Don’t take it personal!

“And so the wrath of all his defence mechanisms started to unload on me …”

Most coaches remember moments such as this.

You’ve offered a challenge, not even a harsh one, or one where you’d expect to hit a nerve…

In the example that triggered this Nugget, the client had a deadline to meet and got really stressed about it. The coach merely inquired what would happen if the deadline wasn’t met, or if she decided to postpone it or (god forbid!!!) skip this one.

There was simply NO WAY she would allow herself to even consider this as a choice that was on the table. And not just that, but the reaction to the question was extremely strong and ultimately ended the session early, leaving the coach quite shocked at the reaction.

It’s easy to take this sort of situation personally, to question whether we’ve done something wrong to upset them, to get defensive and justify the question, to work extra hard to fix it, or just generally feel bad that we were the cause of our client’s upset.

There’s a clause in my coaching contract that addresses this sort of situation nicely. It reads:

“The journey may at times be challenging and your coach may at times be the voice of such challenge.” 

This sort of agreement allows me to move myself out of the way, and instead of being the target of their anger or defensiveness, I can position myself shoulder-to-shoulder with the client and take a good look at what’s happening here.

What are they fighting? It’s not me, Yannick, or even the coach as such. Chances are it’s what I’m representing right now, which in this example is a challenge that really, like REALLY hit a sore spot.

I’m on your side. Shall we have a look at what you’re battling here? I’m with you. Even though, for a moment there, I was the target of your anger. Really you were scared of taking a good look at what I got curious about. Some part of you recognized that that curiosity would take you out of your comfort zone, perhaps even make you feel quite vulnerable, and stepped in to protect you.

Not what I’d say to a client, but that’s the gist.

I’m not going to make them go there, but if I “take it personal”, and I don’t get my ego out of the way here, we’re missing a learning opportunity, and for my client to get to make a conscious choice about whether or not to look at what’s on the table now.

When was the last time you were on the receiving end of a flood of emotions, and you’ve realised (then or later, or now) that it wasn’t really about you, but that that person had something else going on in their life? How did you react?

I certainly don’t always keep my cool in real life, but in the coaching room it feels a hell of a lot easier.

With Love


New content: Full ECPP Symposium on Positive Psychology Coaching


This one’s long overdue to be shared, but better late than never. At the European Congress on Positive Psychology ECPP last summer (as in 2022) some of the leading practitioners and researchers in positive psychology coaching, Prof. Ilona Boniwell, Prof. Christian van Nieuwerburgh and Gudrun Snorradottir (initially also Dr. Suzy Green, who unfortunately then wasn’t able to fly in from New Zealand) followed my call to share their views on the integration of positive psychology and coaching psychology.

Featuring short presentations from each speaker, and a podium discussion amongst us, we discussed how we may work towards a unified framework for positive psychology coaching, and whether that’s even a worthwhile and/or realistic endeavor.

You can watch the full symposium, or just my opening presentation.


Next event: Coaching Lab 43 – Coaching Self-doubt with Olivia d’Silva


I’m happy to welcome Olivia D’Silva to the Lab. Olivia spend years exploring the benefits and pitfalls of self-doubt. After recently consulting her on her research into the subject and learning about her coaching methodology to “welcome self-doubt”, I got curious to see this work in action. So here we are!

More info and tickets via