Handling The Emotional Side Of Coaching

Life coaching can pertain to many aspects of the life of a client. For some people it’s all about business, finance, and their careers while others may be more concerned with things like health, fitness, and personal goals. For a lot of people however, they turn to their life coach to solve problems within their relationships with friends, family, and their partners. For some coaches it’s very easy to advise their clients about these matters and for others it’s a little more difficult. Usually the problems tend to arise when we begin to advise clients on situations that hit close to home or feel just a little too similar for our liking.

This is more common than not because most of us have pretty similar experiences to one another even though we may come from very different backgrounds and when we find ourselves in the position of having to give coaching advice on something that may be a very personal topic to us it can be a bit more difficult to separate our own experiences from the coaching we are giving our clients.

Keep Your Emotions Personal

Further down the road it can also be challenging to keep our own motivations and feelings out of the picture when advising clients and staying clear of any emotional investment in the situation. Therapists and counselors tend to have similar problems when they become overly involved in the lives of a client and don’t know where to draw the line between being sympathetic while doing their job and becoming too involved in the situations and circumstances of their clients’ life.

This can happen for a lot of reasons and in a lot of different ways but the end result is usually not a good one and for the most part this kind of extension of your coaching is something you want to avoid.

Provide the Best Coaching You Know How

That’s not to say that you don’t want to provide the best coaching you can for your clients or that you don’t care or empathize with them because, of course, you absolutely do. All it means is that you absolutely have to remember that your top priority when it comes to your coaching has got to be: you. Yep, that’s right, you.

It may sound counterproductive, after all aren’t you supposed to be putting anything and everything into your clients that you can? Fortunately, it isn’t. See if you don’t make sure that you, above all others, are taken care of then your needs and priorities are going to fall by the wayside. When that happens you can end up getting overly stressed, sick, exhausted, less productive, burned out and a great deal more and in the long run having you this way only hurts your clients.

They may appreciate the effort you put in to keeping them happy and doing your best work but they certainly won’t appreciate it if you work yourself into the ground and then aren’t able to continue helping them because you’re so exhausted and stressed out. Not to mention the effectiveness of your coaching will begin to deteriorate, you’ll begin to let things drop, lose focus and so forth and in the long run that will mean you lose the clients that you were working so hard to keep. This kind of outcome does little good for anyone involved so it’s best to keep your emotions clear of your coaching and much as you can so that you can serve your clients as best as possible.

You Are Not Your Client

One of the best ways to do this is to make sure that you keep it in the front of your mind that you are not your clients. Regardless of how similar you may be and how alike your experiences are you are not them and they are not you. Keep this in mind whenever you come across likenesses between you and a client. It’s important to remember this distinction because it can be really easy to get in the habit of associating yourself with certain clients and thereby become invested in them and their problems.

Your clients are not your family, and they’re not your friends. They’re your clients and that’s for a reason. If you were a family member or a friend you wouldn’t be their coach. Your client has come to you because of your expertise, your experience, your ability to help them and most importantly because of your perspective. You didn’t grow up with your client, you don’t have preformed opinions or biases about them, and you certainly don’t have a history with them that may impede your judgement.

This is what gives you the ability to be a good coach and without that perspective your coaching isn’t going to be as accurate or effective as it could be. We all know how difficult it can be to make decisions and take steps when you’re in the middle of a complex and distressing situation - that’s the time when we turn to people who are objective and can give us a new way of looking at what’s going on around us - don’t rob yourself of the ability to do that for your clients by involving yourself in their situations. Remember that you are not part of their lives as anything more than a helpful advice giver. Keep that in mind and you’ll be much better off.

Set Boundaries

You also want to compartmentalize your life a little bit because it can help you define clear boundaries between the social aspects of your life and the career aspects. Having boundaries between the two of these can go a long way to keeping your coaching on track and maintaining a professional distance within the relationships you have with your clients. Separate the lines of your life very clearly and distinctly. When you’re at home be at home - don’t worry about work, clients, frustrations, issues or anything that’s going on with your clients. Only discuss your clients if it’s from the perspective of how you’re handling them - not from a place of feeling bad or becoming involved in their problems.

When you’re at work you can strategize and plan the best course of action for helping a client but don’t muse over their issues or contemplate their problems. Stay professional and stay focused. It’s also helpful to keep your life full when you aren’t at work. This is wise for anyone in any profession but it’s especially helpful for those that are in careers that can leave them with a lot of baggage from the people they work with.

It’s fairly common for doctors and emergency workers to have a lot going on in their lives outside of their work because it helps them deal with the strains and stress of their job. Therapists, counselors, and coaches have similar stressors and can use the same kinds of techniques to cope.

Make Time for Hobbies and Activities

A great thing to do is to have hobbies and activities that you routinely spend your time on - things that can help you release any stress or worries you may have about your work and start over the next day with a clean slate. For a lot of people it’s not enough to simply be off work and spend time with their family or friends because they’re still mulling away over everything that’s going on with their clients so it’s like they never really leave the office. Instead you need something that’s very actively engaging your mind and requires you to concentrate on other things.

TV and movies aren’t going to cut it here - you need something of higher stimulation, that’s more challenging. Think of things that you really enjoy doing that will totally remove you from thinking about work. For me it’s things like throwing pottery, painting, running, cooking and so forth that help me let go of the days events and decompress so that I’ll be ready to go the next day. It isn’t enough to just go home and relax, as nice as that can be you, you need to be consciously doing something to keep your mind clear and free of any worry or stress.

Another way to maintain an emotional distance from your clients is to limit the time you allow them to discuss, complain, whine, or otherwise share about their problems. It’s important for you to know situations in the lives of your clients of course but you aren’t there to be their best friend, you’re there to help them create plans, take actionable steps and move forward in certain areas of their lives. So don’t worry as much about being a sounding board for your clients. If they feel the need to express themselves encourage them to have a specified person that they go to just to be listened to or have them start a journal to let all their emotions, thoughts, and feelings out. Explain to your clients that it’s not that you don’t care but that your responsibility is in helping your clients take their lives to new heights and achieve the things they want - not make them feel better or pity them.

Focus on Specialties

It can also be helpful to maintain specialties so that you can focus on specific areas with your clients that don’t hold any problems or issues with them. For example people who have been through a divorce may want to focus more on child-raising or handling money as a couple as opposed to on dealing with a divorce or deciding to get divorced simply because that might not be an area where they can be as objective as they could in others.

In the same vein someone that has had experience with infidelity may want to work more with a client about their challenges with communication and roles in the relationship. By separating aspects of relationships that you specialize in you can make sure that you maintain clear guidelines with your clients about what you refer to work with them on - just be sure to provide them with other resources that they may need to help them work on issues in other areas.

As long as you employ basic techniques like these you shouldn’t have too much of a problem maintaining a professional relationship with your clients and keeping yourself free of any emotional investment that might have a negative effect on your coaching.