Center for Coaching Certification

Coaching on Sensitive Topics

coaching on sensitive subjectsWhat is the role of the coach when there are sensitive topics?  In coaching, sensitive topics are part of the conversation.  Consider the ICF definition of coaching: Coaching is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.  In the ICF competency on coaching presence are these statements: “Is open to not knowing and takes risks,” and “Demonstrates confidence in working with strong emotions,” and “…can self-manage and not be overpowered or enmeshed by client’s emotions.”  The role of the coach is to listen deeply, ask questions, partner for a forward focus, and empower the client to discover their own answers.

What are different approaches to handling sensitive topics?  The coaching process taught during coaching certification applies for sensitive topics as well as for other areas of focus: listen, ask questions, rephrase, then ask another question.  When it is a sensitive topic the tone, pace, and questions are adjusted to the client in the moment.

How can a coach best support the client?  Sometimes coaches want to share their own experience.  On rare occasion this can be helpful – the caveats are that it is only done for the benefit of the client, that the sharing is very short and simple, and that the coach quickly transitions back to the client.  Sometimes coaches want to give advice and this is not coaching – instead listen, care, and support the client with the coaching process.

Coach training focuses on the Code of Ethics and the 11 Core Competencies of a coach – these foundational documents from the ICF provide the framework for best supporting coaching clients.

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