The Key To A Successful Life Coaching Relationship


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The primary reason a person hires a life coach is to help them move along towards a goal they want to attain. The coach may use a number of strategies to facilitate this process. But, the most important part of the process is the relationship between the coach and the client. A positive coaching relationship rests on the foundation of respect and caring.

One of the first things it's important for the life coach to do in the coaching relationship is to talk about what the coach expects from the client and what the client expects from the coach. The coach is looking for a client who is highly motivated to achieve their goals and who is willing to be accountable to doing the work to get there. What the client expects from the coach is a nonjudgmental attitude, deep listening, and a safe holding environment at all times and especially when the client encounters obstacles.

There is more. What the client wants, at the deepest level, is rapport with the coach. The client wants to feel that the coach is really right there with them. That they're in it together.

Certain kinds of questions can go a long way to establishing and maintaining rapport. Here are some possibilities. When the client is feeling energized, it's useful for the coach to ask how she can help keep this going. When a client is feeling especially challenged, it can be helpful to ask the client if cheerleading would help. When the client is feeling stuck, it's important for the coach to acknowledge the client's feelings, and ask how she can help.

The coach always wants to give the client an opportunity to speak their truth, and to be heard. “Are you getting what you need today?" This is a simple question. Yet, it is extraordinarily important because it empowers the client. Another simple, yet empowering, question is “How can I help you even more today?"

A question the coach wants to ask the client early on in the coaching relationship is “How do you want me to be with you if you do not do what you say you will do?" This lets the client know that the coach does not expect a smooth journey and wants to co-create whatever solutions become necessary.

Throughout the coaching relationship, from time to time, the life coach needs to ask the client, “How are things going between us?" It's too easy to assume the road the coach and client are traveling together is flat, straight, with no bumps small or large. Yet, it is possible the road is uphill, or up and down at times. Perhaps even winding. The changes may have been so gradual that neither the coach nor the client noticed. So, asking how things are going between the coach and the client brings attention to the important area of rapport.

As coaches we want to be sure to keep the power of the relationship in the client's hands. As if the client were molding a piece of clay into a form that they have either vaguely or vividly envisioned. The clay, being soft, does not resist. At some point the clay will find its way to the client's dream. And we, as life coaches, can participate seamlessly in this process of creation. This is the essence of rapport.

This article may be reproduced if credit is given to copyright 2007 Betsy Landau.

Betsy Landau is a licensed psychologist, life coach, adjunct professor of psychology, author, and publisher. Her recent book Mirabelle's Memoirs: a feline tale is available on Her passion is helping people change their lives. To find out more about coaching with Betsy Landau, and to sign up for her free newsletter, go to


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