How do you coach a client
who is just plain negative about life?
This, from a coach...
"I've got a client who is just negative and cynical about life.
Frustrated and bummed out. Just can't see what people see in
life. Is he depressed or just having a bad year? We've talked
about it some but I can't get him to see the better side of life.
He's making ME depressed now. Help!"
You are asking some of the right questions. And let me add a
couple of more to ask your client, because getting to the
source/cause of this way of relating to the world can obviously
get in the way of coaching, achievement, happiness, etc. (duh)
Below are some questions that I would ask, but I would ask them in
the Navigates via Curiosity mode (on of the 15 proficiencies) not
in the interrogation mode where you're coming from looking for
information to fix/change/brighten the client up. In my
experienced, there is ALWAYS a simple explanation for why a person
is negative or cynical. And, often, when the person gets to the
root cause, they lighten up, sometimes quite quickly.
But as I just mentioned, do come into this via clean curiosity vs
trying to make them a Positive Pat. Come to enjoy their being a
Negative Ned. Some people just are and will never change. It
doesn't mean that you can't coach them well or even enjoy them.
(This because it's your reaction to their negativity that's the
culprit, not what they are being negative about.)
to say/Questions to ask
Are you aware
that you're coming across as fairly negative?
I'm a little
curious. Why the cynicism?
How you always
been this bitter?
on that has you be that way?
are you in being a very, very positive person from this point
Have you given
up on something?
seriously wronged and have not yet recovered?
I'm okay with
negative attitude thing. I'm just curious if you are?
attitude something you would like to focus on/change?
cynicism something you would like to focus on/change?
outlook something you would like to focus on/change?
I'm not an MD,
but could it be that you are clinically depressed?
The source of negativity can be any number of things. There are
several ideas. Legally/ethically, some of these sources call for
the work of a psychologist or MD; others do not. I include all of
these here to give you a broader perspective. They are not in any
The dynamic of some families is negative/cynical; the child, no
adult, has been steeped in this environment for so long that they
consider it to be normal/natural and even 'healthy.'
We take on the thinking/communication style of the
friends/colleagues that we hang out with a lot. It can be a
slippery slope, given the richness of the bonding process is so
seductive when it's 'us vs them' attitudes that cliques can adopt.
We are all discriminated against; it is what we humans tend to do
to each other as we socialize and define ourselves. Age, race,
looks, gender, education level, intelligence level, ZIPCODE/Postal
Code, bank account, clothing.
Who hasn't been extremely disappointed in something, themselves or
someone else? Some folks internalize this disappointment; others
move through it and recover their willingness to live well.
Between 5 and 10% of the population are super sensitive meaning
that they don't have the natural protection against their
environments, energy, people, events. So that when something bad
happens, their mind, body, heart and spirit take it pretty hard
When you don't feel that you have the power to protect yourself,
to affect a situation, be yourself or get out of a situation, the
tendency is to 'communicate/act' by being critical of everything
around you. Those feelings of frustration/powerlessness have to
get out of your system somehow (think volcano).
When you don't know that there is a solution to your problem, or
you have no way to frame or contextualize an upsetting/frustrating
situation, then negativity is pretty certain to follow.
When you can't get access to the opportunities that you see others
able to find, access and benefit from, who wouldn't be negative?
If you're working 2 jobs at $7 an hour and can't buy a house, who
wouldn't be negative? It's completely natural.
and Other Conditions
The source of these are chemical imbalances, dietary, lifestyle or
psychological. I include this here as a reminder to have several
therapists and MDs in your network to make sure that your clients
are given all of their options if they can't seem to shift their
Sometimes, negativity is a front for fear.
If you are being put upon (weak boundaries), aren't doing your
best work/life (low standards), are the tail of the dog of life
(inadequate reserves) or have a life that's cluttered with
unfinished business or physical disarray, it's pretty likely that
you'll take a negative stance about life.
If you are not doing what's best/right for you (either because you
cannot given the circumstances, or cannot given your state of
thinking/perception), the tendency is to point the finger
elsewhere and not to take responsibility for where you are at.
More Compelling To Do
Hey, being negative can be a lot of fun! Look for the little
'smile' or smirk in someone's face when they are complaining or
criticizing. It's there; negativity and complaining are sources
of entertainment for a LOT of folks.
what can the coach do about "negativity?"
Several things, actually...
1. Find out if it is something that the client wants to work
2. Make sure you are aware of the depth of your reactions to your
client's negativity. Some coaches can't 'handle negativity,' and
they attempt to try to make the client more positive, without the
client's buy in. Which makes the client even more negative.
(Hmm.) If you cannot handle negativity, just let your client
3. Consider expanding your ability to be with negativity (as you
experience it anyway) so that you can work easily with all types
I hope that this was helpful.
by coachville.com. written by thomas j. leonard. all rights
reserved. distribution welcome when attribution is intact.