Be Present to Client Language

present to client language Carly Anderson MCCOne of the best ways for a coaching client to feel heard is to use the client’s language in our reflections, messages and questions.

There are many of the ICF core competencies affected by how well the coach listens including Coaching Presence, Active Listening, Powerful Questioning, and Direct Communication. All four of these competencies are in the ‘target’ of The Target Approach, a simple framework to mastering the ICF Core Competencies.

A coach will often hear a word or concept their client says, think they know what it means and change it to a similar word from the coach’s vocabulary. This subtly communicates to the client that the coach’s interpretation or language is more important or better than the client’s.

Is ‘ready’ really the same as ‘prepared?’

Here’s an example. Let’s say your client wants to be more confident in leading their team, and aspires to be selected to lead a region. The coach asks the client, “What would you like to work on today?” and the client says, “I have a big presentation in two weeks, and I want to make sure I’m ready.” The coach follows up by asking, “What would you want to have by the end of our session that tells you that you are ready?”

Notice the use of the client’s word of ‘ready’ and not changing it to some other word. Very often a coach will change to using words they are comfortable with, which is not from the client’s world of language and concepts. For example, a coach may change ‘ready’ to ‘prepared’ and instead of, “How would you know you were ready?” the coach asks, “How would you know you are prepared?”

You may think this is a small alteration but it can make a big difference in the overall direction of the coaching session since ‘ready’ and ‘prepared’ may have different meanings to the client. We all have our own biases and concepts, and the coach has to be present to the client’s use of language and concepts first and foremost, not their own.

Use client nuanced language to enter their world

The coach might then ask further questions such as, “What does being ‘ready’ mean to you?” What would be your internal feeling or experience if you felt 100% ready?” “How do you want me to support you in this session today to get ready?” “What will be a win for you around getting ready by the end of this session?” Notice that I’m using the client’s exact wording in my questions as well as asking succinct, open-ended questions that allow the client to draw on their inner knowledge to find their own answers.

The coach often uses words that take the client down a path that isn’t in the client’s world of language reference. Some good coaching may have taken place during the session, yet masterful coaching occurs when the coach is finely attuned to the client’s way of viewing the world and expressing themselves.

Practice living in the client’s world of language and concepts

In The Mentor Coaching Group, we mentor coaches toward their first or next ICF credential (MCC, PCC, ACC) and focus them on the finer distinctions of how to be more fully present to the client’s world of language and concepts. If you would like to hone your coaching skills in a supportive learning environment and receive core competency CCEU’s or mentoring hours, our group might be perfect for you.

The next 3 month Mentor Coaching Group commences May 6 from 2pm-3.30pm Eastern. Contact us now if you are interested in joining to inquire if there are any spaces left.


Carly Anderson and Karen Boskemper offer an awesome mentor coaching group and individual program that has many exclusive offerings for our participants.

One of those offerings is an extensive library of MCC, PCC and ACC coaching sessions for our participants to listen to, evaluate, debrief, and learn from, along with The Target Approach to demystifying the ICF core competencies. These are incredibly valuable learning tools, and will accelerate your understanding of competency distinctions.

Here’s where you’ll find more about The Mentor Coaching Group

Carly and Karen also offer other mentoring options which you can find in the Store