Coach the Emotional Content of your Client

coach emotional content

One of the most powerful distinctions I can offer coaches I’m mentoring toward MCC skill level, is to coach the whole human being (the Who) and especially the emotional content of their client.

Emotion is what drives us as human beings. We feel optimistic, which might bring the emotion of happiness, and we find ourselves effortlessly getting things done. If we feel nervous, we might have an emotion of fear present, which could stop or slow us down from taking action.

If you only pay attention to the behavior (e.g. easily taking action, or not taking action) when the client is also presenting you with emotional content, you are missing coaching the whole human being and a huge opportunity for the client to develop their capacity to work with their emotions.

In a book called “Emotional Intelligence for Project Managers by Anthony Mersino, there’s a model attributed to David E. Carlson called the “SASHET Families of Emotion.” SASHET stands for Sad, Angry, Scared, Happy, Excited, Tender. Carlson asserts that there are six primary feeling words, as well as a range of emotions each of these words represent.

The ICF Core Competency of Coaching Presence sub-point (g) says: “[Coach] demonstrates confidence in working with strong emotions, and can self-manage and not be overpowered or enmeshed by client’s emotions.” We mentor on how to listen for emotional content and seamlessly include it in your coaching conversation. Our 2016 Mentor Coaching Group/Individual program has been approved for 23.5 hours of ICF Core Competency CCEU’s which you can use toward mentor coaching, and/or credential renewal. 

The more comfortable a coach is with their full range of emotions, the more likely they are to be comfortable with their client expressing their full range of emotions. The coach won’t shy away from asking questions or making observations about the emotional content of their client. In fact, they embrace it whether they are expressing happiness, anger, sadness, or anxiety.

How do you recognize emotional content?

Behaviorally speaking, you’ll likely notice one or more of the following:

  1. Your client tells you how they are feeling such as they are happy about something. Or they may tell you they are frustrated or annoyed at someone or something.
  2. You notice that as your client speaks there is a shift up or down in their energy, tone, or pace of speaking.
  3. You notice that your client is being very quiet.
  4. Your client sighs or makes other sounds.
  5. You notice certain words the client uses which seem neutral yet may be alluding to or masking an emotion. An example might be if the client says they are ‘feeling challenged’ by something. Or they might say they have too much to do and don’t feel comfortable delegating to others in their team as they also overloaded with work.

Examples of coaching emotional content outline above might be:

Group A

You sound happy!

What does this feeling of happiness ignite in you?

How can you leverage this feeling of happiness?

What’s behind your frustration?

When you feel annoyed, how do you typically respond?

If you resolved your frustration, what might be possible for you?

What else needs to be addressed within you?

How can you use this feeling to move you forward?

Group B

Your energy seems lower as you speak now.

You are speaking a lot faster when you talk about X than when you were speaking about Y.

I wonder if something is bothering you about this situation as your energy has changed.

Your seem lighter as you talk about that.

Group C

I’m wondering what’s happening for you right now? (when your client is silent)

Group D

What was that? (when your client sighs)

That was a big sigh.

Group E

When you say you’re feeling challenged, what’s the emotion driving that?

You say you don’t feel comfortable delegating, what’s the emotional cost to you of not delegating?

How does that impact how you deal with others?

There are many more possibilities of what you can say to address emotional content.

EQ and Neuroscience connections

Consider your comfort level engaging with your own emotions. What personal development work might you engage with to grow your ability to connect with your emotions?

What else might you want to explore in relation to emotional content? For example, the field of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) has revealed that many companies now take into consideration EQ not just IQ and job experience when hiring people.

There’s also the work of Neuroscience, which distinguishes between intrapersonal intelligence (the capacity to understand oneself) and interpersonal intelligence (the capacity to understand the intentions, motivations and desires of others).

In Closing….

To reach mastery skill level in coaching, you have to significantly attend to the whole person of your client, and that includes all the ways emotional content is presented to you. Your [Coaching] Presence has to emanate comfort with emotional content. And you’ll find that by significantly including client emotional content you are entering the realm of transformational coaching, where your client has a shift that permanently grows their capacity to embrace their emotions, as well as work better with the emotions of others.


Are you preparing for your first or next ICF Credential?

Do you want to “Sharpen the Saw” as a Coaching Professional?

Our next Group/Individual Mentoring Program commences February 2016 and carried 23.5 ICF Core Competency CCEUs!

Don’t wait until later in the year to start your mentoring requirements or to obtain CCEU’s for credential renewal!

You can learn more here

Carly Anderson and Karen Boskemper offer an awesome mentor coaching group and individual program that has many exclusive offerings for our participants. Both have been trained by the ICF to assess using the new PCC Markers.

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