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What do Coaches Assume?

“When you assume, you make an A** out of U and ME.”

Coaches, don't be like this fellow who assumes

What does it mean to assume?

An assumption is something that you or other people believe to be true, without evidence or proof needing to be demonstrated. Assumptions are an inescapable part of the human experience. It’s hardwired into our brains. Hypothesizing, guessing, not knowing everything. Our biases and stereotypes are also a way our brains make assumptions about others.

Assumption isn’t inherently a bad thing. More often than not our assumptions about the world and the people around us are correct, BUT, when they aren't the results can be disastrous. When your assumption is wrong, then everything that logical follows from that first assumption is based off shakey ground.

In coaching, we need to watch our assumptions during our client’s session. Coaches will often listen to the client’s language but assume their own definition without clarifying what the client actually means. This interferes with the session as we’re not fully understanding the client's point of view.

On this CLCI LIVE, Brooke Adair Walters (MCPC), Jerome LeDuff Jr (MCLC), Anthony Lopez (MCPC), Lisa Finck (PCC), and Daniel Olexa (PCC) coach Jen Long (MCPC), through a goal of hers, calling out all the kinds of assumptions both coaches and client can make along the way.

Avoiding Assumptions in the Beginning of a Session

Jen opens up the live sharing that she has a “big” and “scary” goal.

To avoid imparting your assumptions onto your client, utilize the exact words they’ve given you: if they use big and scary to describe their goal, use big and scary in your questions—don’t make assumptions about why it’s scary.

Brooke illustrates how coaches can impart their assumptions onto their client by saying the big and scary goal has to be really intimidating. This is placing her own associations with the words onto Jen rather than letting Jen define them for herself.

Instead, Brooke can ask Jen to tell her more about the big and scary goal to get more information. This is illuminating also because when Jen said “big and scary,” our minds pulled a scenario that felt that way for us. As we ask more questions about Jen’s goal, she might discover for herself that it’s not big or scary for her even.

Jen opens up about her desire to play the piano in public but finds herself freaking out when presented with the opportunity.

Jen has now shared with us two pieces of information: she’s scared of playing in front of people but she has a very strong desire to do it.

Brooke asked what stopped her from doing it in the past, making multiple assumptions about Jen having tried to do it in the past and that something was stopping her. In this scenario, these assumptions got in the way because Jen absorbed them and went along with the idea that something stopped her from playing the piano.

This can feel extremely restraining as a coach. However, coaches can always fall back on the language their client has given them. Dan asked Jen to describe what feels big and scary about playing the piano in public, all words Jen has given him in this session.

This then gives Jen the space to describe further about her feelings. She shares that she’s scared her fingers won’t be able to find the notes with the pressure of playing in public.

When asked to clarify further, Jen reveals that she rarely finds herself playing in public. She typically plays alone or for close friends. She can’t remember the last time she was “willing” to play in front of a stranger.

Dan asks about what she’s willing to do and she shares that she’s only able to let her close friends and family see her imperfections. Dan follows up with what will happen if she lets others see her imperfections, allowing Jen to see that she respects people who are vulnerable with others and thinks that most others will share that sentiment.

Assumption vs. Observation

What do you see? Not what you think!

As Jen leads this session, Dan notices a change in her energy and calls attention to it, diving further into her feelings and thoughts that caused the energy shift.

In this example, Dan observed a change in Jen. Her tone shifted as she spoke. Instead of assigning it a name that comes from his assumptions of her body language, he gives her the opportunity to name them herself. This is observing without judgment, a place where the clients can get a lot of work done.

What Jen realizes in this discussion is that she’s afraid of a scenario that isn’t the most likely to happen.

When Our Clients Make Assumptions

Like a pile of sand, assumptions do not serve as a good foundation for beliefs

In our live coaching session, Jen made several assumptions that were getting in the way of her achieving her goal. She had a false assumption about being judged by others if she played the piano poorly. She used words like worthy and not good enough to describe her feelings, making assumptions about a hypothetical stranger’s judgments.

She also said “I don't think this is something that can be solved in 5 minutes,” assuming that the coach might be under the impression that it could be solved in such a short amount of time. The reality is, we as coaches don't assume how long it will take for any given client to work through a block or a limiting belief. Nor do we assume the problems will be solved in any given session. What we know is that the client can make reasonable progress towards their goals' session by session and may eventually realize that their previous assumptions were actually the things that were holding them back in the first place.

Escaping the Assumption Pit

Don't fall in

Even when we can identify our assumptions, how do we get out of letting them affect our actions? Jen needed to separate her brain’s focus on the need to perform well in public from her body’s muscle memory to play the piano. The coach team used a few tactics to achieve this.

Lisa has Jen visualize the act of performing and describe her way through the scenarios of being wrong. Dan brought out his drum to carry music into the session. He set a beat to bring Jen to body awareness, paying attention to her breath and hand movements instead of focusing on her thoughts.

Once Jen feels more in her body than in her head, she feels confident in her ability to perform in public. This recognition unlocks an answer to her problem.

How can she get into her body when she’s stuck in her head in the future? Jen’s answer—just jam. Brooke asked her to imagine herself jamming at her piano and identify where she’s feeling the serenity it brings. This gives Jen the tool of knowing where in her body to bring focus the next time.

The coaching team closes this session by having Jen create tangible goals, in this case performing live on social media that same night, to keep herself accountable.


Thank you,

Lisa Finck, Brooke Adair Walters, Jerome LeDuff Jr, Anthony Lopez, Daniel Olexa, and Jen Long!

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