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“Why won’t clients just do what I say?!?!” How to fix every coach’s #1 frustration.

Coaches are often frustrated with the fact that their clients don’t do what they say. Often, frustrated coaches will take the issue out on the clients themselves. This is a very ineffective method that doesn’t help either party. So, how do you get your clients to listen to you?

This article is for coaches who are frustrated by clients who just won’t listen to them! Sometimes we want to say to our clients, “Hey, do what I say,” but we know they just won’t do it. We want to scream, but we know they won’t listen.

It’s obvious that coaches and therapists have a hard time getting their clients to do what they say. Why is that? Here are some aspects of this that you can take into account to solve the problem. Here’s one way to start.

Are you tired of your clients not sticking to the plan? It’s possible that it’s not their fault. It may be… yours. The reason behind this is that simply telling clients what to do is ineffective. After all, getting people to do anything, even when they know it’s good for them, is difficult. (This is why texting-while-walking incidents still happen.) But in this post, we’ll teach you a tried-and-true method for getting your clientele to… come on board. For better results and long-term improvement that you both desire.


Clients rarely say, “I’m not going to do it.”

Despite the fact that this is frequently what people are thinking.

Perhaps you recommend a new food or fitness routine, and they give you the side eye in exchange.

Alternatively, they may reply, “No problem!” but subsequently acknowledge that they always knew they wouldn’t follow through.

Maybe you could tell they weren’t really into it:

  • eating more fruits and vegetables
  • waking up an hour earlier
  • removing the soda

But, well, it was what they needed to do, so you forced it.

Here’s the reality:

It is ineffective to tell clients what to do.

There’s a much better way to do things. It all starts with a simple query and concludes with a strategy that not only helps clients succeed—it nearly ensures it.

So much so that we’ll tell you straight up: This strategy has the potential to completely transform the way you coach. (It certainly did for us.)


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Nobody wants to be a slave.

Most people in the health and fitness sector are taught to have a “coach-centric” approach.

This is what it goes like:

“I’m the expert, and you’re going to follow my instructions. Because it is beneficial to your health.”

When your client is a Navy SEAL, that works. To put it another way, he is highly disciplined, will do whatever it takes (no matter the cost), and will always follow the “chain of command.”

But what about the rest of us? Not at all. That makes it, at least in the long run, an extremely ineffective strategy.

You’ve minimized a client’s input by telling them you know what’s best for them.

They don’t think of it as their plan; they think of it as yours. As a result, they aren’t fully invested. (A lot of the time, it’s not even close.)

The solution is to take a “client-centric” strategy.

The principle is straightforward.

Before you advise a client to try a new habit or make a change, ask them to rank their feelings about it.

Let’s assume they aren’t exercising right now, but you want them to do so at least five days a week.

How confident are they that they will follow through on a scale of 0 (no way in hell) to 10 (a trained monkey could do it)?

Inquire of them, emphasizing the importance of being truthful. It’s not only OK for them to express their doubts and concerns today, but it’s also the correct thing to do. For the benefit of everyone concerned.

You’re good to go if they say “9” or “10.”

But anything less than that? You should reduce the proposed plan’s scope and re-ask.

What will it take to get them to a perfect score of 9?

Maybe it’s because you only work out hard four days a week. Alternatively, you could wait three days. Maybe just a 20-minute brisk walk will suffice.

You’ll have to scale down so much at times that you’ll think, ‘This will never work!’ It’s far too simple.’

It makes no difference.

Because if they can stick with the change for two weeks, they’ll begin to acquire confidence in their ability to scale up. You can push them a little further as they progress, as long as it isn’t beyond their ability.

Instead of being an order-taking minion, they become an active participant in their own plan.

They’re now forming habits and making adjustments at their own pace.

They’re also assisting in the creation of the prescription because you’re making these selections together. One that is appropriate for their abilities, tastes, and way of life.

As a result, you have complete buy-in. Which is the driving force behind long-term change?

That’s the simplest version of the client-centric approach. Keep it simple to begin, but keep reading if you want to take it to the next level.

Boost the effectiveness of this method.

So, you can ask one basic inquiry and make significant progress with your clients by doing so. But if you really want to perfect anything, you should dive a little deeper and ask three questions.

  • How well prepared are you for this task?
  • How eager are you to complete this task?
  • How well do you think you’ll be able to do this task?

Although they may sound identical, each can elicit diverse responses and give you—and your client—with more information and better strategies.

Let’s take a look at each one separately.

1. “Are you all set?”

Being “ready” means you recognize the need for change and feel compelled to act.

It doesn’t mean now is the best moment to make a change.

In fact, you should never rely on it.

Clients may claim that they aren’t ready since they don’t feel “put together.” Their lives are chaotic enough as it is, and now isn’t the time to add something new.

However, the truth is that there will never be a day when things will instantly become simpler.

There is no such thing as a pause button in life.

Assume you’ve advised your client to cease using devices 30 minutes before bedtime in order to improve their sleep, recuperation, and overall wellness. “Are you ready to undertake this?” you inquire.

They also award you a “5.”

They both agree that going to bed early would be better for their health (and sanity), but work is currently chaotic… They also have all of the emails… They need to make the most of every waking hour in order to remain on top of their inbox.

They suggest that it would be wiser to do this later. When their employment isn’t as hectic in a few weeks, for example. (This makes the labor gods laugh at their cocktail parties.)

They’re not quite ready, says the message.

But what if you reduced the size?

What if they signed off email just 5 minutes before going to bed? While 5 minutes may seem insignificant, it could be all your client needs to feel ready right now.

Although it is not 30 minutes, it is improvement.

And it’s progress, not perfection, that counts. After all, doing a little bit better every day adds up to a big difference over time. (Exhibit A: Our clients, who demonstrate how even tiny efforts can result in significant health improvements.)

In a few weeks, your customer might be ready to turn off the computer 10 minutes earlier, and then gradually increase to 30 minutes. So you ultimately get them where you want them to be—but only on their timetable.

Starters for a discussion

When you ask your client, “How ready are you?” and they answer 8, 5, or even 1, it’s time to dig further to find out why. These inquiries can yield useful (and even surprising) results.

Ask this:

“What does it mean to you to be ‘ready to change?’”

What it can do for you: This response reveals your client’s true location. Do they wish to change but, like our examples, believe they are too busy or that the moment isn’t right? It’s an opportunity to show them that perfection isn’t necessary.

Ask this:

“Imagine a world in which you are fully prepared to make a change. “How would that planet appear?”

How it can assist: Imagining what the “ideal” time would be like can help a client realize that there will never be one. Furthermore, you might be able to take something from this fictitious “totally ready” society and apply it to their lives right now to make them feel more prepared.

Ask this:

“What is it that is preventing you from making this adjustment right now? Is there anything that makes you want to try something new?”

What it can do for you: Many clients are hesitant to change. They want to do it, but they also don’t want to do it. Rather of trying to persuade your customer to change, this question encourages them to do so on their own by reminding them why they came to you in the first place.

Ask this:

“How could you do just a little bit better in this area today instead of making a big, massive change you don’t feel ready for?”

How it can help: This question allows your client to tell you what they believe is reasonable and sane at this time in their lives. Work your way up from there.

2: “Are you ready?”

Being open to change does not imply that you have no worries about trying anything new.

It shows you’re willing to push past your fears.

Assume you’ve spent months training to be a cliff diver. Your body is in excellent condition, and you’ve perfected all of your techniques. You’re all set.

When you reach the top of the cliff, you begin to wonder, ‘What if I fall?’ What if I didn’t properly prepare? What if the tide isn’t high enough?’ Nonetheless, you leap. Because you’re ready.

However, this isn’t always the case with clients. Their doubts form a barrier that they can’t overcome. They might not tell you that directly, though.

A true story…

When a coach was evaluating a new client, he noticed he drank 10-20 Diet Cokes every day.

Instead, she advised him to drink more water. “Isn’t Diet Coke made of water?” he responded. (Wise client.) There was a lot of back and forth after that, but it was all the same.

The customer didn’t state, “I’m not willing to give up Diet Coke,” but that’s very much what he implied by his continual debate. He wasn’t a 9 or a 10, but rather a 1 or 2.

Don’t try to persuade a client to change their mind. You’re only going to meet more people.

Instead, urge them to “notice and name” the source of their reluctance so you may investigate the cause.

It’s possible that the issue isn’t with the change itself, but with what the change represents.

Let’s say you have a customer who wants to alter their body composition but isn’t keen on the concept of “eating to 80% fullness.”

Because it can help people better tune into hunger and fullness cues, this is one of the basic habits in the coaching method.

It can feel like a big—and unwelcome—change after years of eating until you’re stuffed.

Perhaps your client gives it a 4 and expresses their dissatisfaction in the following way:

“I enjoy eating till I’m completely satisfied. There’s just something about it that’s so satisfying.”

You could inquire of them:

  • What if they didn’t eat until they were completely satisfied?
  • What would they think?
  • Why don’t they want to be in that position?

They might say anything along the lines of:

Your text will be rewritten by QuillBot. Start by typing or pasting something into this box, then hit the enter key.

And there you have it.

They’ve now realized and named the real reason they won’t eat till they’re 80% full.

If your client is receptive to it, you may then work with them to identify additional ways to relieve stress at the end of a long day.

Starters for a discussion

Use the following inquiries to get to the bottom of a client’s reluctance. Also, remind your clients that they can always refuse to change. They are often more eager to change simply because they are aware of this.

Ask this:

“What thoughts come to mind for you when you consider making this change?”

How it can help: This question allows your client to recognize and name the resistance they experience while considering adopting a new habit.

Ask this:

“Imagine what would happen if you overcame your fears and made the change. “How do you believe the situation will turn out?”

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Ask this:

“What would happen if you didn’t make the change?” says the narrator. “How would that appear?”

What it can do for you: “Well, things would continue the same as they are now,” is the inevitable response. And no one pays for coaching if they want things to remain the same, right?

Ask this:

“How would making this change assist you in achieving your objectives?” Is there any way that may prevent you from losing weight, feeling healthier, exercising better, or accomplishing [insert client goal here]?”

How it can assist: Having your client analyze the benefits and drawbacks of a change can help them reconsider their desire to try it.

3: “Do you think you’re up to it?”

The ability to change does not imply that your path is without barriers.

It signifies you’ve worked out how to get rid of—or avoid—the obstacles in your path.

Assume your client is stationed on a remote military location. They want to add lean protein to every meal, which is another of our basic principles, but they don’t think they can.

On the base, their food options are limited. They have few grocery alternatives and frequently eat their meals in a cafeteria, where they have no control over what is given.

The good news is that the issue isn’t caused by your client; it’s caused by their circumstances. You may “design” the habit to match their lives by thinking together.

Perhaps they could:

  • Order single-serving protein powders or tuna packets as portable protein options.
  • Check the cafeteria menu ahead of time and schedule your meals around the meals with the least protein.
  • Improve their food preparation abilities to ensure that there is always a tasty choice in the freezer.
  • They’ll come across clever solutions at the store that they hadn’t considered before.

If everything else fails, realizing that eating lean protein with each meal isn’t going to happen is a viable option. Could they, however, have lean protein at two of their three meals each day?

Remember that progress does not necessitate perfection.

Starters for a discussion

There’s always a way out. Make sure your clients are aware of this. After all, humanity were able to send people to the moon using computer power that is less powerful than that of an iPhone. (Of course, Android is included!) Obstacles to healthy eating can undoubtedly be overcome. Use these questions to assist them in identifying and overcoming their challenges.

Ask this:

“Can you describe what it means to be able to change?”

How it can help: There is no such thing as a perfect time to change, and there is no such thing as a scenario in which there are no impediments to change. Asking this question lets your client recognize that they can probably change right now with some creative problem solving.

Ask this:

“What are the stumbling blocks in your path? “How are they restricting your freedom?”

What it can do for you: If you can pinpoint exactly why a hurdle is restricting your customer, previously hidden solutions may become more apparent.

Ask this:

“Let’s imagine you can’t entirely remove the hurdles. How did you manage to ‘dodge’ them?”

How it can help: This question prompts a brainstorming session with your customer, allowing them to come up with answers that are unique to them.

What should I do next?

Let’s pretend your client is ready, willing, and able to follow through with the habits and adjustments you’ve agreed to.

It’s now up to you to see what happens.

Observe and track their progress with the habit. Collect your information. In relation to their new habit or task, you might wish to keep note of the following:

  • how frequently they complete it
  • how well they’re getting it done
  • the worries and issues that arise for them
  • what effect it’s having on their chosen progress markers (weight, girth measurements, energy levels, and so on)

Consider the following questions: Is your customer getting closer to the outcome they desire? Are any patterns or trends beginning to emerge for you?

Decide what to do next after you’ve analyzed your data.

If you find that the new habit isn’t leading your client in the proper path, you might want to try something new.

If the client had trouble finishing the work, you might want to reduce the difficulty and make it more approachable (decrease from 5 servings of veggies a day to 3).

Have they mastered their habit or work completely? Then think about stepping up the difficulty (ramp up from 15 minutes of screen-free time before bed to 30).

And if they haven’t grasped the habit yet but are confident they will, perhaps you should leave things alone for a little longer.

Whatever course you take, keep in mind the following:

Your customers will tell you what has to be changed. All you have to do is pay attention.

If you’re a coach or wish to be one…

It’s both an art and a science to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy food and lifestyle adjustments in a way that’s tailored to their individual body, tastes, and circumstances.

Consider the Level 1 Certification if you want to learn more about both.

It’s a coach’s worst nightmare: You’ve nailed down their information, you’ve got a great marketing plan, you’ve got a great strategy for driving results, and you’ve got a great system to follow. The only problem is that your clients aren’t following through. It’s a frustrating catch-22: You want to provide the highest value to your clients, but their lack of results isn’t giving you confidence that you’re doing a good job. Why not? Sometimes, it’s not about you.. Read more about nutrition coaching questions and let us know what you think.

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