakes


It is my opinion, as a qualified Life Coach, that a high emphasis should be place on learning the foundations of effective nonverbal communication in order to understand human behaviour from a counselling perspective. This may seem like a bold statement to the reader; however, I have first-hand experience of my own poor use of nonverbal communication as a Life Coach and holistic therapist. When a client comes to see a counsellor, they are entering a relationship that acts as a metaphorical dance. If the counsellor steps on the client’s toes and does not time their dance moves, then the rhythm is affected, and this can wear away at the relationship. I believe that the client wants to feel like they are safe and in good hands that are experienced in this type of dance, so they are relying on the counsellor to know what they are doing so they can guide the client every step of the way. Below I will review various moments in my own sessions with clients where I failed provide adequate nonverbal communication, and possible solutions I can implement in the future to avoid such mistakes, and therefore provide a better service for my clients.


A simple smile can be taken for granted in a casual conversation but speaks volumes to clients during a Life Coaching session. In my experience I have noticed that my clients, whether consciously or unconsciously, are looking for signals to either validate their insecurities or confirm they are dealing with the right person for them. In my case it was the former. During a conversation with my client I unconsciously smiled when she was referring to something in her life. She read it incorrectly and thought I was not taking her issue seriously. I unfortunately communicated the wrong emotion in that moment. It was noted by DeVito (2019) that one’s nonverbal communication cues, in this case, the use or misuse of a smile, forms an impression on the receiver, and assists the receiver to create judgements on the sender, and the overall encounter. Going forward I will pay closer attention to my facial gestures during interpersonal interactions and strive to avoid such unnecessary miscommunication.

Over time I have nurtured the use of silence, but I can admit that it is not an easy task as it often feels like I am creating an awkward silence in the room. Casual conversations do not often allow for this sort of tension but is a valuable tool to use in Life Coaching. While counselling in the past I would pose a question that would make my client think and before they had time to process the question I would come in with a clarifying statement or question. I assumed their silence was an unconscious message telling me that the question was too difficult or complex. Silence is said to happen suddenly, which contrasts the sounds preceding it, and therefore, helps to enhance it, which in the therapy setting is regarded as an event which the therapist and client share (Poyatos, 2002; Drucker, 2017). Extended moments of silence are often forced out of the interpersonal interactions, as though it is an awkward experience to be avoided. However, when used skilfully during a counselling session can regulate the conversation (DeVito, 2019), and help the client to experience the gravity of what is being communicated.

The clothes one wears as a respectable counsellor tell a nonverbal message to the client. I usually dress smart/casual when I see clients, but I chose, one a particular Friday to wear jeans. One of my clients immediately picked it and commented about it, saying that she had never seen me dress casual before. McCarthy (2017) extensively explored the impact of how a therapists clothing may affect the client/therapist relationship and found that it played a significant role in creating first impressions. This leads me to think that my clients first impression of my dress sense was expected in subsequent sessions in order to convey a sense of congruence in me. To create erratic changes to oneself may be unsettling for clients and this must be respected. My clients must feel at ease when they see me, and it is my duty to honour that in every way.

When I first started seeing people professionally as a Life Coach, I also started seeing a counsellor to assist me with de-briefing between sessions. He informed me that it is important that I should see myself and my workspace through the eyes of my clients. He pointed out how vulnerable clients may feel as they enter an office they are unfamiliar with, and then must share intimate details about their life with a person they have never met. Unfortunately, I found myself displaying very dominant nonverbal cues in the way I presented myself. This was a truly remarkable exercise and pointed many areas that needed refining. Persons (1974) found that female clients rated women therapists more helpful than their male counterparts. Therefore, since I would unconsciously be perceived as less helpful, it would be even more important that I tone down my dominant displays and present myself openly, with a sense of calm and guidance.

I tend to cross my arms and legs when seated. While in a social setting, this kind of posture holds little value, but in a therapy session in can appear closed off to the client. In this regard I was limiting my interpersonal effectiveness by failing to recognise and read my own nonverbal messages, and how my nonverbal cues may have been modulating, and potentially creating contradicting messages (DeVito, 2019). I realise now how important the use visibly tuning in to clients is, and how necessary it is to apply the use of Gerard Egan’s SOLER model into every session.


While these real-world experiences were challenging for me, both at the time and while reflecting on them after the fact, I can attest to the power of knowledge and wisdom gained, as I was able to learn valuable lessons from my mistakes. Buchanan (2007, 2009, as cited by DeVito, 2017) and Pentland (2008, 2010, as cited by DeVito, 2017) discovered that we use nonverbal signals to “talk” to each other and make up how we are influenced by each other. Therefore, as a counsellor, I must ensure that I go into the counselling session with awareness of such factors. My clients need to feel safe and respected during their sessions, especially since I am a relative stranger in their lives. When counselling is done masterfully, it appears natural and effortless, yet displays high levels of professionalism and empathy toward the client.

Positive outcomes in therapy have been observed when participants applied effective nonverbal skills (Mariska pdf). While continued education in the field of counselling is crucial to every counsellor, if this basic step is overlooked, or not giving its due respect, the budding counsellors career may have dire consequences. Counselling relationships, like all relationships, require trust, especially due to the nature of Life Coaching. Therefore, I feel, that if I can learn to master nonverbal communication at an early stage in my career, I will not have to experience any further pitfalls in this regard, and further, I will build a practise based on trust, integrity and value.

Thanks for reading

Donovan – Life Coach



DeVito, J.A. (2019). Nonverbal messages. The interpersonal communication book. (15th ed., pp. 131-169). Pearson education.

Drucker, P.F. (2017). Silence as communication. In H.M. Ruitenbeek (Ed.), The Analytic Situation: How Patient and Therapist Communicate (pp. 48). Taylor & Francis

McCarthy, M. (2017). A psychotherapeutic exploration of the impact of the therapists clothing in the room. Dublin Business School.

Mariska, M.A, Harrawood, L.K. (2013). Understanding the unsaid: Enhancing multicultural competence through nonverbal awareness. VISTAS Online, (64).

Persons, R. W., Persons, M. K., & Newmark, I. (1974). Perceived helpful therapists’ characteristics, client improvements, and sex of therapist and client. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research & Practice, 11(1), 63–65.

Life Coaching Skills – The Most Powerful Life Coaching Skills Model [Review]

Since interpersonal communication is a learnt skill, and a crucial asset in Life Coaching, it would make sense to create a simple working model to improve my self-awareness capacity in relation to this skill. Fortunately, we have at our disposal such a model which is called, “Johari’s Window”. The metaphorical use of the word window is applied in this instance to separate the four quadrants, which represent different aspects of the whole self. These are namely: the open self, the blind self, the hidden self, and the unknown self. These different “parts” work as a dynamic, interdependent and transactional process that is ever-changing (DeVito, 2019).

Therefore, if I am to improve my interpersonal interactions and communications with those around me, I will open myself to applying the teachings of this model. In my view, the whole point is to grow my “open self”, while exploring and shrinking the rest (DeVito, 2019). In time, I will better understand many of my unconscious processes when dealing with myself and the world, and further will be able to alter those processes that may be limiting or sabotaging my potential for success.

First, we must understand each quadrant and its function.

The first quadrant is the open self. This relates to your beliefs, behaviours, values, desires and ideas that both you and others know about you. Examples of this may include your skin colour, nationality, name, age and religion. This is often information that you are happy to share with others, without fear of repercussions (DeVito, 2019). A good Life Coach in your area will be able to add great value in helping you to recognise the positive aspects of your open self.

Next, is the blind self. This relates to elements about you that you are ignorant about, but which others are aware of.  An example can include moments when you are nervous and you talk faster than usual, which someone may point out to you (DeVito, 2019).

Thirdly, is the hidden self. This pertains to the things you know about yourself of which you choose not to share with anyone. This may include embarrassing habits you may have, or even your financial situation (DeVito, 2019). This information is often hidden due to self-disclosure concerns.

Lastly, it the unknown self. The pertains to things about you that no one, include you are aware of. It is yet to be discovered (DeVito, 2019). This can include how you deal with major trauma if you have not yet been exposed to it, or a useful skill you have yet to learn.

I find that before a person works with their own self-improvement, whether with a counsellor or not, tend to rely on whatever they have been taught in the past, and whatever has worked for them in the past. I relate this to basic survival mechanisms. I say that those behaviours, beliefs, values etc, helped you to survive. These can always be useful when survival is necessary. However, in order to thrive will require a whole new set of tools, and this is where use of the Johari’s window come in. If a society is to aim for high levels of mental health and self-awareness, then education and guidance activities should be considered from the first years of education (Osmanoğlu, 2019).

Thanks for reading

Donovan – Life Coach


DeVito, J.A. (2019). Perception of the self and others. The interpersonal communication book. (15th ed., pp. 69-100). Pearson education.

Osmanoğlu, D.E (2019). Expansion of the open area (Johari window) and group work directed to enhancing the level of subjective well-being. Journal of Education and Training Studies, 7(5).

A Life Coach’s Reflection – Learning to Know Yourself

The self-concept is an intermingled conglomeration of personal associations that help define how you see yourself as a person. Working with a Life Coach will certainly help to improve your self-concept. How you see yourself tends to be mainly based on a few factors, of which I will discuss briefly.

(1) How others see you. This is often most accurate from the perception of those who are close to you, like family and friends. (2) How you compare yourself to others in a social context. This is often experienced when comparing oneself to the friends in group photos. (3) What your culture has taught you. This includes your religious beliefs, your nationality, your ethical principles etc. (4) How you interpret and evaluate your thoughts and behaviours (DeVito, 2019). This tends to act like your internal compass that points you in the right direction.

In counselling self-awareness represents how well you know yourself in terms of your strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, reactions and the choices you make. If you work with a therapist you will be able to discover the many facets of your personality and character traits, and therefore, will be able to understand why you are the way you are, and then learn to change those parts that limit you. The model of Johari’s window explains this concept well. It identifies 4 selves, namely: (1) the open self; (2) the blind self; (3) the hidden self; and (4) the unknown self (DeVito, 2019). This model sees a person’s selves as dynamic, dependent, transactional and ever-changing. In order to improve self-awareness it is necessary to explore the hidden, blind and unknown selves in order to grow the open self.

Self-esteem is the measure of how highly or poorly you value yourself, and how closely that matches your “ideal” self. As a Life Coach, I know that many, if not most of my clients suffer with low self-esteem. Much of this internal assessment comes from the way you talk to yourself, your feelings about yourself when analysing strengths and weaknesses, and the way you present yourself to others in terms of assertiveness and dealing with conflict (DeVito, 2019). People who see and think poorly of themselves will not be as happy, confident, satisfied and often even as successful as those who have a high regard for themselves.

As I look at the world around me, I often ask myself how much can we know about ourselves; is there anything wrong with not knowing yourself; and does it even make a difference? For me personally, it has made a big difference, but I have seen some vastly different people to myself living normal lives, while being “blind” to themselves. Furthermore, research has found that people with high self-awareness were more prone to experience defensive, external attributions to avoid the amplified experiences of failure (Cohen et al, 1985; Federoff & Harvey, 1976), and yet in contrast, in a study done by Duval & Silvia (1992), participants with high self-esteem had more self-focus and  received success feedback when working on an ambiguous task.

Therefore, I feel to know can only go so far, but to apply what you know, will go on to make all the difference. I feel that gaining an expanding view of ourselves only provides the potential to make positive changes.

Thanks for reading

Donovan – Life Coach


DeVito, J.A. (2019). Perception of the self and others. The interpersonal communication book. (15th ed., pp. 69-100). Pearson education.

Silvia, P. J., & Duval, T. S. (2001). Objective self-awareness theory: Recent progress and enduring problems. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 5, 230-241.

Life Coaching Skills – The Vital Importance of Interpersonal Communication [Review]

“A socially skilled individual will possess an ability to behave in an appropriate manner in many given situations” (Pope in Nyatanga, 1989:57). Communication, whether verbal or non-verbal, is a vital part of any society and is the key underlying component of establishing all the various forms of interdependent relationships, especially as a life coach. Effective communication is a skill that is learnt over time, and practised, in order to become proficient with its principles and best-practises. Many ignorant people tend to be rather blasé about its important and feel that just because they can speak, suddenly means that they can communicate effectively. They fail to understand the many dynamics that are involved in communication. Unfortunately, one of the most common problems people face in personal and professional relationships are misunderstandings, that often lead to complete breakdowns in communication.  Therefore, it is essential, in my opinion as someone who is familiar with the protocols of counselling, that people understand how communication profoundly impacts and fundamentally defines relationships. With this understanding they can take the time to learn the art of effective communication, and then to practise the techniques until it becomes a “natural” skill. Furthermore, if I could influence public policy, I would recommend that communication skills become a required part of the educational curriculum.

In order to understand interpersonal communication, we must understand the components that make it up. For a successful communicative interaction to take place, it must include two more people that move through transactional, circular process, where each person’s message serves as a stimulus for the other person’s response message (DeVito, 2019). In addition to this,  DeVito (2019) explains that communication is divided into stimuli and responses sequences that cannot be exactly repeated; are irreversible; and for the most part tend to follow a principle of inevitability, where the participating parties may not even realise that communication is taking place. This interaction also exists on a continuum that can range from something impersonal, like the interaction between a shop attendant and a customer, to a highly personal interaction between intimate partners. The parties taking part in these interactions are commonly referred to as the “source and receiver” (DeVito, 2019).

Both parties must establish a sense of interpersonal competence so that the interaction can flow smoothly, as each person is influenced by the other. Cohn (2007), suggests one should suspend judgement during a conversation to actively listen in and encourage the speaker to fully express themselves. While interactions can be symmetrical in the way each individual mirrors the other, others can take a different approach where one person may “posture” against the other to compete for dominance, and are seen as more complimentary by nature (DeVito, 2019).

My proficiency, as a Life Coach on interpersonal communication skills will continue to improve going forward. I am in an extremely fortunate position as I currently work with clients who are seeking therapy, so I am applying the methods and techniques on a daily basis. Going forward into the future I will be able to approach clients in my sessions with a complete understanding of how diverse and unique each individual is, and more so, how each individual should be treated as such.

Thanks for reading

Donovan – Life Coach


Cohn, K.H. (2007). Developing effective communication skills. Journal of oncology practise, 3(6), 314-317.

DeVito, J.A. (2019). Foundations of interpersonal communication. The interpersonal communication book. (15th ed., pp. 15-42). Pearson education.

Gmeiner, A.C., & van Wyk, S. (2000). Interpersonal skills as reflective self-learning. Africa Journal of Nursing and Midwifery, pp. 39-46.

Life Coaching Skills – How Effective Life Coaches Manage Cultural Differences

We are living in world that is becoming more connected than ever before and experiencing huge demographic changes. Which means that we are dealing with a dramatic increase in cross-cultural communications and relationships, which is due to greater economic and political interdependence, and a sharp rise in the advances of communication technology (DeVito, 2019). In my opinion as a Life Coach, if we are to take full advantage of this golden opportunity of being able to share in the valuable wisdom and resources of such cultures, it is imperative to learn about who they are and what makes them so unique. We must understand that in order to be fully open minded, we must create a broad-scale adoption of cultural sensitivity. A cultures beliefs, values and customs are what gives them a distinctive perspective of the world, and such values even affect the kind of criteria by which to judge and assess others (Goman, 2011).

While we may all be able to communicate, we don’t all communicate in the same way. Especially when it comes to common customs in different cultures, and/or the beliefs and values systems that such cultures adhere to. According to one study by Dyers & Wankah (2010) at Greenmarket Square in Cape Town, it was found that even non-verbal communication between its diverse cross-cultural respondents was reported as a major factor in intercultural miscommunication, which brings up the crucial importance of cultural sensitivity.

Furthermore, I feel that if I want to positively influence a client during a counselling session, especially from a different culture, to see eye to eye, and “be on the same page”, then I must not only educate myself on their culture, but also address any stigma’s, perceived barriers, stereotypes and/or fears that I may feel towards them (DeVito 2019). I must understand that some cultures may have a low-ambiguity tolerance than mine and therefore may find my approaches to dealing with issues offensive and threatening.

One of the most pressing issues with dealing with culture that is unfamiliar with your own is the (mostly) unconscious bias you may have towards your own culture. When this bias goes unchecked, it will try to compare your cultural practises, dialects and accents with the other person, while presuming that your practises are not only superior, but that theirs may be wrong all together (DeVito, 2019). However, it was found that by bringing people together from different cultural groups tensions and misunderstandings between them were reduced (the “contact hypothesis”; Allport, 1954).

The other issue is based on the collective mindset of the culture and how it might be in stark contrast one’s own. For example, some cultures practise individualism and favour power, achievement, hedonism and are more low-context in the approach to how information is communicated (DeVito 2019). Other cultures prefer a collective approach in their orientation and tend to value attributes such as tradition, conformity, and often favour a high-context approach to communicating information and leave much of the message unspecified (Goman, 2011).

So whether we are a more restraint culture or prefer indulgence, as a Life Coach, I think the main aim of cultural awareness is to bridge the gap in interpersonal communication, so we can remember that we are communicating with a normal person, just like us.

Thanks for reading

Donovan – Life Coach


DeVito, J.A. (2019). Culture and interpersonal communication. The interpersonal communication book. (15th ed., pp. 43-68). Pearson education.

Dyers, C. & Wankah, F.J. (2010). Uncovering and negotiating barriers to intercultural communication at Greenmarket Square, Cape Town’s “World in miniature”: An insider’s perspective. Per Linguam, 26(1), 1-12.

Keith, K.D. (2013).Ethnocentrism. In K.D Keith (Eds.), The Encyclopedia of Cross-Cultural Psychology (1st ed., pp. 1-4). John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Goman, C.K. (2011). How culture controls communication. Forbes media LLC.






Life Coach’s Tips – Are You Struggling With Motivation?

While on the outset it may seem like your brain has turned to mush, but you must remember that you are dealing with a global crisis that is affecting most of the world.
Great life coaches will agree, that while it may feel good at times to be home and away from work that your sense of normal no longer exists, and you must therefore create a new normal. You must adjust your routines, patterns and behaviours to better suit your new (and ever-changing) environment.

We are experts at pattern-matching and routine-making. Its an efficient and reliable mechanism that allows us to get on with our day with very little conscious effort. This however, doesn’t account for major disruptions, like this crisis we are experiencing. Now the person must think: “Do I have my mask on me?”, “What constitutes a safe distance from another person?” etc. Simple things like that that would never have crossed our minds before this must now be added into our (already) busy schedule.

Not only do you have all this extra stuff going on, but you have spent the last 6 weeks in your house, with very little movement. The brain loves to conserve energy, and that’s why it feels so good to chill and watch movies. It’s like a reward for not expending energy.
Now with a sudden change in your pyjama-wearing, messy hair, lazy, tv-watching routine, its no wonder its a challenge to get motivated again.
But there is hope. I always tell my clients during a life coaching session that all you have to do is take it one step at a time. Get your first work day done and dusted. From there, you will be back in the swing of things, and maybe only minor adjustments will need to be made. Work requires the more professional part of you to step forward, which it will. That part gets you up when your alarm goes off; helps to to “dress the part”; gets you to the office; and put the right mindset on to get the job done!

Thanks for reading
Donovan – Life Coach

Treating Anxiety With Life Coaching

What Is Anxiety

From a life coaching perspective Anxiety is a normal built-in defence mechanism that protects us against potentially dangerous situations. It helps by creating a focused state of attention towards a threat. The brain is constantly scanning it’s environment on an unconscious level to evaluate situations. If it perceives anything that may seem threatening, it will alert the 5 senses toward the threat for further inspection. While the senses are scanning the area, the persons thoughts will cease any unnecessary processing and only focus on what may be a threat. It is essential to be focused so that the element of a surprise attack can be thwarted.

At the same time, the body will start to dump stress hormones into the blood stream, such as adrenalin and cortisol. These hormones prepare you to fight, flight or freeze. They are also responsible for accelerating heart rate, dilating blood vessels and assisting the unnecessary muscles to take action. These reactions are happening at an extremely fast rate and are barely detectable to conscious awareness.
Once away from the threat or upon realising that the situation was a false alarm, the individuals mind and body should slowly calm back down to a normal rate.

When anxiety becomes an issue of concern is when the person becomes hyper-sensitive to their external environment and fails to control their reaction and response to the general busy-ness of the world around them. Their unconscious mind will be extremely vigilant for any potential signs of danger and can often react and over-react for seemingly unknown or unjustifiable reasons. This can create negative coping mechanisms such as avoidance behaviour.

Anxiety is a general term for many issues such as general anxiety disorder (GAD), phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), social anxiety, hoarding and panic attacks.

How Life Coaching Treats Anxiety

Life coach counselling is gaining recognition for its successful treatment of anxiety related conditions. By gaining access to the unconscious processing of the mind, it is possible to alter negative beliefs, perceptions and limiting thought processes associated to moments that can trigger anxious feelings. By reducing fear, intense worry and nervousness, it is possible to respond in a normal manner to life’s circumstances. Counselling paves the way for new and empowering learning’s to take place so the person can accurately assess situations without having to rely on old, reactive and destructive thought patterns.

Thanks for reading,
Donovan – Life Coach