How to Explain Coaching to a Skeptic

By Toku

Every once in a while, you’ll meet people who don’t get coaching. They don’t understand it because they have no experience with it, have had a bad experience with it, or don’t know what it means to be coached. So when you approach them with the invitation to try out coaching, they may seem hesitant or skeptical about the whole thing. 

But what do you do when this happens? 

While this doesn’t happen to me often in executive coaching, this does show up a lot when I coach team members at a company. They didn’t hire me, they’re not paying for it, and they only show up to coaching because their boss asked them to. But I’ve discovered that these skeptical, resistant clients often become some of my favorites. 

Here’s the approach I use to transform those relationships.

First, when you invite someone to a potential coaching consultation, and this is their attitude or response, don’t let it freak you out – it’s a normal response. People are usually skeptical of anything they haven’t experienced for themselves or don’t fully understand or see the value of. It’s similar to how you might react to a new kind of food you’ve never seen before; you’re primarily cautious and maybe a bit curious. 

But just like you might talk about a kind of food you love, there’s no right way to explain what you do. 

Coaching is complex. There are a lot of different kinds of coaches, and different people get completely different things out of coaching. So usually, the best way to share about coaching is to simply connect with people about your coaching experiences. 

Coaching is a highly personal experience.

Start the conversation by explaining what coaching is like for you. What does it mean to you? What do you try to achieve with clients, and what types of goals and desires do your clients have? What has coaching changed for you personally? What do you work on with your coach? What are the best and most challenging parts of coaching as a coach and client? 

Focus on the goals and outcomes of your coaching experience and the results you’ve personally seen, rather than what you think they could achieve or why you think they’d be a good fit.

For example, “What’s great about coaching is that I like having someone challenge my ideas and support me in my goals, without trying to manage or tell me what to do. As a result, I feel like I’m both more effective and more empowered.” 

When I say that to people, it’s often very enrolling for them. They appreciate that I’m not telling them what I can do for them or saying, “here’s how I’d coach you” – I’m just sharing my experience with coaching. And if they’re not into it, that’s okay. It’s not for everyone. 

Remember: you don’t have to explain everything.

Your job as a coach is not to explain the entire coaching industry, every coaching technique, or the transformation process to everyone you invite into a potential coaching relationship. Instead, your job is to explain why you’re curious about them, what you’re interested in possibly creating, and what coaching means to you. 

This is what opens up a conversation where people with little to no experience with coaching can feel heard, listened to, and appreciated instead of feeling like you’re shoving coaching at them and treating them like a sale.

If you can do this, the question of “what even is coaching” becomes easier to answer. You’ll be better able to share your curiosity and passion for coaching with the people you hope to serve. 



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