© 2024 Melanie White
If you’re an introvert who coaches, then you need to consider carefully how you will work with others to get the best out of yourself and create a thriving coaching practice. As a coach trainer and assessor, I have seen many introvert coaches in action and come to know some common traits. Today, I want to help you understand your strengths, how to get the balance right, and work out which clients are best for you, so you can maintain your energy, and deliver great coaching to your clients.
In my experience, introvert coaches typically have some exceptional strengths that make them a very good fit to be a coach. I am going to share some insights here – my opinions – so this might not be an exhaustive list, but rather, a guide.
If you are an introverted coach, you are probably already aware of your strengths as a coach – and a person.
Firstly, introverts generally like to feel prepared, so will typically do the work to feel focused and confident going into the session, ready to be totally present with the client.
When I think of the introvert coaches I’ve assessed or worked with, they are very calm, so they bring a calm energy to the session that helps people feel safe, trusting and ready to open up.
One introvert coach I know starts her session with a ‘be here, now’ kind of approach, where she seeks permission to have a short, guided meditation to put her clients at ease. It’s a lovely way to ease into a session and be present after a hectic day.
As an introvert, you’re probably an exceptional active listener. Being on the introverted side (well, ambivert to be accurate, according to Myers Briggs), active listening is one of my strengths.
Great active listeners are also usually very good at hearing what is not being said – hearing what’s underneath – and are usually good at reflecting and leaving silence, too. So, when your client is emotively relaying an experience or a fear, you’ll be able to pick up words that they use a lot, or the feeling behind certain words, that tell a story of something deeper.
And when it comes to exploring the deeper stuff, you’re probably great at seeking permission to explore topics that are sensitive – and you have a gentle way of exploring them respectfully and tactfully, with plenty of reflections and silence (two other important coaching skills).
If you’re like introvert coaches I know, you are also probably intuitive, sensitive and empathic so you might also be good at picking up body language and facial expressions that indicate how someone else is feeling and when they are experiencing a shift. This is an important skill that tells you how to progress the conversation and the session.
These are just some of the strengths of an introvert coach. Others include mindfulness and presence – the ability to truly be with the client.
Bringing all these skills together, you might also be very good at summarising – in other words – using summary reflections.
There are probably other areas I could talk about – these are the main ones that come to mind.
Every coach has areas for work, and introverts are no exception. During the coach training and assessing work that I do, there are certain areas for work that many introverted coaches seem to share.
Some find it hard to use a variety of questions or find interesting questions. I think that’s because introverts are great listeners but may not be used to doing much of the talking or having the spotlight on them! To that end, researching and practising different types of questions can be helpful, as can being coached yourself.
Introvert coaches may also struggle with guiding the session and keeping it on track, especially if they have a talkative or extroverted client. This usually comes down to confidence in setting up the session agenda, being able to park tangents, and learning how to respond appropriately to a talkative client.
To help you with guiding a session, you can practice your spiels for the session intro and outline, agenda seeking, and setting up each section of the session with a clear, succinct outline. For example, clearly explaining what will be covered in the session up front, then describing briefly what the first section is about, and then being able to segue neatly to the next section with a brief overview of what’s next. Introverts like to feel prepared, so practice is a good way to create that feeling of confidence.
To keep a session on track if your client goes on a tangent, you can gently bring them back to the focus point, you could say something like – “Thank you for sharing that – you said you wanted to focus on stressful relationships today – would it be ok if we go back to that topic, or has something else become a priority today?”
When a client is talkative and barely takes a breath, you may need to take a different approach to keeping the session on track. Using short reflection that interrupts the dialogue and causes them to really think can be helpful.
For example, one client was talking at length, and when she paused for breath, I simply reflected “Gee, you just said the word impatient several times.” This stopped her in her tracks and got her thinking deeply about how she was feeling, not just what she was thinking.
Other techniques for getting a client out of their head and into their feelings, can include asking ‘When you say impatient, where do you feel that in your body?’ or ‘If you didn’t feel impatient, what would that open up for you?’
This is where short reflections and powerful questions can be especially useful.
One last thing to mention about introverted coaches is that they can become easily overwhelmed, take on the client’s energy or problems, or feel a need to fix people. The need to fix isn’t just exclusive to introverts, but as they are often sensitive, it can be something that comes up.
Introvert coaches might also struggle with setting time boundaries (finishing on time), asking for payment, and may feel intimidated or out of their depth with group coaching, or complex cases.
Having heard some of the common strengths and challenges of introvert coaches, you can probably see what’s required to get the balance right.
Firstly, it’s really helpful if you prepare for sessions by visualising how it will go and rehearsing the steps mentally. You can also practice how you introduce each section of the session, and how you will keep the conversation on track, and you can practice different types of questions and scenarios where you might use them.
This process can be incredibly helpful in feeling confident and assertive in a coaching session, setting boundaries and maintaining session focus.
In addition, it’s important to remember that listening is just as valuable (and sometimes more) than talking. You might attract clients who verbally process and just want to be heard, so holding space can be a key value proposition that you offer!
Finally, managing your energy is important. You may find that working 1:1 is best for you, and you’ll probably find that you have a limit to how many clients you can see without draining your energy. For me, that number is 10 per week. More than that, or too many groups, and I’m cooked.
Having plenty of space between sessions is important too. It can be very helpful to process your thoughts and feelings about each session before moving to the next. Some ways you can do that include (these are from my personal list!):
1. keeping a coaching log after each session where you enter notes, reflect on what went well and what needs work, and come up with some action steps or key learnings for yourself;
2. take a walk, pull some weeds or go for a run/bike ride – some repetitive physical action that brings you into your body and out of your emotive state, so you can burn off some of the energy;
3. after your coaching log or debrief, do some left-brain activities like writing a list, developing a plan, doing your client admin – anything that takes you out of the feeling space and into the thinking space.
I believe that for any coach, finding your people is essential to your success as a coach. You might find you work best with other introverts or ambiverts, more optimistic people, more left-brain science sort of people, or extroverts who are engaged and enthusiastic but also zesty – with calm energy.
The best thing to do is to check in with your own energy as you work with different types of clients. With whom do you feel drained, and why?
Sometimes, it is more about letting go of your own expectations, worries, perfections and so on, as it is about the client. After all, when you are relaxed, centred, calm, grounded and confident – it’s pretty hard to rock your energy, no matter who you are.
This leads to my next point – maintaining your energy.
I believe that for you to maintain your energy as an introvert, self-care is a priority – but so is personal growth.
Making enough time away from clients, work, and thinking and getting into nature, hobbies, fun and other relationships is important for you to show up and be your best in every coaching session.
But in my experience, many introvert coaches I have met aren’t very self-assured. I feel that working with your own coach and going on your own path to growth – letting go of the need to fix or save, letting go of insecurities, letting go of perfection, and these sorts of things – is critical to becoming a masterful coach. This is also true for extroverts and ambiverts of course – but I feel it’s more of a challenge for introverts in terms of putting themselves out there and feeling confident to start.
Finally, use your listening skills for a good purpose – to really hear the feedback from your clients and notice it in their body language. See that you are helping them, hear that they are more energized and hopeful, and know that your coaching helped them to get there.
Introverts can be amazing coaches who can have an incredible impact on their clients. Their unique skills are valuable for anyone who needs to be heard, who is a verbal processor and needs to talk through things, and who wants to feel grounded in the presence of their calm, mindful energy.
To be successful in their coaching practice, introverts may need to be selective about who they work with, may need to space their client sessions out, prepare for sessions and practice certain skills. They may benefit greatly from self-reflection, body-based processing activities and working with their own coach. Personal growth with the support of an objective third party can really bring out the best in an introvert coach so they have a more confident, effective and impactful business
Understanding who you are and what you need will allow your business to thrive! If you’re truly ready to break old habits and get out of the rut I encourage you to check out the Habitology membership.
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