I’m not a huge Facebooker, in fact I recommend people seriously limit their social media activities, but with its contextual ads you can be sure that when I do venture onto my (heavily curated) timeline I see ads in the coaching arena. There’s a voyeuristic part of me that drives me to read the comments on these ads and they never fail to provide me with a “WTF?” moment. Some people really hate life coaches!
The ad will say something like, “I can help you with XXX,” or it will have an inspirational quote and they’re generally uplifting messages offering a service and you wonder why someone would go out of their way to write something hateful in return. “XXX is a conman,” is pretty common, as is, “You don’t need a life coach, it’s all just common sense.” Then there’s all the complaining about how much it costs and snake-oil salesmen etc.
It’s not just social media either, there have been various situations in my life when people have been aghast to realize what I do for a living. You tell them you’re a writer and they nod patronizingly, mention you’re a life coach and the reactions range from interest (which of course is nice) to cynicism to pure vitriol.
Why is that? If I said I was a volleyball coach people would be very interested. I doubt anyone would say, “What makes you qualified to teach volleyball?” Even if they did I could easily say, “well, I’m really good at volleyball and I’m really good at coaching.” When people have said to me, “What makes you qualified to tell people how to live their life?” which is of course an absolute misrepresentation of what any life coach does, I generally say, “well, I’m really good at life and I’m really good at coaching, but I don’t tell anyone anything.”
I wouldn’t dream of saying to my friend who’s a computer programmer, “What makes you qualified to code?” I just assume that he wouldn’t be able to sell non-existent skills. I don’t question my doctor, or my dentist or a barman. I’m fascinated at the animosity directed towards life coaching. I put it down to three things:
When I use the term ignorance, it’s not really from a negative place. I’m ignorant of the subtleties of dancing and car engines. It’s merely a word used to convey that someone doesn’t know much about a particular topic. I know it can be used as a pejorative but when I say that some people who hate life coaching are ignorant, I mean they don’t know enough about it or are under several misgivings about the practice. Before psychology was a recognized branch of medicine, many people considered it the ultimate quackery. In fact people still today debate its authenticity. If you ever watch UK television you may have seen the episode of Peep Show where Jeremy becomes a life coach. This sums up the cynical attitude that many people in the UK have towards coaching, simply because they think that his behavior is typical of life coaches and it’s nothing but charlatans taking advantage of needy people. As with anything new, I predict it will take a while for the benefits of coaching to really become part of our cultural norm. As I’ve said literally hundreds of times, I wouldn’t hesitate to hire a coach to help me become a better runner, why would I hesitate in any other aspect of my life to hire an expert? In the same way I wouldn’t pay for dietary advice from an obese person, I wouldn’t employ a success coach who was plainly unsuccessful.
A client of mine, who’s in a moderately successful rock band, spoke to me today about how he gets literally hundreds of requests on social media for free stuff. Free CD’s, signed photographs, you name it. I was astonished. He mentioned that fans can get quite snarky if he doesn’t oblige, which he doesn’t. I feel it’s often similar for life coaches. People will feel that, “you’re just talking at someone, how dare you charge that much.” Nobody said that to me when I worked in the corporate world when literally what I did was talk at people for eight hours a day. Sure, some courses cost money, my time costs money. Why should I do it free? If you think it’s a lot of money, you’re not ready to hire me. Also, why on earth would you trust someone to give you advice who charges a small amount of money for their advice? That makes no sense. If their advice isn’t worth very much, why do you want it?
Here’s where it gets tricky and I’m sure feathers will be ruffled. And if they are, drop me an email, I have terrific success in helping people who become easily offended. The people who hate life coaching because they’re entitled are, in my opinion, the same people who become outraged at the thought that God exists. I’m all for scientific thought and I respect everyone’s right to any belief they like, and for the most part respect everyone’s beliefs. I have many friends who are atheists and many who are extremely religious and I love them all. It’s a wonderful world of variety and contrast. I’ve heard people say that, “I don’t need life coaching, I’ve got the Lord,” and that’s great. Then you’ll have the people who think that they are the pinnacle of creation. Nobody is above them and the very thought that someone might know better than them, whether it be God or a life coach or someone who is more successful, makes them furious. I’ve got a friend who is an absolutely lovely guy, but if his wife, who is very religious, dares to ask him to go to Church, his face goes red and he will stoutly refuse.
You’ll know people like this, but it might not be obvious. They’re entitled because they think that they have a right to be the best. They are pre-eminent and nobody can tell them anything. It might be the person in the car in front of you who doesn’t go when the light turns green (probably texting) and when you offer a gentle reminder they’ll flip you the bird. The work colleague who thinks they are right due to their position. The friend who reacts badly when they tell you something and you offer, “maybe you’re to blame.” These people are often spoiled and have never been given any home truths about their behavior. They’ll scoff at life coaching, because “who are they to tell me how to live my life?” Well, who are you to tell yourself how to live your life? If you’re doing it well, then congratulations, I applaud you. If you’re fucking it up, maybe someone should be telling you.
The third type of person who will instantly rail against life coaching is the person who is hiding. They’re hiding from themselves. They do not want you or anyone else to hold up a mirror before them. Here are some of the things I have told clients, singly or in groups:
- I think you should get a better haircut
- Tuck your shirt in. Now, and also when you speak with clients
- You should control your emotional responses.
- Nobody is making you mad, you’re to blame for your own feelings
- Where you are in life is down to the choices you have made
- The reason people aren’t taking you seriously is because you act like a child
I could say right here and now that nobody wants to hear that sort of feedback, but you know who did? All those people. If one person is going to be honest with you, it’s going to be your life coach. If you can’t accept what you’re really like, you will struggle to improve. Absolute clarity of position is vital to drive yourself forward, lying to yourself is the height of insanity, as is hiding from your own faults.
People who hide will never pay someone to tell them what’s wrong with them. And they really should. That one small step can make such a difference. Sticking your head above the parapets and putting yourself out there, risking being shot down will separate the dreamers from the doers.
In my experience, life coaches are kind people who want, more than anything, to help others. From the rank beginner to the giants like Tony Robbins there is a pervasive need to serve others and help people succeed. Luckily, most of us can weather the storm of cynicism and disapproval.
If you know of other reasons, or would like to argue the point, please do so in the comments, I’d love to hear your points of view.
If you don’t hate life coaches and need some advice let’s jump on a call and talk about it, and I can offer you some help.