How to Overcome Awkward or Intrusive Coaching Situations with Grace


I was speaking with a colleague recently who told of an incident with a fellow coach. Uncomfortable coaching situations can arise unexpectedly and we need to know how to handle them gracefully.

They were at lunch and having what my colleague felt was a typical business discussion when suddenly my colleague began being hammered by more and more questions intended to enlighten (or coach) her. While my colleague understood that the other coach was only trying to be helpful, the questions felt unusually intrusive.

I feel sad for both of them because I understood that the other coach was trying to be helpful and my friend was trying to remain polite so as not to hurt the other coach's feelings.

So, as coaches, how can we be of optimum service to others while not getting in someone else's business? 

Here are a FEW suggestions that apply to both professional and personal situations:

I don't believe we can ever be familiar enough with another person that we shouldn't ask permission before coaching. Don't presume that when you are speaking to another coach, they automatically want and are ready for coaching. Sometimes even coaches are not ready to be coached.

If you feel coaching questions welling up inside of you, ask the other individual, "Did you mention this matter because you would like me to coach you on it?" Or simply, "Would you like me to coach you (on this topic)?"

In this way, you can gently open the door to a coaching conversation while giving the other person an opportunity to accept or decline the coaching.

But please, don't get your feelings hurt if the coaching is declined. It is most likely because the other person just isn't in a place mentally or emotionally to be ready for coaching at that moment. But if they agree, excellent. The other person receives coaching for their issue and you enjoy fulfillment for helping them. Win-win.

As a professional service provider, it is not unusual to be approached for coaching in a social situation. This happens to physicians, attorneys, counselors and accountants fairly regularly.

I witnessed an attorney once tell someone, "Thanks for asking but I have a rule that I don't mix non-business occasions with business.  Here is my card.  Feel free to call my office for an appointment."  In this situation, delivery is everything.  Make sure you smile and say this in a friendly, sincere, inviting way.  If necessary, explain that work had a way of intruding into all aspects of your life and you finally had to create some boundaries to make space for your personal life.

Of course, you may coach someone spontaneously but if you do, it is more likely that your time and services will not be as highly valued as when you create professional boundaries.​ Why would someone hire you when they can receive all the coaching they need for free?

Here is another situation that some may find awkward.  

What if someone asks you to coach them, and you don't want to coach them at that time (or maybe ever).  You don't have to agree to this arrangement if you don't believe the coaching relationship is a good fit for both of you.

You could answer by saying, "Thank you for asking but I don't know that I am the best person to coach you on this topic. If you like, I will look for someone more qualified (or knowledgeable). I'll get back with you on this." And then, make sure you do follow up.

Down the road you can either give them a referral or tell them you couldn't find the right person and wish them well regardless.

© 2015 Leelo Bush PhD. All rights reserved.

PS  Have you experienced your own version of an awkward coaching situation? Please tell me and my readers in the comments section below.  And also add how you solved it.​ Do you have a question about a situation?  Please ask me and I will be happy to reply with my thoughts.  Let's talk!

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