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How to deal with a difficult coaching client

Charlotte Randall
Charlotte Randall

One of the things that tested my resolve the most during my training as a coach was learning that coaching sessions may not always leave you with an instant gratification of the influence your facilitation has had on the clients thinking.

I understand now that you may not receive the real-time positive feedback you are hoping for from your client, and that the expectation of this can leave you over-analysing your performance.

My first experience of this came when coaching a client who was extremely challenging in their behavior and mannerisms. I left every session drained, feeling like I was an inconvenience to them and not really sure how much I had really facilitated their thinking.

At this time I turned to my supervisor for support. We planned an observation of a session with the client and debriefed at length afterwards. Within the supervision environment I was able to speak frankly and accept feedback about my approach and discuss the best way forward.

Without a shadow of a doubt this supervision enabled me to maintain the professional coach/client relationship, reflect on my practice objectively and to ultimately stay the distance with this client to a beneficial end.

I still didn’t receive much gratification through verbal or body language communication from my client in subsequent sessions, but as a consequence of the support from my supervisor I was able to manage my own emotions better.

A little while after their final session I received a message from the client thanking me for everything I had done to challenge their thinking and develop their learning, and still receive intermittent communication of how they continue to put their learning into practice!

Charlotte Randall

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