Describe and discuss the merits of being non-judgmental rather than judgmental. Explain why being judgmental can sabotage a coach-client relationship.
“Sometimes, all you need is someone who will listen. It is fortune enough to have people around you who hear you and not judge you.” This quote by Tara Estacaan highlights the importance of Listening as a cornerstone of effective communications and successful interpersonal engagements. While hearing is a physiological process, Listening is a cognitive one that can be acquired over time through multiple engagements and accumulated experiences. Coaches are recommended to adopt listening as a fundamental element of a successful coach-client relationship since it provides the coach a stronger understanding of the overall circumstances that are presented to him/ her and that the client is facing in order to formulate a stronger foundation for the engagement that benefits the client.
Successful coaches are committed to help their clients formulate a better understanding of the matter in question through an effective engagement in which the coach enables the client to come about with the appropriate analysis of his/ her case through facilitating the way the client reaches a state of conviction and happiness.
Without giving the client the room to express himself, through his personal analysis of facts and events that he is going through, the coach would be restricting the potential of the client to reach the desired objectives. When the coach gives the client the opportunity to brainstorm ideas and to analyze them in an interactive dialogue, he/ she allows the client to think of solutions and steers the process towards wide possibilities without guidance or influence from the coach’s side. When the coach is curious enough to dive deep in the reality of the client’s state, he/ she becomes a compassionate and supportive coach to the client rather than a judging person.
One of the key principles of coaching is for the coach to believe that the client is resourceful and possesses the required knowledge and experience to deal with the circumstances and facts and to analyze them. The International Coach Federation (ICF) defines coaching as a “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process” where “coaches perceive the client as the expert in his/ her life and work.”
Establishing a partnership with the client, that is built on trust, opens up the potential for the coach to uncover the resources and knowledge that his/ her client possesses with an ultimate objective to serve the purpose of the client and to guide him/ her towards achieving his/ her success. With an open, dynamic and curious attitude, the coach listens to his/ her client and acknowledges the positive spirit of the client’s inner self and engages him/ her towards achieving growth and development through an interactive dialogue that creates self-awareness and leads to inspired solutions. Such a sophisticated engagement between the coach and the client, requires from the coach to continually build and improve his/ her competencies to achieve a state of mind that enlightens his/ her thought process towards effectively receiving the client’s considerations and concerns. Also successful and effective coaches are master listeners who employ all techniques and experiences to reach a better understanding of the client by practicing the deep listening skills during the coaching conversation in order to reach the thoughts and emotions that are left unspoken behind and between the words.
People come from diverse backgrounds and mentalities, which complicates the interactions and relationships among human beings, and at the same time this diversity brings richness and various perspectives into relationships and engagements. Hence, diversity should not be considered as a limitation in human and social interactions and on the contrary it should be capitalized on to improve the overall human constructive co-existence through the richness it brings to interactions and communications.
In the world of coaching, successful coaches capitalize on the individual’s uniqueness within the human diversity where this uniqueness should be leveraged as a tool to help the client deal with the surrounding ecosystem of the current circumstances and to overcome the associated challenges. A key factor in the success of coaching practices is to reach the harmony among the client mindset, his/ her own uniqueness, and the faced challenges. In the coaching engagement, the client seeks to be fully understood and accepted by having all the space to express his/ her inner self and concerns and by being well perceived and accepted by the coach. Successful coaches are the ones that stand by the client side to help him/ her create a transformation in his/ her life to move from the current state to the desired one.
One of the challenges that human beings face is to be understood by the counterpart. This challenge reflects on the ability of the person to be at peace with himself, to reach a greater degree of inner contentment and self-esteem to see the world with freedom from his own perspective, to connect with the others profoundly and to build high-trust relationships that last.
Successful coaches are good listeners for a reason. The definitive purpose of being a good listener is to be able to allow the client to tell his/ her story and to avoid anticipating his/ her decisions by being judgmental or portraying him/ her in a specific image that may not reflect his/ her own reality.
While listening with empathy and focusing on the person and the whole issue in hand, coaches ask powerful questions and approach the issue from multiple perspectives to ensure their full understanding of the client’s story. This approach helps the client identify the real issue and define how he/ she can contribute to finding the desired solutions by being challenged to adopt a new way of thinking. Successful coaches don’t respond immediately with judgments or solutions that come to their mind while coaching, instead they invest in this experience by coming up with more enquiries that can help in elaborating the story and showing the facts transparently.
People are naturally judgmental, where they tend to judge others from their skin color, their fashion style or even the way they talk and think. Being judgmental is a ordinary tendency in the life of people and happens naturally and sometimes implicitly without a clear effect on the other person behavior or attitude. In coaching practices, the tendency to be judgmental is a critical issue that should be carefully managed and avoided since it can have, in most of the cases, a negative impact on the client’s advancement process.
Judgments, whether they are negative or positive, have an adverse effect on the coaching process and tend unintentionally to deviate it from the desired objectives set by both the coach and the client. Judgments are obstacles that sabotage the harmony between the coach and the client, and they can only limit the level of communication and flow of information during the coaching session. Judgments are in fact barriers to the ultimate communication experience that the coaching session is aiming to reach. If the coach is busy building judgments and assuming solutions and results, he/ she will be distracted from the client’s overall input in the communication process. Judgments affect the listening level of the coach. In reality, coaches can never listen at a deep level of listening while being distracted by analyzing and building premature judgments on the client case. In fact, being judgmental contradicts with the coaching virtue and spirituality. When the coach becomes judgmental with the client, he/ she falls under the risk of driving the client towards conclusions that are not necessarily in line with what suits the client and satisfies his/ her aspirations. Judgments are usually built at a single moment, based on a specific idea or act that the coach concludes from the client.
What if the client was under the pressure of the moment or was not capable to elaborate on his/ her own perspective in a proper logic that reflect his/ her real point of view? In this case the coach is invited to probe for information and summarize the evidence he/ she receives in order to ask empowering questions and to push the client to express himself clearly and objectively. Judgment can occur during the coaching session despite the experience of the coach. It can happen to a newly practicing coach, and it also happens to a life time expert coach; the key to overcome this challenge is to build self-awareness and personal control. While coaching is non-judgmental in principle, being non-judgmental is not an overnight transformation or a simple skill to be learned. In fact the greatest coaches are always looking for new ways to highlight the importance of self-awareness on their inner-self and on the outer world. They understand that they cannot help clients find clarity on the journey ahead if they don’t have it themselves first.
Successful coaches are by nature honest and caring ones towards their clients. Coaches’ continuous efforts to be non-judgmental is a crucial success criteria not only throughout the specific coaching session but also throughout the entire coaching journey. The successful coaches are non-stop learners who believe they can never know enough about what they can do for their clients. They are constantly working with and testing new tools and techniques in order to improve their skills through trainings, seminars, case studies, researches and workshops. Successful coaches believe that the most valuable gift they would offer to the clients is to help them live their life to its fullest, based on their personal beliefs and values even when these beliefs and values are different from those of the coach.
Lou Holtz says: “your talent determines what you can do, your motivation determines how much you are willing to do, and your attitude determines how well you do it.” This is totally applicable in coaching where the talent of the coach and his/ her motivation is the key to his/ her success, but the coach attitude towards the case in question, determines the levels of coaching excellence and distinction that lead the coach to become a transformational and life-changing one for the client.
Effective communication in coaching results from a combination of various elements that the coach gathers from the client, that is not only limited to the direct responses received from the client but also extended to the body language, the attitude and the temper, the tonality of the voice, etc. This combination gives the coach the ability to uncover the hidden side of the situation that the client is passing through by performing deep analysis of the responses, events and information shared by the client in order to formulate an objective assessment of the situation and to avoid coming up with judgments. Coaching is a life journey that starts with a decision based on conviction and passion to the role a coach can undertake for the better of the society in general and for that of the individuals in particular. As mentioned above, successful coaches are non-stop learners in various fields and subjects, and they are in a permanent exploratory path both on their inner- self and on their educational level. What leads a coach in his/ her coaching practice is the intuition that is complemented by continuous learning and development. In the early stage of the coaching practice, new coaches may mix between their intuition and their judgments. However, through training, learning and development, and practical experiences, progress can be made towards being non-judgmental. Intuition is a precious talent in coaching that comes naturally from the coach’s clear-sightedness and discernment. On the contrary of judgment, intuition doesn’t require thinking, as it comes straight from the heart.
Successful coaches connect with their clients with an open mind and an open heart, and they believe that everyone has the right to be happy, and they support the individual’s freedom of choice. These coaches value the coaching objectives and to reach them they are keen to be non-judgmental when it comes to the client’s life, choices, goals, etc. If judgments happen, the role of the coach is to notice when they happen and to be able to establish the awareness to recognize each time judgments occur and to work on reducing their negative influence on the coaching process and to use this awareness and self-management positively and consciously. Successful coaches are the principals of their own work who manage their engagement with the client to ensure it is a balanced one that is characterized by being objective, non-judgmental and purposeful towards the ultimate positive impact on the life of the client.
- Henry Kimsey-House, Karen Kimsey-House, Phillip Sandahl and Laura Whitworth (2011). Co-Active Coaching (Third Edition), Boston – USA.
- Daniel Kahneman (2011). Thinking, Fast and Slow, USA.
- Noble Manhattan Coaching, Practitioner Coach Diploma. Course Modules: Listening and Questioning (2018).
- Tara Estacaan and Lou Holtz Quotes (2019). Goodreads.com.