6 words and a phrase that bad coaches use

16 January 2017 Anthony Eldridge-Rogers

As we start a very uncertain new year, it seems to me that one of the biggest learnings is around the use of language.


How words and language are used is one of the primary ways us coaches, counsellors and therapists communicate with clients. And, much like the way the media express themselves, there is always the question whether our words are biased or neutral or manipulative.


Most of us who have invested a great deal of time in getting trained and have a programme of supervision will be on top of this. But what can happen is that how we show up with our clients is not necessarily how we show up across our whole lives.


If we want to not manipulate or coerce or try to control people then scrutinising how we speak is important. Frankly, a coach who peppered or even used any of the below once or twice in a coaching session could be described as a bad coach. That means they are not using and practicing the foundational coaching principal that coaching is NOT about telling people what to do and trying to control them. It is a tough call as most of us have been spoken to in this way so much that we have incorporated it into how we relate to others. Professionally, though, I recommend you make sure these words stay out of your coaching practice.


Here is a list of the top 6 words and phrases people use to try to control and dictate to others, either professionally or in other areas of their lives.


1.    “…..GOT TO…..”


Got to is directive. It says you think that something must happen and it has the energy of judgment in it.


2. “……MIGHT…..”  want to think about / do / change ……”


This usually starts with “You….might want to think about….”  This means that you are proposing a solution or a course of action that is essentially your point of view.


3. “….SHOULD….”


This again contains a judgment energy.


4. “….MUST…..”


Must I? It will be up to the person you are talking to to decide if it is a “must” for them. This is often received as a command or order.


5.  “…..OUGHT….”


Again this is a criticizing word and implies a duty. Something you should do.


(See how these words like to stick to each other?)


6.  “DON’T YOU THINK IT WOULD BE GOOD IF…….”  Last, but not least, is the directive suggestion. This is often heard and it is loaded with pressure. Pressure to first agree with the speaker, then to agree that the upcoming suggestion is indeed a good one – the listener is then faced with having to agree or explicitly say it is NOT a good idea in their view. There is a lot of pressure to go along with the questioner and many people do.


A very good place to start in working out where you as a practitioner are in your use of language and vocabulary is to record a session and then look to see how you are framing and expressing your questions to clients. Make recordings too of your daily interactions and then listen to them and see which of the above words and phrases you have used. It’s a challenge, but it’s worthwhile. Relationships improve when we get the energy of directiveness out of the way we are.