NOTE: If you haven’t already read the article ‘The Problem with Men‘, please do that first. It’s necessary background information for delivering effective coaching.
You can’t fix a problem until you know what it is.
Well, actually, that’s a lie. You can fix a problem without knowing what it is. You can keep trying different methods, techniques and tools until you accidentally stumble onto something that seems to work and the problem seems to vanish.
I know this because before I knew what I was doing, this was my approach.
I would try and try and try and eventually (most of the time), the problem would vanish.
The problem with this is that at best, it’s hit and miss. You’re just throwing mud at the wall and hoping that something sticks.
And at worst, you could be taking the client down a path that not only doesn’t eliminate the real challenge, but actually makes it worse.
You could be reinforcing the very issue that the client came to solve and leaving them with a tougher road ahead.
To make sure you don’t end up not only wasting yours and your clients time and money, and exacerbating the challenges they’re facing, you MUST start any coaching session by identifying the ACTUAL challenge that your client is facing.
How do you do that? That’s a good question.
There are two KEY concepts that you must understand to be able to do this effectively.
1. Identifying his Dependence
The first step in any coaching session is to work out what the real challenge is for yourself. Not to blurt it out and throw it in the clients face, but to understand for yourself, what’s really going on underneath the surface.
You have to work out for yourself, what the client is depending on to have what experience.
NOTE: If you haven’t done it yet, read this article. It’ll help you understand what Dependence is and how it works.
Both of these parts are essential in finding the actual challenge because different people can depend on the same thing for different experiences and also seek the same experience through completely different pathways.
A client could be chasing women because he feels disconnected from people around him and wants to feel connected.
A client could be chasing women because he feels insignificant and thinks getting a woman will make prove that he’s significant and important.
A client could getting into physical confrontations because he thinks that will prove he’s significant.
The desired experience and pathway that are being followed are two totally separate elements and you must identify both of them to understand the real challenge that your client faces.
This becomes especially important in step two as you can’t facilitate a client working out what’s going on if you don’t know for yourself.
Don’t understand what I’m talking about? That’s because it’s explained here:
2. Fostering Independence
Answer this: If you just tell a client how he’s being Dependent and how to fix it, have you helped him become more Independent?
If he implements that solution, he might be less Dependent in that one area of his life. He might have dealt with his Dependence on women, on money, or on french poodles, but what happens when he faces another challenge?
What happens when he’s feeling stuck and frustrated and wants a way to deal with it?
Is he going to be better at finding his own solution? Or, because you just told him the problem last time without helping him realise the problem for himself, is he just going to be Dependent on you to show him the answer again?
Helping a client develop Independence doesn’t just involve showing him how and where he’s being Dependent and then telling him how to fix it because all you’re doing is making him Dependent on you to identify his problems and give him solutions.
Whilst you might help him be less Dependent in one area, you’re fostering Dependence in another.
And whilst this might be great for your coaching practice and bank balance, it’s going to SIGNIFICANTLY reduce the change you make in the world.
This is why in order to really help the client develop independence, you must avoid telling them the problem and solution and always help them identify their own challenges and solutions.
“Do I just sit there in silence then?”
Yes. That’s what you need to do. Just sit there in silence. Winner’s choice 😉
Of course not. The way you facilitate a client finding his own challenges and problems is instead of telling him the problem or solution, you ask him questions that lead him to discover his problems and solutions.
You don’t tell him: “You depend on women’s responses to feel good about yourself.”
You ask him: “If you didn’t depend on positive responses from women to feel good about yourself, would it matter how they responded to you?”
You don’t tell him: “You’re dependent on other people’s permission to do what you want.”
You ask him: “If you didn’t rely on other peoples permission to do what you want, would it matter what they thought of you?”
Asking questions forces the client to analyse his current situation and helps him develop the ability to independently identify his problems and solutions rather than becoming Dependent on you for solutions.
Now, this might all seem very abstract without a concrete example so let me walk you through a typical coaching session.
Let me run you through an example:
EXAMPLE: Help, I'm running out of things to say!
Client: Help me! I’m running out of things to say when I’m talking to women. How do I fix this?
Coach: Ok, we can work on this. Running out of things to say isn’t the problem here. It’s a symptom of the problem. You’re running out of things to say because you want something and you think that running out of things to say is stopping you from getting it. So, what is running out of things to say stopping you from getting?
Client: Well, I meet hot women and start talking to them and then my mind goes blank. They just end up walking away and I end up standing there feeling stupid and hopeless and… alone.
Coach: Ok, so what do you want to happen?
Client: Well, I want her to be attracted to me!
Coach: Is that it? Is that the end point? Do you want her to be attracted to you and then just walk away afterwards or is there more? How far do you want this to go? What’s the end point?
Client: Oh, I see. Umm… Well, sex would be great, but more than that, I just want her to flirt with me and be attracted to me. I want her to want me. I want to be wanted.
Coach: And how would you feel if that happened?
Client: Umm… I don’t know. I guess I’d feel important, connected to someone… I’d feel like I was valuable and could achieve things. Like I was significant.
Coach: Ok, great response. So help me out here. I’m just trying to put this all together in my head. Can you just fill in the blanks here.
How do you currently feel when interacting with women?
Client: Umm… I feel hopeless and alone.
Coach: How do you want to feel?
Client: …connected and significant.
Coach: And how are you currently trying to experience that?
Client: …by getting women to like me and approve of me.
Coach: Great. So you currently feel hopeless and alone, you want to feel connected and significant, and the way you’re trying to experience that is by trying to get women to want you. Does that sounds like an effective way to feel connected and significant? Can you ever control what people think of you? Can you ever guarantee that they’re going to respond positively?
Client: No, you can’t. When you put it like that, it doesn’t sound very effective at all. It sounds difficult and stupid.
Coach: And how do you think this is effecting the way women respond to you? Do you think they’re excited by talking to a guy who needs their approval? Do you think they get a little wet around a guy who feels lonely and hopeless?
Client: Yeah, I see…
Coach: Great, because this is the real problem here. It’s not that you’re running out of things to say or that you want to feel important and connected, it’s that you’re trying to feel important and connected by getting approval from a place that you simply can’t control. And what’s making it even harder is the fact that you’re currently not the kind of Man that women want to respond positively to and so it’s making it even MORE difficult.
Client: Oh wow, I see that. I’m depending on women to make me feel good and the fact that I’m doing that is making them even less reluctant to make me feel good.
Coach: So talk to me about running out of things to say… Is this the real problem or is there something deeper?
Client: It’s just the surface level of the real problem. Isn’t it? So what’s the solution? If getting it from women isn’t going to work, what do I do?
Coach: That’s a good question…
That’s one example of why it’s necessary to work with a client to find the actual problem they’re dealing with and how to do it in a way that fosters Independence.
If you just worked on coming up with things to talk about, then not only are you not fixing the real problem, you’re reinforcing the idea that it’s important to get people to respond positively to you.
This is the end of Coaching Foundations 1: Challenge Identification. Once you know what the issue is, you need to facilitate the client finding a solution to their challenge in a productive way.
You can read how to do that in Coaching Foundations 2: Finding a solution.