Difficult Client Behaviors? New Tools for Coaching Confidence and Success

Doris Helge, MCC (IAC)

How many times have you complained to another coach about clients' resistance
to change or lack of follow through? Discouragement about client progress can
contribute to ineffectiveness, low self-esteem and even burnout if you don’t
understand the bigger picture. Below are some of my favorite tools for combatting
disappointment or frustration. Notice how each tip forms a foundation for the
next while you gain additional coaching confidence.

Human Mirror 101

Our clients serve as human mirrors for characteristics we are either unwilling
or unable to perceive about ourselves. If a client consistently fails to live
up to their full potential, I stay in a compassionate mode and check to see
if they are mirroring to me where I’m not being accountable to myself.
If so, once I do my best to shape up and own my personal power, the client usually
makes a positive shift. Our clients respond much more to our energy and authenticity
than to anything we say.

Progressive Mirrors

Sometimes I don’t perceive a mirror because the client is providing a
“benchmark mirror,” indicating a challenge I’ve overcome.
In that case, I notice their lack of progress with detached compassion, not
frustration. Since I previously faced a similar challenge, I’m intuitive
about the best way to help the client face their issue. You can easily prove
this to yourself. Notice how often most of your clients make significant strides
forward when you’re rapidly growing.

Impatience, Control and Trust Mirrors

Another enlightening experience when we work with so-called “difficult
clients” is to remember they are always gifts in disguise. Pause to ponder
if the real issue resolves within you or your client. When we’re impatient,
we’re usually trying to control the outcome. We have forgotten to trust
the inherent magic of the coaching process. Next time you’re tempted to
feel frustrated because a client seems resistant to change, consider the possibility
that this is evidence that their eventual transition is unfolding perfectly.
Instead of spending your time voicing frustration, focus on the joy of discovering
a creative new approach.

Remember Where You End and Your Client Begins

Since coaches are not deities, we cannot always perceive the bigger picture
of the roles we are playing. Clients are always in charge of their lives. If
they choose to hold onto a behavior, belief or action we don’t think is
serving them, that is their choice. We are all sometimes “stuck.”
Profound wisdom and growth are always hidden in our darkest nights, patiently
awaiting our discovery. When you are patient, many clients will eventually express
their appreciation.

Here is a summary statement of what countless clients have told me over the
years when they commented about the merits of coaching patience with their process,
“It was the last part of emerging from my dark funnel of self-discovery
that produced the greatest Aha. If I’d embarked on a new path any sooner,
I would have cheated myself out of the last hidden nuggets of gold that I didn’t
discover until I sank to the bottom of the bottom. Once I did that, I was finally
ready to walk away from what wasn’t working . . . forever. Now I don’t
have to repeat the same negative experience again.”

Strengthen Your Sense of Self

Maintaining clear boundaries helps you easily perceive what feelings, thoughts
and expectations are yours and which belong to your client. When we’re
grounded in a strong sense of self, we accept our limits with joy and relief.
Any unrealistic (egoistic) pressure to “fix” or “save”
our clients disappears. You’ll intuitively know when to use coaching “edge”
and when to float on gentle waves of patience during a coaching session. Your
coaching confidence will soar when you observe your client’s process with
detachment and remember your life purpose.

Enjoy the Rewards of Confidence, Trust and Wonder

When clients are ready to change, they do so with enthusiasm and conviction.
Their clarity, focus and passion create confidence and success. Our job is to
hold the space for positive change by being 100 percent present and listening
to every clue and subtle nuance. Clients guide us to help them in the perfect
way at the perfect time because their inner guidance always knows what works
best for them. I’m continuously in awe about what a privilege and joy
it is to be trusted to play this role.

Doris Helge

Helge, Ph.D., MCC, author of bestselling books, Transforming
Pain Into Power, Joy on the Job
and Conquer
Your Inner Critic
is an IAC Mentor Coach and founder
of the IAC-licensed training school, Confident Coach Connection. She
also created the New Coach Virtual Chapter of IAC. Discover more at


IAC Member Benefit: IAC members save 10% on all Confident Coach Connection
training programs including IAC Certification Preparation classes and Advanced
Coaching and Business-Building classes. Log
into the IAC member site to learn more

1 thought on “Difficult Client Behaviors? New Tools for Coaching Confidence and Success”

  1. What an excellent article, Doris. I particularly like this statement: “When we’re impatient, we’re usually trying to control the outcome.” Very good reminder for me! I’ll be referring people to your course.

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