Being a life coach is no easy task, but it’s worth it.
One of the most difficult situations is when you are trying to coach someone who’s sure that they already have all the answers.
It might feel like you should just tell them good luck and move on, but this is actually an opportunity to help make a breakthrough in a client’s life.
How to life coach someone who thinks they know everything
1) Be clear about what you offer
We all have different life experiences and form convictions around them.
If you’re coaching a client who believes they already know everything, don’t challenge or try to “outdo” them.
Instead, listen to what they are saying and then point out the services you offer.
A common mistake made by many life coaches is that they are overly vague. They vow to improve your love life, career, and wellbeing but fail to get very specific.
As Rachel Burns writes:
“Use simple, straightforward language to let clients know what they can expect from your services — and what you expect from them.”
Somebody who thinks they know everything is a challenge because they are likely to constantly interrupt, contradict you, or tell you why your coaching is wrong.
The antidote is to be specific about what you’re offering. When the client says they already know about everything you’re advising, say: “Great, now do it.”
2) Leverage the clients’ confidence
People who claim to know everything are usually trying to make up for some feeling of insecurity or inadequacy inside.
Still, there is a lot of confidence and dedication to pretending and acting like you know everything.
Instead of letting this arrogance and bluster make you angry or give up, leverage that energy into results.
If a client tells you your advice is flat-out harmful or wrong, remind them that they have no obligation to continue with you.
But if it is a case of your client simply needing to always be smarter and more correct and knowledgeable than you, then don’t fight it, use it.
Tell them that their knowledge impresses you and that the amount they care about improving their life is inspiring. Tell them to channel their knowledge into action and pursue real results.
3) Get your own house in order
As a life coach, you’re under no obligation to have a model life yourself.
At the same time, being clear on your own goals, values and achievements is a big plus in showing those you coach that you’re for real.
Clients want somebody who walks the walk, not just talks the talk.
That’s why it’s very crucial to get your own house in order.
Start with the basics:
What does it take to build a life filled with exciting opportunities and passion-fueled adventures?
Most of us hope for a life like that, but we feel stuck, unable to achieve the goals we wishfully set at the start of each year.
I felt the same way, and I was floundering in my new life coaching business as a result of being unclear and blocked in my own life!
This frustration kept building until I took part in a program called Life Journal.
Created by a teacher and life coach Jeanette Brown, this was the ultimate wake-up call I needed to stop dreaming and start taking action.
So what makes Jeanette’s guidance more effective than other self-development programs?
Jeanette created a unique way of putting YOU in control of your life.
She’s not interested in telling you how to live your life. Instead, she’ll give you lifelong tools that’ll help you achieve all your goals, keeping the focus on what you’re passionate about.
And that’s what makes Life Journal so powerful, especially for those who are training to be life coaches.
If you’re ready to start living the life you’ve always dreamt of, you need to check out Jeanette’s advice. Who knows, today could be the first day of your new life.
4) Show them what they don’t know
Instead of arguing and telling a client what they don’t know or what they’re wrong about, demonstrate it.
What do I mean?
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Say you have a client who is convinced she knows how to get ahead in her career and tells you that your coaching on improving her skills doesn’t matter in her field, which is more to do with networking and confidence.
You listen respectfully and then you show her how building-specific and measurable skills directly link to what recruiters and CEOs want.
If you have a client who is stuck in their romantic life and convinced that “all men” or “all women” are a certain way, tell them about your close friend who also believed that but was then proven wrong.
Give real-life examples instead of theory.
5) Let them find out the truth firsthand
One of the best ways to deal with a client who thinks they know everything is to give them space to try out their ideas in real life.
Tell them your knowledge and experience and let the client provide their own perspective. If what you say falls on deaf ears, offer the client a proposition:
Two weeks doing what they think is correct, followed by two weeks of doing what you advise. Then you report back after the month and see which block of time led to positive results or not.
It’s a simple exercise and it works.
There’s nothing more effective for introducing a little bit of humility than showing a client firsthand why your perspective is valid and helpful.
6) Build on what they say instead of negating it
A common practice in nonviolent communication is to learn to say “yes, and…”
Instead of rejecting or denying what your client says when they claim to know everything, try to build on it.
Unless they are saying outlandish or psychotic things, try to find at least a grain of truth in what they are saying and build on that foundation.
For example, if your client says that life is confusing and makes no sense and they have found that making a schedule is just annoying and useless…
…Tell them “yes, and I’ve heard that many people find it can interfere with longer-term goals to get too detailed in scheduling. So what I want to suggest here is…”
This initial validation of the client, even if they’re being hyperbolic and emotional about the topic, is like a balm to their ego.
When they hear yes, the client is much more likely to hear you out on the rest of what you’re going to coach them on.
7) Highlight what you do know
It’s important to be confident and straightforward about what you do know.
Even though Socrates famously said he only knew that he knew nothing, your job as a life coach is to be less philosophical than that.
You’re offering practical advice and insights into somebody’s life path and experiences, not meditating on the nature of knowledge.
As such, you want to highlight what you do know.
Mention your credentials if necessary, but don’t lean on them. You want to talk more about your own past in coaching and how many times you’ve guided people in similar situations.
There’s only a certain amount you can convince anyone of your own value and validity. Nor should you have to continue to the point of begging or “proving yourself” to their demands.
At a certain point, you focus on your strengths as a coach and present them honestly to the client. It then becomes their decision whether to continue with you or walk away.
Never put pressure or continue trying to convince them if they continue insisting they know better.
At a certain point, you just have to throw up your hands and say: “Well, then. Where do we go from here?”
8) Admit what you don’t know
Last and most importantly, if you’re coaching someone who’s convinced they know everything, don’t try to fake it.
If there is an area where you really don’t know much or don’t have much experience, be straight up about it.
Redirect the client to areas in which you can be of more assistance.
This will also increase their respect and trust for you when they see that you’re fully willing to admit that there are certain subjects you don’t know about.
Whether the client actually knows about a certain subject is another matter.
But you can always be straight up and admit certain areas you don’t have that much knowledge about in order to demonstrate full and forthright transparency.
The best thing about being an effective life coach is to be radically honest with yourself and your client.
In the end, that’s really what they’re paying for most of all.
The key to dealing with a know-it-all client is to avoid being a know-it-all coach.
Your job is to give the client the tools to maximize his or her life, not to ruin their life.
Sometimes mistakes are all part of the process, and you can’t “fix” or perfect anyone’s existence.
What you can do is provide the tools, insights, and knowledge that have proven tried and true in practice.