What to listen out for when coaching people who are feeling stressed…

While too much stress in your life is not good, we all feel the pressure at times so helping people deal with stressful situations will always be a regular part of effective coaching.

With this in mind and knowing that people are often not good at admitting when they’re stressed, one thing that can help you identify when feelings of stress are becoming an issue for someone is to listen out for phrases like, “everything will be OK when……” – they seem to be focused on some point in future when something will have happened and everything will be OK. This thinking is often based on something they will have done by then but it can also be something that is not in their control – “everything will be OK when X does Y”.

Why is hearing this useful? Firstly it tells you that they’re feeling stressed, probably have been for a while and don’t like it. Secondly, it shows they’re pinning their hopes on something specific that they think will make a difference and thirdly, it gives you the timeframe for how long this might impact them.

I think this is gold dust in terms of information you can use in your coaching to…

  1. Help them see differences between their reality and the reality – has the (powerful) desire to feel less stressed impacted their thinking and would accepting it is what it is positively impact how they feel about (and deal with) the situation?
  2. Ask how much of what they’re pinning their hopes on is likely to work and how much of what needs to happen is within their control
  3. Discuss whether the timeframe for feeling less stressed is too far ahead and if they need to develop more short-term thinking – “I’ll feel better when I do XYZ today

One final point. This isn’t only relevant in our coaching conversations but is also relevant as we monitor our internal ‘self-talk’. Would we all benefit from a bit of self-coaching to keep the stress levels manageable?

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