If Life Coaches Don’t Give Advice, What Do They Do?

March 11, 2021
Life Coaching

Friends are often our go-to people for positive interventions. In the best circumstances, you’ll get a sympathetic ear, moral support, and a reminder of what others love about you. 

Do you know what’s also typically included in that package? Unsolicited Advice. And it’s not just from our friends, either. Guidance comes at us from every direction: family, coworkers, neighbors… even strangers on social media.

Advice-giving is such a prevalent part of interpersonal relationships that it can feel downright strange to not receive any when we enter into a coaching partnership. After all, aren’t life coaches paid to help people find clarity, solve challenges, and achieve life goals? 

Should Life Coaches Give Advice?

Many people who enroll in life coach training have heard countless times that they are “great listeners”. Often, our students also tell us that they’re the person friends and family come to for advice. So it can come as something of a shock in coach training to discover that this perceived strength may need to be “unlearned”!

In a life coaching session, the work is always client-directed.

What this means is that it’s not a life coach’s job to tell other people how to live. A coach’s role is to hold space in such a way that the client can have their own revelations.

What actually happens when we attempt to give someone else “the answer”? According to VeryWellMind:

 “Unsolicited advice has the potential to create stress. When someone offers their opinion on what you could be doing differently, it can sometimes feel like criticism… When the advice doesn't feel right to you or you reject it, this can put you in a difficult position and create frustration and even resentment on both sides.”

If we want an insight or solution to have lasting impact, it has to come from the inside-out. That’s the philosophical foundation upon which the entire life coaching relationship is built.

When Is Advising Appropriate?

Professional advice has its place, just not in a traditional coaching session. Here’s a simple way to make the distinction between life coaching and complementary modalities that may also include dispensing advice:

COACHING is a thought-provoking and creative partnership that inspires clients to maximize their personal and professional potential, often unlocking previously untapped sources of imagination, productivity, and leadership.

THERAPY is a form of medical treatment that addresses emotions, behavioral challenges, and disruptive situations. The primary emphasis in a therapeutic relationship is the achievement of healing and wellness. 

CONSULTING is a professional service where the practitioner brings expertise in a particular area, and is paid to advise the client on what to do. 

MENTORING is a relationship in which the mentor possesses a significant level of experience that the mentee wishes to learn from.

So What Does A Life Coach DO?

A well trained life coach holds space for their client to create a future vision and put the necessary action steps in place to make it happen. They do so using the following evidence-based coaching frameworks and techniques:

  • Applied positive psychology
  • Appreciative inquiry
  • Goal-setting theory

One of the primary roles of a life coach is to hold the structure of every coaching conversation. Sessions are often centered around three primary questions:

  1. Where are you now?
  2. Where do you want to be?
  3. What's getting in the way?

Life coaching sessions aren’t designed to be all talk and no action! It’s a dynamic exchange where the coach and client come together to accomplish a specific goal. To that end, effective life coaching is always action-oriented and measurable. 

According to the 2017 International Coaching Federation’s Global Consumer Awareness Study, clients who have partnered with a coach report a variety of positive impacts across the board. Typical outcomes from life coaching include:

  • Improved communication
  • Increased self-esteem/self-confidence
  • Increased productivity
  • Optimized performance
  • Improved work/life balance

Life coaching techniques such as active listening, asking powerful questions, and assisting someone in the process of finding their own answers can look like “nothing much” to the outside eye. But each is a built skill, with a wealth of theory, research, and practice behind it. 

Yes, our friends may love us. But how many of them are explicitly trained to set aside their own needs, opinions, and advice in order to create the conditions for you to achieve your own revelations?

Want to become a coach?

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