Identifying Pain: How to Tell What Clients Really Need and Helping Them Heal
As a coach, even if you’re in the business field, it is inevitable that a client who needs more than help with professional goals will come to you. As human beings, we all bump into painful thoughts and life events that cause us pain in our personal lives. This isn’t cause for panic. If you use thought-challenging and dissolving as part of your coaching repertoire, you can help your clients navigate through these speed bumps to get back on track.
The key to identifying what thought lies at the base of a client’s pain is to identify recurring themes and self-declarations. I constantly take notes when I’m listening to a client’s narrative, as I’m sure most of us do. During a session, if a client says something like “I have always been the type of person that people walk on” or “I could never seem to do anything good enough to please my dad,” then I put a star on that statement and find a way to revisit that idea.
Sometimes, the thought isn’t as obvious as that. In those cases, I listen for themes, much like looking for a theme in a piece of literature. Does the client often mention being singled out? Does she often talk about frustration with how others respond to her? Is he disappointed by the lack of respect he receives from his co-workers? All of these hint to faulty thoughts when they are recurring events.
A second clue that a client is having a painful thought that must be healed before he or she can move on is strong emotion. I have found both in working on my own pain and in coaching others that when a client hits upon a deeply painful and strongly-held painful belief, just thinking about that belief will bring tears or anger and resistance. When you hear or sense that type of reaction, that is a signal that you need to explore that pain further or the client will likely not be able to move beyond it. This may seem like a no-brainer, but sometimes a client will think that a past event is no longer causing pain. However, the outward expression of that pain signals that there’s more work to be done. It will also help to signal an event or thought that the client didn’t realize was causing a problem.
The person who often feels singled out might be overgeneralizing any criticism or redirection because of a faulty coping mechanism learned as a child. Some people feel like any criticism or career growth suggestion means that they are failures. Instead of taking those pieces of information in as a single event, everything snowballs and compiles. In that situation, the painful thought sounds something like I am never good enough.
In the second and third situations, the faulty thought sounds something like People should react like this: __________ when I do __________. This is actually a common origin of many painful thoughts that people carry around. We have a definition or image of how people are supposed to act, but no two people have the exact same personality or interpretation of information. We can only control how we act, not how others respond. And when we are only satisfied with one particular response, we are setting ourselves up for instant disappointment.
How to heal the painful thought
In all of these instances, helping a client move past these painful thoughts can be done with a tool called The Work, created by Byron Katie. The basic concept works amazingly well on any painful thought and is relatively easy to learn. It includes the following four steps:
Question the thought
Ask “Is it true?” And if yes, then ask, “Can you absolutely know that it’s true?”
Look at how believing the painful thought makes the client feel and treat others
How does it make you feel to believe that thought?
How do you treat yourself when you believe that thought?
How do you treat others when you believe that thought?
Who would you be without the thought?
Then, help the client look for turnarounds that could be/are as true or truer:
By questioning the painful thought, we are physiologically helping the brain to release the thought. Every thought that we repeat actually forms a physical connection in the brain that is reinforced with myelin with every repeated instance. In order to undo the myelin and physical connection, we have to question whether what we’ve learned to believe is really true. Eventually, the thought is completely replaced with a new healthier, happier thought.
Every coach, no matter what our specialty or our ideal client, works with pain in some shape or form. This is the nature of our business. Even if life coaching isn’t your speciality, you can help your clients overcome those painful thoughts that stand in the way of their growth—professional or personal. The keys are to listen, identify, and question. All of us can benefit from those simple steps.
About Johanna Druen
Johanna combines her life experience, over 20 years as an educator, a degree as a counselor (and as a writer), and years of helping other people navigate life to add to the tools she has learned as a Martha Beck life coach to help people figure out what’s holding them back and help them move forward. She currently lives in Evansville, Indiana, with her two children, ages 20 and 16. Connect with Johanna through Noomii, her website or Facebook.
Check out these related articles:
- The Secret to Getting Referrals Through Your Professional Contacts
- 7 Archetypes to Create Captivating Personal Stories That Engage Readers
- 12 Tips to Make Your Coaching Blog Really Stand Out
- How to Write Fantastic Content and Get More Coaching Clients
- How Content Marketing Will Skyrocket Your Coaching Business
- Best Practices For Promoting Your Coaching Business on Social Media
- Basic Building Blocks of a Social Media Campaign
- How to Better Connect With Coaching Clients Through Blogging