This is how you deal with new skeptical clients
Clients in the precontemplation stage need to know they are heard, understood, recognized, and accepted for just where they are. This stage is your opportunity to build and strengthen trust with your client.
Compassion is the operative word for this stage.
Attempts to talk clients out of their beliefs about their behavior will serve neither them nor you. Your job as coach at this stage is to help your clients look at their reasons for not wanting to change, distinguish reality from rationales, and consider possible motivators.
Listening, asking questions empathetically (rather than as a challenge), mirroring back what you hear them saying, and affirming them regardless of their resistance to change are important coaching skills for the precontemplation stage.
As Dr. Di-Clemente explains: “We cannot make precontemplators change, but we can help motivate them to move to contemplation.”
For the reluctant client: Listening carefully and offering feedback in a sensitive empathic way are the coaching skills needed for the client in the reluctant category of the precontemplation stage.
In voicing the reluctance and in feeling heard, the client may begin to entertain the notion that the future can be different. By according clients respect and freedom in making their own decisions, the coach enables a non-threatening exploration of the possibility of change.
For the client in rebellion: Clients in the rebellious form of the precontemplation stage need to be able to voice their strong feelings about change.
The coach earns the client’s trust by not trying to censor these feelings. Emphasizing personal control is a good approach with a client at this stage.
As Dr. Di-Clemente observes, “When a clinician agrees with the rebellious precontemplator that no one can force them to change, and in fact the clinician wouldn’t dream of trying, it often diffuses the strength of their argument.”
At the same time, the coach helps the client move in a more positive direction by posing options, letting the client know there are other choices. The challenge to the coach is to help the rebellious precontemplator shift some of the energy currently invested in the problem behavior into contemplating change.
For the resigned client: Restoring hope and optimism is key to helping a client in the resigned category of the precontemplation stage.
If there have been a string of failed attempts to change the behavior, discussion on how relapse is common among people trying to alter their behavior can help the client begin to gain a new perspective.
Exploring the client’s perceived barriers to change is also important as a step toward restoring hope. As research has demonstrated that a clinician’s belief in a client’s ability to change is a strong predictor of outcome, it is important that you cultivate your own hope and optimism regarding your client’s future.
For the rationalizing client: Empathy and reflective listening are skills to employ with rationalizing precontemplators, rather than getting pulled into arguing the other side of their rationales.
When you have acknowledged that they do have some good reasons for their behavior (the pros), they may be open to considering that there are some not so great things (the cons).
When you summarize both sides of the behavior, clients may see flaws in some of their rationales. Often this gentle approach, allowing clients to come to their own conclusions, leads to them reexamining and ultimately changing their behavior.
Helpful Questions to Ask at the Precontemplation Stage
- What might be a warning sign for you that this behavior is a problem?
- Have you tried to change this behavior?
- What might it take for you to move from no change to some change in this behavior?
Coaching Techniques for the Precontemplation Stage
- Validate lack of readiness to change
- Emphasize that the decision to change is the client’s
- Support reevaluation of targeted behavior
- Support self-exploration rather than action
- Explain and personalize the risks of the behavior
- Agree on a direction
If you want to really know how to effectively deal with the tough skeptics (and other clients), then investing in “Inspire, Empower And Lead: The Coaching Psychology Masterclass For Health Coaches” will be one of the wisest investments you’ll ever make.
You’ll know exactly how to approach clients in every stage of change and how to maximize their results.