Home » Blog » As a Coach, how to shift people out of fears and doubt?

It’s not once. But, as a coach you would have savored resistance from your client to confide in you and remain open during a coaching conversation. To help coaches address these challenges, we invited Dr.Marcia Reynolds.

Through the bi-monthly webinar series called Coaching Matters, we strive to equip coaches with knowledge that can further empower them to thrive with their coaching practice.

Coaching, in the world of crisis…

The conversation opened to acknowledge that the entire world is collectively experiencing a crisis together. No matter what the circumstances are, in the words of Dr. Marcia, “We can’t try to coach the problem, we need to coach the person.”

The circumstance is not dystopian, but it is our perception of the happenings around that makes a conversation dark. People hold stories in our minds as if they are true. Holding onto these rigid thinking patterns is what makes people not think or do things outside the norm. And, this is why people need coaches. This is why Coaches need to coach.

“Where we have strong emotions we are liable to fool ourselves.”

Carl Segan

Emotions make a coaching conversation more vulnerable

The less we know the more we imagine the worst will happen and believe it is difficult to change. This leads to psychological stress. Psychological stress occurs when we think we don’t have control of the present or future. Emotions over power the observing and thinking mind.


Though humans have the amazing capacity to observe their own thinking. The cloud of emotions can fog the vision of a person. This is when people need someone else to help us see what we think and then discover together how to think differently. This approach is crucial to tackle a coach-client conversation during times of crisis and uncertainty.

What’s next? Just go Coach.

Many of you as coaches may have an obvious question to answer, “How to coach?”. From her learnings, Dr.Marcia recommends, “Just go coach and the way you begin is to just love your client.”

Sometimes your client just needs a sounding board to talk things through or just a few good questions to discover new options.

When you feel that your client is stuck, facilitate the conversation with a transformational coaching approach rather than a transactional approach. For instance, it’s not about asking ‘how can we make your day better?’, but to ask, ‘what are you thinking about?’, ‘what is getting in your way?’. Coaching is about helping your client think.

Coaching how they think.

To coach how your client thinks you need an external disruptor and a reflective inquiry.

Humans learn using connections of stories that they know. Every brain is a box of stories. These stories help to activate the emotions and thinking patterns. You need to use this as an external disruptor.

It is not always just about asking questions.

Coaching enables others to climb a tree in their minds. Clients need to gain a wider view to see their faults in thinking. Find out what does not support their desires. Help them articulate these flaws to better assess what to do next. This helps you and your client to look at things objectively. It helps to look through the fog of fear and doubt. This is a reflective inquiry.

If you want people to step out of doubt, you need to be confident and caring and not sound inferior and doubtful yourself.

Helping your client shift out of fear and doubt.

To make this happen, Dr.Marcia recommends a combination of five essential coaching practices and three mental habits.

5 essential practices

Five essential practices of reflective inquiry that make coaching more easier and effective to see beyond their stories.

Coach the person and not the problem: Believe that your clients are smart and resourceful. Coaching is not about changing them, it is about figuring about what and where they are stuck. Join in as their thinking partner. Move them from a sense of doubt and fear into a sense of curiosity and possibility.

Goaltending:  ‘What is it that you really want to create?’ Most often your clients would not know about the intent and purpose behind the goal. As a coach, stay on track to get the intent and purpose of the derived goal from your clients. Be as objective as possible. Do not digress from this objective. Find out, ‘what do they desire to happen rather than what is going on now?’ which is the ‘desired outcome’. Go over the step-by-step process of Reflect – Flip it – Explore. This is the process used by Coaches to facilitate their clients in creating goals.

Active replay: Do not leave it at the goal. Run a playback, examine, refine and then again coach. Stay cautioned that ‘active replay’ is not the same as mirroring. This step is to help your client see the story that they are playing out. Help them see what they are thinking. There is no good or bad emotion. It is energy flowing through their space. If they choose to cry or remain calm, or display excitement, let them do it. If you notice them articulating their goal with clarity and then they continue with a ‘but’, then it is a matter of personal fear that you need to address.

Brain hacking: This step involves going deeper into the block. Observe and look at their emotional patterns and reactions and unmet needs. Address them by committing them to articulate.


New and next: This is when your client and you have stepped into a new awareness. This is when you can go about coaxing insights and commitments. Get them to articulate what you understand and then get them to do it. Do not react to their ‘aha’ moment. Let them know what you know and ensure that it is clear.

3 mental habits before you start coaching

3 mental habits that you need to embody before you coach so clients feel psychologically safe. These three would aid you to deepen yourself so that you can challenge your client’s thinking and behavior.

Help them see beyond their own stories. Your mastery is deepening the presence not the perfection of skills. The three mental habits are:

Align your brain: Create a safe space for your client. Before you go into a coaching session – open your nervous system.

  • Open your mind with curiosity
  • Care with your heart
  • Gut with courage

Receive – don’t just listen:Use the technique of RARE which stands for:

  • R – receive with no judgement
  • A – appreciate their experience
  • R – Reflect what you notice
  • E- explore how the expression relates to their desired outcome

Catch and release judgement: Your calm and confident presence will help them create a space where they get comfortable with the unknown.

With this, you will be able to shift the client from fear and doubt into the coaching possibilities.

To explore the full Q&A session, stay tuned to the abridged version of the Coaching Matters session visit,


Disclaimer: This is a summary extracted from a Coaching Matters webinar which was hosted by xMonks. The ideas and recommendations in this article are derived from the presentation delivered by Dr.Marcia Reynolds on 26th August, 2020.

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