Your success at building great rapport with clients and moving them to cause depends a great deal on your capacity to connect at heart level. Recently I had my first coaching session with a new client in a Job Service Agency where I provide life coaching services to the long-term unemployed. With closed body language and a cynical attitude, the opening line of this 20 year old disheveled male was “I’m wondering how you possibly think you can help me!” However, 45 minutes into the session this same young guy, in a vulnerable and mellow tone admitted “I’m beginning to think that the only person getting in my way is me.”
How did I respond when Matt gave me his opening line? I laughed and said “yeah, I actually don’t know how I may help you as yet, mate. But I’d love to hear your dream!” This clearly was not the response he was expecting, and after some hesitation he proceeded to share is dream to be a great musician. I responded: “That’s awesome, man. How long’s this been on your heart?” Matt began to lower his barriers and in the few minutes of dialogue that followed, I had connected with him at a heart level.
1. It’s not about me, it’s about the client
I could have easily written Matt off as uncoachable, or I may have tried to defend my coaching skills. I may have even tried to disarm him with questions like “I’m curious to know why you don’t think I can help you.” Questions like this are really about me and as soon as we make coaching about us, we seriously dilute our capacity to add value to the lives of our clients.
2. It’s not about the script, it’s about the client
I have a well-rehearsed script of what life coaching is and isn’t, but this was not going to serve Matt at this point because I would only be responding to what he said. I needed to respond to why he said it. Clearly Matt through I was going to impose on him my agenda of what he should do. Instead I took the dialogue to the level of listening to who he wanted to be. By intentionally using words such as “love”, “dream”, and “heart” I encouraged Matt to respond from his heart rather than his head, as these words reflect heart language.
3. It’s not about the technique, it’s about the client.
I can’t even remember now what Matt’s primary modality was, or how I matched his language. When we know the techniques and they become embedded at an unconscious level, they will simply happen as we genuinely connect heart to heart with our clients. If we are consciously trying to apply techniques we run the great risk of missing the “heart space” connection.
After sharing his dream Matt reflected that he had known others with the same dream, and 10 years later they were still dreaming and nothing had changed. My response: “Mate, the same thing will happen to you if you don’t get off your butt, take some action, and deal with the junk that’s getting in your way. I can help you do that.” A bit harsh? When clients know that we genuinely care, it’s amazing how constructively confrontational we can be. It was at this point that Matt realized he was the one who was getting in the way of his own dreams.
We expand our heart space when we expand our awareness of ourselves and others. Is there a client, work colleague, family member or acquaintance who evokes a defensive reaction in you? Ask yourself “why are they speaking/behaving in this way?” Respond to the why rather than reacting to the what. You may be pleasantly surprised by the result, and in the process you may have begun to expand your own heart space!
Mark Setch is a Master Certified Coach (MCC) with the International Coaching Federation. As a Leadership and Personal Development Coach and Trainer, Mark's passion is to enable people unleash their life and leadership potential. Mark has held various leadership roles and has been mentoring emerging leaders for over 30 years. He loves relating to people of all ages and walks of life, and his clients have included small business owners, managers in government & not-for-profit organisations, pastors, school chaplains, long-term unemployed, army officers and soldiers in recovery. Mark currently serves as Director of Training within Neurocoaching Australia.