One of the important things a client needs to keep in mind while seeking coaching, is the need to be completely open, and honest with the coach. In a sense, the coach is like the lawyer who needs to be aware of all aspects of a case, lest there be nasty surprises later. Sometimes, clients tend to hide important details from their coaches as well. They may think that the details are silly and hence unimportant and worry about the coach’s opinion of them. Or they may have genuinely not realized the importance of the details and may have forgotten about them. Or, another possibility is that the client may be ashamed of or in denial of his role and may not even want it discussed with the coach. This may not be a wise thing to do because an undisclosed issue is an unresolved issue, and secrets like these may very well prove to be the undoing of the client’s progress. I have observed that two types of responses prevent the coaching from moving ahead.

1. ‘I don’t know’ as a response to an open question. Consider this conversation:

Client: I’m having trouble getting along with my colleagues.
Coach: Why’s that, you think?
Client: They’re all very mean to me.
Coach: And why’s that, you think?
Client: I don’t know.
(Stalemate)

What does this ‘I don’t know’ hide? Maybe it is something that the client is doing or not doing. Maybe he’s had a fight which he’s not telling the coach about. Maybe the client is socially awkward and keeps to himself, thereby appearing snobbish to the colleagues. Whatever the reason, unless the client looks within and answers the question discerningly and truthfully, the solution to the problem will lurk behind the ‘I don’t know’, and elude discovery.

2. If it is a closed Yes or No question, the I don’t know equivalent is ‘Maybe’. ‘Maybe’ as a response hangs between a definite Yes and a definite No. With either of these answers, a specific course can be charted. With a ‘Maybe’, neither of the two will definitively work. Consider this conversation:

Coach: Did you assault your wife?
Client: Yes, I did.
Coach: Do you think what you did was wrong?
Client: Maybe
(Stalemate)

Here the client accepts that he’s assaulted his wife but is neither accepting complete blame, nor rejecting it altogether. Hence this will potentially become a roadblock unless resolved by the coach.

I inform my clients well in advance that they’re not allowed to use these two phrases when they are talking to me. It helps!