Integrative Nutrition Blog

“What If I Don’t Say the Right Thing?”

November 26, 2013

Early on as a health coach. one of my own personal fears was not saying the "right" thing.  Not giving just the right advice or guidance. I imagined myself sitting in front of my client tripping over my words.  Scrambling to look through notes or books to find exactly what I was supposed to say to this person who was paying me to help them get healthy.  There were times, if I had let it, that this fear could have actually stopped me from moving forward as a coach.

What got me through initially is hearing IIN founder Joshua Rosenthal’s voice in my head. Joshua spent a fair amount of time teaching us about listening.  He taught that a lot of the time during coaching sessions we should be listening. We watched him demonstrate this.  We practiced it. We needed to learn to listen…really listen.

I became purposeful about creating a space for my clients to talk.  At first some of them didn’t feel comfortable.  A lot of people don’t have this space in their life and don’t always know how to fill it.  A space where someone is truly listening to them. I cultivated my ability to hear what they were saying. And of course, initially that meant there was less of a chance that I was going to say the "wrong" thing.  Give the wrong advice or guidance.  Because let’s face it, if I were listening more then I wouldn’t be talking so much.

What I quickly realized is that in creating this listening space for clients, healing was happening.  And I didn’t need to have the right answer or perfect resource.  Just by being there, accepting them for who they are at that moment, and asking a few key questions, my clients  - people who needed to be heard and to hear themselves think aloud about their lives – started breathing differently.  Their unsure voices became more committed and strong.  They began to figure out how they were getting in their own way when it came to getting healthy.

At first I actually felt a little guilty.  I felt like I wasn’t saying enough and here they are paying me.  They are going to think I’m a fraud.  Don’t get me wrong - it’s not like I didn’t give any advice or offer resources or ideas.  But there was always plenty of time that I was sitting, looking, nodding, smiling…listening.  And then the session was over. 

But people were getting healthier and happier.  They were making changes in their lives.  They were thanking me for everything I did to help them.  So I eventually let the guilt go and realized the wisdom in what I had learned about coaching from Joshua and from these experiences.  Getting healthy isn’t so complicated for most people.  Often more than needing someone who knows exactly what to say at the right moment, they need someone who is skilled in listening.  Listening with empathy.  And you know what? That’s actually when the "right" thing to say would just come out of my mouth.  The right resource would pop into my head.  The missing puzzle piece to a health condition was put into place.

Having all the right answers isn’t what makes an effective coach.  Sure, you need to be knowledgeable, and with IIN’s program you definitely are.  Just don’t let yourself get stuck on the idea you need to have the right answer before you can coach someone into better health.  Instead, cultivate your ability to listen and you’ll be amazed at how you can support people’s healing.

Angelle Batten, IIN Class of 2005, is founder of AngelleBatten.com, where she teaches moms to feed their family healthier one manageable step at a time.  She has coached over 200 moms and dads through the 14 Day Get REAL with Your Health Cleanse for Busy Moms & Dads. Along with health coaching, she enjoys hanging out with her husband, three kids, and big black dog Oliver.  Connect with Angelle on her blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

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