How to Help Clients Who Aren’t Ready to Change
by Omar Ganai
3 minute read
"The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change."
– Carl Rogers
Most of your clients decided to sign up for your services after months or even years of playing a personal mental battle. A battle in which one part of their psyche pressured them to “Just do it!”, and the other part questioned, “Should you do this? Can you do this?”
So it’s fair to say that they forced themselves to sign up, to stop feeling pressured. Before they could prepare themselves for the effort that real change requires.
And now they find themselves in Commitment Prison. A tricky place where even a minor setback could make them regret their haste. And make you a convenient target to assign the blame… so they can avoid the unpleasant thought that they weren’t ready to change in the first place.
So how can we help clients who aren’t ready to change? Clients who are trapped in Commitment Prison? I’ve found that communicating with clients with empathy gets them moving forward again. A simple powerful technique to do that? Making reflective listening statements.
A reflective listening statement is a statement you make back to a client that makes a reasonable guess about what they meant. Listen to their words, search for the meaning behind the words, and present them back to the client.
The key is to present a statement rather than a question, as statements reduce defensiveness in clients. They allow clients to hear again the thoughts and feelings they are expressing, perhaps in different words, and ponder them.
Reflective listening statements are so damn empowering because they help the client feel heard. Using them makes it clear to the client that you have no agenda other than to understand them. And that you trust them to reach the right conclusions for them.
But don’t take my word for it. Here are the insights coaches in our Essentials of Group Coaching program had by using reflective listening statements with their clients:
It's interesting to me how often people don't notice or listen to what they are saying, and then when it is reflected back, they feel like they are learning something new. I am learning that reflective statements help people become more conscious of the message they are communicating.This feels like a step towards autonomy and self-responsibility. - Sarah
It really hit home about how a question can come off as condescending or judgy but a reflective listening statement does not. The inflection at the end seems to make a huge difference. If the statement is on the money then it seems to typically end in a yes answer but if it's off they go right in to correct it and everyone is closer to the same page. - Dustin
Repeating what they said or even the last blurb of what they said had them share deeper and I understand more about them.I learned that people’s values emerge from their mouths if I give them more opportunity to speak, thus marking a clearer path for me to be of assistance. - Charlie
I made some deeper connections with clients. When they hear things they have said it resonates someplace deep. And I felt more connected to their goals and to them by using the reflective statements. - Nathan
I think the simplest way to deal with uncertainty in conversations is possibly to not have an agenda or expectations. To trust that the process will help us work our way toward our goal, and my agenda to talk to you about protein or whatever the hell else I think I need to talk to you about may not be very important compared to where the conversation ends up as a result of reflective listening statements. - Susan
Essentials of Habit Coaching starts up again on September 14, 2015.