A lot of coaches I meet apologize for things way too often. Sometimes these apologies are overt, “I’m sorry I upset you by holding you accountable.” Sometimes these apologies are subtle “I’m not actually saying this out loud but I’m sorry I’m charging more than you might have expected for coaching” Most of these apologies are unnecessary.
Your job is to help your clients change their lives. To do this you’ll likely need to make them uncomfortable, take risks in what you ask them, and even at times create a situation that will cause them to become upset, defensive, and even accusatory. You can’t do this if you’re apologizing for standing for what they are committed to creating.
So here’s a list of things you don’t need to apologize for as a coach.
1. How much you charge – If people are upset that you charge that much, they don’t have to pay it. If they’re upset about it, it’s because of their own context around money, value, and worth which has nothing to do with you.
Creating your fees is about your own stand on commitment and your willingness to be in a powerful conversation with clients about what is required to work with you. There is no right fee, so you don’t need to apologize for yours.
2. That you charge at all – Some people expect free emotional labor. Not just from you but from the world. You don’t need to apologize to them. Being clear about when you’re coaching out of generosity and when it’s time to create a commitment (including fees) will have them be invested in the work.
Money isn’t the only way to invest, but in the current world we live in it’s a powerful stand-in for energetic commitment. Asking for people to be committed is part of being a coach so don’t apologize for it.
3. Having Boundaries – Your clients will inevitably have some expectations of you, some of these will easily align (you should be clothed during our sessions), some of them may not (you should answer my texts at 2 am). Because these expectations will vary most coaches create agreements and boundaries around how the relationship will work. You don’t need to apologize for these boundaries.
You are leading your client into having a powerful relationship with life. You model that by having a powerful relationship with them. If they don’t like your boundaries they can hire someone else or they can negotiate with you. But you don’t need to apologize for them . . . ever.
4. Asking Clients to Abide by Agreements – You likely have agreements with your clients. If you don’t, it’s a good idea to create them. Sometimes clients don’t empower agreements which is pretty normal. When this happens it’s easy to get some push-back when you remind them or ask them to step into the container you created.
Reactions and defensiveness are to be expected, but you don’t need to apologize for asking them to abide by these agreements. You can be empathetic and curious, but you don’t need to apologize for holding the container.
5. Making Small Human Mistakes – Sometimes you’re going to say the wrong thing, ask a question in an odd way, and forget someone’s name (not the client’s😬). You don’t need to apologize for these things most of the time. You are allowed to be human. Your client is allowed to be human.
If they need to be acknowledged, do so, “Right her name is Susan, thanks for reminding me.” but mostly just move on. If your client demands you apologize for things like this, consider getting a new client, or invite them to take a look at what’s going on.
6. Saying No to Potential Clients – Whether the client isn’t a good fit for what you do, they creep you out, they’ve done something inappropriate, or you just don’t like them, it’s ok to say you don’t want to coach them anymore. You don’t have to apologize for this. You don’t even need to act apologetic, just be honest and refer them to a coach that can help them.
You get to choose your clients just like they get to choose their coach. If they get super upset it’s probably even more reason why you should refer them out.
7. Ending Client Engagements – Most people need to switch coaches at some point. And sometimes you need to switch clients. It may be because something has soured in the relationship that you or they are unwilling to take on or it may be that the relationship has come to a natural end. You don’t need to apologize for ending the relationship.
If the engagement is ending early you should talk to your coach and some peers about it, but if you’ve gotten supported and you’re clear, don’t feel bad about ending it. If you do think the relationship can survive with some changes then bringing them to the client is a good idea. But no matter what, you have the right to end a coaching relationship. You don’t need to be apologetic about it if you are clear it’s what’s best for you, the client, or both of you.
8. Raising Your Rates – Prices change all the time. You are under no obligation to keep your prices the same unless you have an agreement that states you will, and even then you’re allowed to renegotiate. Sometimes people don’t like this, that’s fine, they have a right to get upset. And you have a right to raise your rates. Don’t apologize for charging more for what you do.
9. Clients Getting Upset – It’s likely that you’ll have an upset client at some point. If you really did something wrong, broke an agreement, and/or spoke from privilege unconsciously feel free to apologize. But most times when your clients get upset you will have done nothing wrong.
Transformation can be upsetting. Most of us are comfortable with how things are even if it’s not really working for us. This is why when a coach works with us to change things we often get upset because the change is confronting. So if a client gets it, don’t apologize and assume you did something wrong. Get curious, listen, and really understand the nature of their upset. If there’s something to clean up, do it, but don’t apologize for coaching people.
10. Clients Wanting To Quit – Just like in #9 if you have your clients on their edge, many of them will want to quit. Quitting looks different for each person. Some people demand a refund, others just slowly disengage, and some stop feeling their feelings as they trudge through the work.
It’s your job to notice how and in what way they might quit, to warn them that it might happen, and to support them to get back into commitment when it shows up. But you don’t need to apologize when it happens. Clients wanting to quit is a sign of good coaching.
Ok, but when should I apologize?
- When you’ve broken an agreement.
- When you’ve spoken from privilege or expressed a racist/bigotted view. (intention doesn’t matter)
- When you have gone too far and hurt someone’s feelings.
- When your lack of consciousness has caused pain.
- When you’re truly sorry. (vs anxiously obligated to please through apology)
- When you’ve done something unethical or unkind. (again intentions aside)
Most coaches I know apologize or embody apology too often, except for the ones with overly healthy—aka unhealthy—egos (those coaches don’t apologize nearly enough). If you’ve read this far you’re likely one of the former coaches. For you, I would encourage and advise you to be less apologetic, more responsible, and more compassionate and bold in your coaching and your life.
Powerful coaching is not for the faint of heart, it’s for warriors of the truth and people who are committed to living in a way that’s more than ordinary. If you can be that for other people as well as yourself you can learn to really impact those around you. So get to work.