#1 coaching tip for new health coaches

I'm finishing up another round of IIN Coaching Circles this week and have had an opportunity to observe 60 coaching demos by new health coaches over the last 6 weeks.

What bravery and courage it takes to step up and coach, many for the first time, in front of a group of peers and a facilitator!

It's a nerve-wracking experience for sure. And inspiring to watch.

And while I've witnessed some solid skills and confidence, the number one thing I see new coaches not doing enough, is reflecting.

What is reflecting & why is it a valuable coaching tool?

Reflecting, also called paraphrasing or mirroring, is an active listening skill that is crucial to the coaching process. There are different types pf reflections, but the most basic form is to simply repeat back what the client said.

Reflecting back builds trust and rapport, ensures clarity and understating and allows the client to explore more deeply.

So many of the clients in our coaching demos express how powerful it is to them when they state something out loud, for perhaps the first time, and then have it repeated back to them by the coach.

As we reflect back to a client we hold a mirror so they can be a witness to their own words, perspectives, and beliefs. For all of our clients this is powerful, but even more so for those who are not very self-aware.

Reflecting affirms, reassures, clarifies, can uncover motivation and inspire deeper learning. As we reflect back we can help the client also identify discrepancies.

What I see new coaches doing instead of reflecting:

What happens with new coaches is they get so caught in their own thoughts, worry about what to ask next and how to help, that they lose presence and can't focus.

I know they all want to be supportive and helpful and so what happens is they give their own opinions, make comments, interpret, analyze and theorize.

This usually begins with , "I think ..." and the coach goes off on a tangent about what they think or believe. Which shifts the focus from the client to the coach as expert or authority.

Instead, it's much more effective, to simply reflect back which will keep the coaching client-centered and helps the coach track more inline with the client rather that getting lost in their own thoughts. Reflecting back also gives the coach a few seconds to figure out what the next reflection or question will be.

Tips for powerful reflections:

1. During a coaching session it is most effective to reflect first then ask questions. The ideal ratio is 2:1. Two reflections for every question. Too many questions in a row can feel like an interview or an interrogation.

2. Use sentence stems, "What I'm hearing is..., What you seem to be saying is..., Sounds like..., You're saying that..., I have it that..."

3. Repeat back the clients own words and expressions. Incorporate their words and phrases into your reflection back to them.

4. Always get clarification. "Is that correct? Am I hearing you correctly? Did I get that right? Does that sound fair?

Example of a simple reflection:

Client: I don't have time to exercise during the week. I get home late from work and then have to get dinner and do stuff around the house.

Coach: What I'm hearing is that you have no time during the week for exercise because your schedule is full. Is that right?

Client: Yes that's right. I just don't see where I could find the time for exercise even though I know it would be helpful.

Coach: Sounds like you're not sure where to fit it in but that you feel it would be beneficial. Is that right?

Over to you: How are you at reflecting? Is this a skill you've been working on? It's a great one to practice in your daily life and will make you a better communicator. You don't have to wait for a coaching session to start practicing.

Be well and be a great coach,


  1. Amal on March 2, 2021 at 2:38 pm

    Very Helpful Tips Michelle. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Karla Perez on March 12, 2021 at 4:01 am

    I have to put this into practice!

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