What are the main skills that put you in a pole position to thrive as a life coach?

We could enumerate as few as three and as many as 99, but let us start with a shortlist of ten most salient success factors.  You’ll make a great coach if you already have them, and an even better coach if you learn them by taking a class with us at New York Life Coaching Institute.

Here’s a quick review.

  1. Listening skills

First, as coaches, we want to be able to listen deeply.  We listen not just with our ears, but using our whole body, with our heart.  We listen not only to what is said but also to what is not said.

Listening as a coach involves focusing on the totality of the person that is speaking.  It should be devoid of judgment or presumptive intention to say something.  If for some reason, the coach gets emotionally triggered or reactive, it is important to take a few deep breaths, stay present and continue listening.

Listening can be learned.  It is useful to practice it outside of coaching engagements to capture various communication styles.

You can, for example, learn to pay attention to various paralinguistic cues, for example:

  • eye contact,
  • facial expressions (smiling, smirking, grimaces, pouting, blinking, squinting, eyebrow movements),
  • breathing patterns, posture (shoulders, hips, arms),
  • body language (arm movement or position, foot position, hand gestures, fidgeting, head movements, and angle),
  • position (interpersonal angle, proximity, mirroring),
  • sounds (non-verbal noises, tone of voice, rhythm),
  • and certain physiological changes (blushing, sweating, tearing, twitching)
  1. Capacity to process one’s own emotions

People differ in ways in which they handle ‘bad’ experiences.  Most of us were not familiar with what emotions are, why they are here, and what to do with them.

We are at the mercy of ebbs and flows and we have a natural tendency to hang on to anything we perceive as ‘positive’ emotions while avoiding ‘negative’ or ‘uncomfortable’ emotions at all cost.

Experiencing emotions ‘positively’ helps us build an optimistic attitude, appreciate our life, or to acquire new skills.  But there is also a role for those emotions which we perceive as negative.

First, many of them may protect us from danger and lead us to examine unmet needs.  And they provide the contrast against which we can relish the brighter moments of life.

Together, the ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ emotions can be harnessed to serve as an inner compass to guide us through life.  They are a source of deep wisdom.

It is possible to learn to process emotions.  Not by ruminating about them, but by experiencing them in your body.

So next time you feel an emotional onslaught – Watch yourself feeling that emotion.  Bring attention to the part of your body where you are feeling it.

Describe how you feel it.  How strong is it?  Is it moving?  Write down your observations.

  1. Open-mindedness and ability to reframe issues

a person writing down notes

Coaches treat their clients with unconditional positive regard and trust that it’s the clients who are the ultimate experts in their lives.

One can encourage clients to learn more about their thoughts through meta-thinking, i.e., observation of their own thoughts.  Meta-thinking (or metacognition) involves the awareness of our thinking and the capacity to monitor and regulate our own thoughts and their content.

Our thinking is full of preconceptions, distortions, and biases.  In order to become aware of various distortions and combat the very frequent confirmation bias, coaches can run a simple falsification test.  The key question is:

Are there times when what I believe could be false?

Falsification momentarily disrupts the confirmation-dependent belief maintenance.  The idea is borrowed from the epistemology of science.  Science does not ‘progress’ by way of validation of pre-existing knowledge.  Rather, it advances through the refutation of hypotheses.  By rejecting what does not work, scientists learn more.  So can the rest of us.

  1. Good intuition

Intuitions are tacit, largely unconscious hunches that influence our thoughts.

Experienced coaches spontaneously use intuition that is specific to the domain of coaching. Once can enhance the  Intuition-building process by the coach’s openness to taking risks, experimenting, and encountering unexpected cases.

The coach must therefore be comfortable with situations that do not conform to pre-determined formulas.  Only this way will the predictive power of intuition increase.

Coaches learn to rely on experiential intuition if they cease relying on ‘standard’ formulas or questions.  Intuition will enrich the mastered toolkit and analytical skills, but only if the coach is not constrained by the technical baggage.

  1. Curiosity

Life coaching is not about giving advice.  As coaches, we learn to formulate better questions.  This allows us to set aside our judgments and stay curious.  A good coach would inquire from a place of genuine curiosity and encourage the client to find a more empowering perspective.

Coaches use investigative questions to help peel away the fossilized layers of generalization, deletion, and distortion that pollute Clients’ worldview and often degrade their self-esteem

These carefully calibrated investigative questions come from a genuine interest.  At no time should the coach make the client feel that they are under interrogation.

  1. Patience

Only infinite patience produces immediate effects, though patience could be a confusing term.  It is worth separating two different meanings that are hidden under this signifier.

The first type of patience is restraint.  It happens when we separate the outcome by time but the outcome itself is certain.  For example, when I wait for the order to be shipped.  These days, with very few exceptions it will be shipped.

The second type of patience is resilience.  We require it when we are uncertain of the outcome and have to wait to find out about it.  It’s like when we wait for someone else’s decision.  Have I been admitted to the college of my dreams?  Did I get the job offer?  Has my aunt recovered in the hospital?

When it comes to those events outside of my direct influence, I can learn to trust the process.  And the human transformation has its own, unique timing.

When a coach holds space for the clients, they learn to process their emotions, experiment with different thoughts, and naturally come to clarity regarding their next steps.  At their own pace.

  1. A sense of humor

life coach and client talking

Coaches are encouraged to use humor to generate lightness, and, if necessary, to change the dynamic.

Humor engenders enthusiasm and strengthens memories by injecting a (positive) affective ingredient into the process.  Clients will be more likely to take the risks for creative expression and experimentation if they perceive their Coach’s humor style as supportive.

Laughter is an equally common occurrence during sessions. It is perfectly legitimate for the coach to laugh with the client. These are excellent opportunities for the client to enjoy the bonding experience and strengthen the partnership with the coach.

  1. Proactive attitude to experimenting and finding solutions

It is critical for the coach to suspend immediate judgment and suppress the inner urge to provide premature guidance. That guidance may be based on personal preferences, on similar cases, or on their own study.  The coach may have some preconceived notions which may appear adaptable as potential ‘solutions’ for a given situation.  It is vital to drop these ideas and allow the client to come up with their own realizations.

This will be particularly challenging for novice coaches, and for those who may have a strong preference about some particular issue.  However, at this stage, it is irrelevant what the Coach’s personal opinion is regarding the Client’s situation.

The client’s growth and perceived ownership of the process are of paramount importance.

If the coaches cannot be present at this moment, they will remain focused on pre-existing content, on precepts from the past, layers of knowledge, thus neglecting the mystical power of perception of this moment.  One cannot reveal a client’s potential through such a pre-scripted interaction.  As a result, an individual may waste the opportunity to provide support on the client’s journey.

  1. Willingness to learn new technologies for business development

These days, business development in the service industry is heavily reliant on online media. Keeping abreast of constant changes in the marketing landscape is part of the coaching business.  Even if the coach outsources some of the work, it is necessary to acquire some knowledge of how to leverage the technology to better serve potential and current clients.

  1. Interest and/or experience in adjacent fields.

a woman meditating with her dog

This involves, first and foremost, an interest in psychology – from Jungian classics to the most recent advances in neuroscience.  Those coaches who specialize in health and wellness benefit from insights into nutrition and holistic health.  Holistic coaching draws heavily on spiritual practices from various traditions and from syncretic approaches alike.

Business and executive coaches thrive on bringing the full person approach to traditional project management, career and leadership development or business development.  From philosophy to team sports, from parenting to human biology – the range of possible angles in coaching is boundless.

An obvious question arises.  If I lack any of these qualities, does that mean that I’m toast as a coach?

The answer is a resounding NO.

Take note of this, future Life Coach

First, deep listening is a key skill that can (indeed must) be learned during your formation as a coach.  It’s a question of practice and a very useful skill in many other walks of life.

The capacity to reframe issues is another key tool that draws on creative thinking schools and is applied in many other domains – from HR to counter-intelligence to scientific research.  Many coaching schools teach techniques that are directly applicable to working with clients.

Openness to experimentation only comes with practice and interaction with clients and exercise it in other social contexts.  How?  By straying away from preconceived notions.  By engaging in a dialectic process of exchange – in lieu of stubborn defense of a specific viewpoint.  This way, we train the cognitive and emotional “muscles”.

They allow us to open to the possibility of something entirely new emerging, without feeling the discomfort of unfamiliarity.

Last but not least, curiosity.  Coaching is for people who have an interest in other people.  If your sweet spot is numbers or visuals, animals or music, grand ideals, or mechanical engineering, then chances are you will find coaching somewhat dull.

Remember if the human soul is what is driving you, then you will find that even those skills that you are still lacking will be a pleasure to acquire.

The New York Life Coaching Institute

We at New York Life Coaching Institute believe holistic life coaching leads the way. At NYLC, we are interested in the client as a whole person and approach their goals in an integrative manner.

Our balanced approach helps cultivate resilience to embrace all that life has to offer, and we explore the frontier between their comfort zone and their true potential.

Have you ever wondered how to become a life coach?
Watch our FREE TRAINING to learn how you can get paid while serving others and making a difference!

As Featured In