(Excerpted from Integrated Wellness Coaching by Laurel Alexander, published by Singing Dragon 2022)
The best way to build trust between yourself and your client is to deepen rapport, remembering your view and mindset is distinct from the client and should be used to enhance the client experience rather than become a channel for judgement, opinion or advice. Building rapport is essential to inspire change in your client and when you ask the more challenging questions it will that much easier based on good rapport. You need to understand the client and evaluate how the client is responding to the coaching process as it takes place and rapport is a compass for you to get to know the client at a deeper level and therefore work with them effectively.
Give client feedback
Use immediacy and provide client feedback on their body language, emotions and language as the session unfolds. Be mindful of providing positive strokes for achievement without getting into parent/child approval dynamics.
Many clients – and coaches feel uncomfortable with silence. Silence creates a void into which can rush all kinds of assumptions, mindsets and behaviours. For example, how do you feel when you are talking with someone and you need to pause for reflection and they jump in with talk, deflecting you from your thoughts?
It is important to allow your coaching clients time to experience silence in their processes with you. If you are unsure what their silence is about e.g. they may have lost the plot or be thinking – ask them. Listen to the silence as well as the words of the client.
When it comes to your processes and keeping silent, avoid filling the space with coaching babble to avoid your uncomfortable feelings. Don’t be too quick to find solutions. Allow the silence of uncertainty to be there and don’t try to control the silence. If you need to pause to gather your thoughts tell the client, so they understand the silence is for you (some clients don’t get it and will still incessantly talk at you, as you try to get your thoughts together).
Effective listening builds rapport. Some tips:
- Be aware of non-verbal signs and clues – both yours and those of the client such as body gestures, eye contact, closing the body e.g. crossing arms and legs and facial expression (remember cultural difference in body language). Listening happens not only with your ears but with your eyes as well.
- Look out for blocks to your listening such as mind-reading, rehearsing, filtering, judging, daydreaming, advising, sparring, being right, changing the subject, and placating.
- Remember that you can’t listen and talk at the same time!
- Stay focused on the main points that the client is talking about. Don’t be distracted if they digress onto another topic unless you think there is some relevance to the goal.
- It’s ok to ask questions to clarify what you thought you heard.
- Listen 100% to your client. Pause before asking your question to allow time for you to process.
- Don’t interrupt. Let the other person finish what they are saying.
- Don’t jump to conclusions. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.
- Don’t look for the right or wrong in what the other person is saying. Just listen.
- When responding, let the other person know that you heard what they said by using a feedback technique and restating what was said. Say something like ‘What I believe I’m hearing you say is – .‘
All being well, we listen with our ears, however, deeper listening also involves visual observation including body language and the repetition of key emotion words used by the client.
A wellness coaching student was working with her client, K. The flow was happening nicely when K stopped speaking and looked down to her left. She was slightly flushed and her head and shoulders were tense. I asked the student coach to stop coaching for a moment, to hold the silence and then to ask K what was happening for her at that moment. As the dialogue unfolded, deeper (and related) issues emerged which when brought to the light and explored helped the client move forward.
The best of coaches welcomes diversity in their clients which might embrace working with differences in language, accent, culture, diet, lifestyle, sexuality, gender, age, religion, politics, life crisis experience e.g. suicide or abortion, financial status e.g. benefits, relationship status e.g. having an affair and client characteristics e.g. overachieving.
To learn from diversity, we need to take a non-judgmental stance which involves observing without placing a judgment on it. See each client as a separate piece of the jigsaw and understand that we can fit together to make a whole, learning from and giving to each other.
Professional Soundbite (Amandeep Kaur, Holistic Wellness Coach)
Working with women in the Sikh and Punjabi community as a wellness coach has allowed me to support and witness profound shifts in a client’s wellbeing; from physical health improvements to the greater mental presence and deeper spiritual connection.
One way wellness coaching has helped is through the use of reflective/ contemplative practices such as open questions, self-inquiry and journaling, to explore limited cultural beliefs and encourage the discovery of more personal, empowering and spiritually based ones. For example, one client who had lost her passion for her community role and her spiritual practice was able to reconnect at a deeper level through reflecting on what she was personally gaining from the role/practise, rather than what was ‘expected of her’.
It has also been incredibly valuable exploring the role of disease and suffering in a spiritual context with clients, delving into concepts such as the mind-body-soul connection, the thought-feeling-action loop (karma), divine will (hukam) and spiritual connection/ meditation. For example, clients often feel a sense of empowerment when they realise what factors may have led to their illness (such as stress and repressed emotions) and how they can start to create change and healing in their lives.
Using coaching within the Sikh and Punjabi community has also enabled me to provide an empathetic and culturally aware space where factors such as traditional family dynamics, the role of service and spiritual practise (for example), can be explored in a sensitive and meaningful way.
It has been encouraging to see clients making true progress in their self-discovery and wellbeing by overcoming blocks such as feelings of guilt, overwhelm and stagnation through setting tangible, purposeful and compassionately disciplined goals.