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Surprising Moments in Coaching

Tuesday October 19, 2021

Connor writes,

Can you share some surprising moments in coaching? [Paraphrased]

Here are a few:

Coaching for the Inebriated

There are some people who only realize they need a coach when they are drunk. In waking life they would rather ignore the idea. It’s new, weird, or scary to them.

These cases are more obvious in part because after they get in touch during their drunken times, the very first thing the next day, they usually write an email saying they are no longer interested, or communicating a retraction of some sort…

This surprised me at first, because I never got drunk web development clients before. I guess people don’t think “I need a website” when drunk, so much as they think, “things in general need to improve.”

And the sad part is—coaching or no, these people still need some kind of help that’s apparently out of reach to their normal, waking mind. :-(

Tip: If you reached out for coaching while drunk, let it play out. Joke about it if you have to, but hang in there and see how it goes. You never know.

Coaching for the Lost

Some others get in touch because they need a therapist, and they want me to be their therapist.

Sometimes it’s difficult to set boundaries with these kind of people because they are unfortunately treating life as if all boundaries are blurred in the first place. If you clarify something, like “I’m a coach and not a therapist,” it can feel very hurtful to them.

After all, they usually realize this and are still more than willing to give it a shot, and they’d probably describe themselves as someone who bends over backwards for other people.

However—I just can’t do that. Not only am I not interested in being in the therapist role (some of my mentors were therapists, and we discussed the possibility), but I think there are some basics that everybody needs to pay attention to when they suffer from poor mental health, no matter their personality dynamics. Therapists are trained to cover those areas very well, for one.

Tip: Get and retain a good therapist AND a good coach if you need to. Try to avoid putting all that pressure on a coach who’s trying to focus on a different type of career entirely.

Coaching for the Socially-Broken, paid by the Socially-Able (or Mom)

There’s also a group of people who get in touch because mom’s paying. Or sister’s paying, or somebody more socially clueful.

“What do you want to accomplish,” asks my coaching intake form.

“My mom will tell you all about that.”

She will?!

Sure enough, there’s an email from mom. She wants her son to be…hmmm…just like her? Loving, confident, quick-witted, but above all, socially-appropriate and socially-skilled.

“God, to mix his brains with my relating skills, what an absolute hunk…err…model of a son he would be,” I think she thinks.

(Poor Dad is NEVERRRR spoken of in these situations, either. lol)

I can’t believe how patient some of these people are with their moms. But it’s a tricky situation, because moms hold the keys to a lot of things in life.

I was uncomfortable with this kind of coaching from the very start.

Tip: If someone else pays for coaching and you’re not 100% into it, at least make it authentic. Help your coach steer the conversation by bringing up things you are legitimately interested in, and see if they can help you make it enjoyable.

Coaching for the Mega-mind

Imagine you somehow dwell in a world of rabbits, and you’re the only non-rabbit, higher intellect you can find.

And then you realize that you NEED a rabbit as a coach. There don’t seem to exist any coaches with intellects greater than a humble rabbit, anyway. And an AI would really be ideal, but there’s a problem! The AI needs to approach your own ginormous intelligence

…which, “we all know” this kind of AI isn’t ready for prime time yet.

“So in the meantime, you’ll have to do…”

“…by the way coach, if you need to schedule me, kindly use my convenient online scheduling system!”

(If I need to schedule YOU?)

Tip: If you are highly intelligent and proud of it, probably play it DOWN when getting coaching. At least at a start. Put some feelers out if you need to. But be careful being really direct about this. Otherwise any given session can quickly turn into some variant of a social-clues-and-hints session, despite the coach’s best intentions.


These are just a few that came to mind. Some others were even weirder…

Coaches often have to set really firm boundaries, but at least that makes for good exercise for the coach, too.

Filed in: Coaching /27/ | Relationships /78/

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