One of the students on my current NLP practitioner training called me today with a problem that every coach will recognise. She is doing some ‘practice’ coaching for a friend, by telephone. Each week the client very positively identifies and commits to their actions for the coming week – and by the following week, there is always some reason why the client hasn’t carried them out.

Pretty much every coach alive has been there. But what to do?

A bit more background: this client talks very positively but is prone to taking too much on, and rarely says ‘no’ to requests to do even more. The coach had helped her elicit her values around work, and they were all very ‘towards’.

My thoughts were that if the client has a pattern of ‘people pleasing’, she might also be saying what she thinks the coach wants to hear. She probably means it at the time, but deep down, her unconscious mind doesn’t want to do it, so when she gets off the phone, she forgets, or something ‘outside her control’ just (apparently) happens to prevent her.

A few ideas suggest themselves:

1. Gently bring the gap between what she says and what she does to the client’s attention: “You say you want to do this, and nothing has happened since you said it. What is going on here?”

2. Check for ‘hidden’ or unconscious values beyond those already elicited using a ‘threshold’ process, which goes like this:

a.    “All these values being present, is there anything that could happen that could make you leave?”
b.    “All these values being present, plus  (Value(s) just mentioned)  what would have to happen such that would make you stay?”
c.    “All these values being present, plus  (Value(s) just mentioned)  what would have to happen such that would make you leave?”
d.    Continue with steps b-c until you get repeat words.

This will flush out hidden ‘away-from’ values that the client may not have been consciously aware of, but which nevertheless have been influencing her behaviour.

Fortunately, these are easy and natural questions to ask someone, as the area under discussion is Work and Career.

3. The client’s default setting when someone asks her to do something extra is to say ‘yes’ automatically – only later considering whether she actually has time for this additional task. What if she got into the habit of saying ‘no’ automatically?

4. Maybe the goals are just too big and daunting, and the client needs to break them down into smaller steps and only promise to carry out the very first step – whatever she can commit 100% to. In NLP we would call this ‘chunking down’ and be alert to any signs of incongruence in the client’s voice (remember, the coaching is happening over the phone).

How To Deal With An Incongruent Coaching Client

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