Clients often come in with problems and they almost always have the indecency to expect you to help them, just because you took their money. Your goal as a coach/clinician/hairdresser is to get them to solve their own problems – it’s much less work for you that way. So, in that interest, here are 6 ways to respond to your clients to shove them in the right direction.
Responses 1-3 tend to align with motivational interviewing – an empathetic communication style that allows the client to do most of the talking, while the clinician gently steers them towards change. Your responses are made as a statements, meaning with a downward inflection at the end, to allow your client to freely elaborate (instead of asking questions which tends to limit your clients to just answering the question and nothing more).
Responses 4-6 align more with provocative coaching – an irreverent communication style that relies on humor, trolling people, and essentially using ‘reverse psychology’ to provoke the client to change. In provocative coaching, you ramble on as the devil’s advocate and make all sorts of excuses for your client, not letting them get a word in edgewise, until they finally interrupt you to protest that your excuses don’t matter (thus taking accountability for their own actions). It is essential when using this style that you use humor that is directed at their actions and not at them as a person, as well as humor directed at yourself. So here they are.
- Acknowledge their thoughts of change
- Acknowledge the benefits of change
- State their interest in finding a solution
- Humorously encourage the problem behavior. Even suggest that they should do it more
- Provocatively question why they would want to change. Wouldn’t they miss the perks of their behavior?
- Provide excuses and justifications for why they continue to do it and why the results aren’t good
Now here are some sample statements with examples. The first one, they’re generous enough to tell you their goal and their obstacle. The second one, they just tell you the problem. Notice that responses 1-3 work by encouraging the client to elaborate on good things, while responses 4-6 work by getting them to defensively make change statements or accept responsibility.
“I want to lose weight, but it’s hard to eat healthy.”
- Thoughts of change: you’ve thought about tackling this problem already.
- Benefits of change: you already know losing weight might help you enjoy some activities more.
- Interest in solution: you’re interested in learning to make eating healthy easier.
- Encourage the problem (do that more): gaining weight is a lot more fun and the point of life is to maximize your enjoyment! [Here they might protest that it’s not all fun and point out reasons they want to change.]
- Question change: why would you want to lose weight when there are so many perks. You can eat whatever you want and you float a lot easier. [They might respond with why they do want to lose weight.]
- Make excuses: well, eating healthy is really hard and you probably are too tired at the end of the day to cook. [They might explain that they actually do have time to cook, accepting responsibility.]
“School makes me anxious.“
- Thoughts of change: you’re here to see what can be done.
- Benefits of change: learning to control your stress would probably help you with your grades and how you feel about yourself.
- Solution interest: you want to learn to be confident at school.
- Encourage the problem (do that more): that’s good – it means you’re on your toes. Teenagers will attack at a moment’s notice, so if anything, you’re not anxious enough. You really ought to keep your phone out and on selfie mode at all times so you can always see behind yourself.
- Question change: stress can really do wonders for getting your digestive system moving – some people say it even works too much, but there really is no such thing. Being regular is a gift, do you really want give that up?
- Make excuses: high school is really hard. You have no idea who you are, what you like, or what you’re doing at all which is why you’re so awkward with everyone.
There are many more types of responses for both motivational interviewing and provocative coaching, but that’s it for now!