It is easy to see why clients sometimes avoid telling the truth. There are often negative consequences for telling the truth—even if it is only to oneself. Telling the truth might make us look bad or put pressure on us to change our behavior. The truth can be scary. And let’s face it—sometimes a fabrication is just more interesting.
Then again, truth can be hard to define. Thomas J. Leonard, a pioneer in the coaching field, identifies some distinctions on truth in his book The Portable Coach:
—Not all truth is provable by standard measurements.
—A personal truth may not be provable by facts.
—Truth may change and evolve over time.
As coaches, we help clients recognize their personal truths, develop self-awareness, and have the courage to take positive risks. We create a safe environment where people can tell the truth without fear of negative consequences. But even with this encouragement, clients aren’t always as truthful as they could be.
So how can coaches encourage more truth-telling behavior among our clients? Here’s a 3-step process I use:
- Pay attention to the client’s tone of voice and energy level—and question statements that don’t ring true.
- When it sounds like a client is spinning a tale, it is okay to interject and challenge them.
- Challenge by asking, not telling, since even the best coaches can be off base. You can do this by repeating the client’s statement back to them and asking them how it sounds.
I’ve had a number of clients burst out laughing when they hear their own statement repeated back to them. They often realize that they have convinced themselves of something that may not be true or is an outdated belief.
Give this process a try. Once people recognize the truth, the most natural response is to start changing behavior to align with it. Celebrate the truth and the freedom that comes from being honest with ourselves!
About the Author
Kathleen Martin is a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies. You can read Martin’s posts as a part of Coaching Tuesday here at Blanchard LeaderChat for ideas, research, and inspirations from the world of executive coaching.