As humans, we all seek validation. But seeking it from your clients is a trap that can sabotage your coaching. Not only does it shift your focus from where it should be (on your client), it creates highs and lows in your coaching. Unfortunately, it can be easy to have validation trap tendencies and not even know it, so please don’t judge yourself too harshly.
In this episode, I share numerous ways to identify this trap, recognize if you’re slipping, and avoid the temptation. Mastering this valuable coaching skill will serve you well throughout your career, plus increase your overall success.
“Wanting validation is very normal… it’s only because you are a helper type of person… that’s not anything you need to judge yourself about… [but] have awareness of it so that you can decide what to do about it.” – Molly Claire
3 Validation Trap Lessons:
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Welcome to the Masterful Coach Podcast with Molly Claire, where coaches learn skill mastery, business mastery, and life mastery at a whole new level. If you are serious about creating a meaningful coaching business that makes a difference, you are in the right place. And now your host, master Life and business coach, Molly Claire.
Hey, coach! As I thought about the perfect way to wrap up this month where I’ve been focusing with you every single week on coaching skill mastery, I couldn’t help but think of ‘The Validation Trap’. Today’s episode is a rebroadcast of one of my favorite episodes, and definitely the episode that I refer clients to the very most when I’m working with clients in ways they’re struggling with their coaching skills, when I’m working with clients who are struggling with building their business, when I’m working with clients who are struggling with converting clients.
So often it comes back to the validation trap. So this is one of the most powerful episodes for helping you to be more masterful with your coaching. You’re gonna love it, and let’s go ahead and get started. Okay, let’s go for it.
So today we’re speaking about this coaching skill mastery that may not really see much about skill mastery. We’re talking about seeking validation from our clients, and how that can actually sabotage your coaching. Okay, not only can this validation trap keep you from doing your best coaching, but it will also put you in this up and down cycle of feeling high on the coaching success and validation and plummeting to the depths of doubt, and despair and discouragement, when you’re not sure is my client happy with me? Am I helping them? If you relate to this, if you feel that sense of fear that you may not be as helpful as you wish, and you want to know, want to hear it; this episode is for you. We’re going to identify why this is a problem if you are seeking that validation. How you know if you’re falling into this, and a few tips for making sure that your coaching is squeaky clean and free of that validation seeking.
So before we go any further, just notice for a minute, if you’re having some feelings come up like this, ‘Oh no, I think that she might be talking about me.’ And if you’re wondering if you may be the one I’m talking to, and you’re possibly feeling guilty or embarrassed or ashamed or anything like that, let’s just put a pause because we don’t have to go there at all. Wanting validation is very normal. And most likely, if you really want that validation, and you want to know you’re helping, it’s only because you are a helper type of person, and you define a lot of your value from that, and that’s not anything that you need to judge yourself about. The whole purpose of this episode is to have awareness of it so that you can decide what to do about it.
All humans want validation. It’s completely normal for us to seek it from outside sources. As kids we take in feedback around us and we feel validated and we learn that’s where it all comes from. As adults, we experience the same thing, and we can become really dependent on outside validation if we aren’t aware of it. So if this is you, and if you feel this way, it’s not a problem. It’s totally normal. And as I said, depending on how your brain is wired, you may crave outside validation more than someone else totally fine. Nothing wrong with it. This pattern doesn’t have to define you or decide the way you show up with a client.
So now with a bit of a clean slate and all those judgments out the window, let’s talk about the validation trap for you, and find out if this is going on for you. So if you get a buzz when your client validates you as a good coach, or if you notice yourself seeking it, craving it, fearing that your clients might not be happy with you, this is for you. While validation seeking is normal, it is problematic if you don’t shift the pattern, and here are a few reasons why.
Number one, this puts our client in a pleaser role, which is not useful for them. Remember, we are there to serve the client, they are not there to serve us. And when the client is trying to validate or please you by telling you how helpful you were or what a great question you’re asking, they are more focused on you and what you may be thinking than being focused on them.
They can’t fully relax into the process and have the level of awareness and ultimately the level of change that they want. Can you see what I mean by this? Think about those times when you’re in people pleasing mode, when you’re wanting someone to think something positive or to feel good, you’re focused on trying to make someone think something, make someone feel something, and you aren’t really connected with you. This will be the case for your client as well. That’s why it’s paramount that you set up the coach client relationship as one totally focused on the client.
The other reason why this is problematic is it puts you as the coach in this pleasing and needy energy, focusing more on what the client is thinking about you, rather than just what the client is thinking, what they’re thinking about themselves, what they’re thinking about their life. Here, we have this same issue that I just spoke about, with where the client’s head is, but it’s on you this time in a different way. The focus should be on you understanding the client’s thoughts about their own life, not their thoughts about you.
And the fascinating thing about this is, as I mentioned in the beginning of this podcast, those of you listening who fall into this the most, it’s because you’re naturally helpers, you want so badly to help people, and you may actually see this as your distinct role in life, and I think this is an awesome thing, it only becomes a problem when the validation for you outweighs the focus on the actual help you are giving. When you’re in this place of asking for validation, for example, saying was that helpful? Is that good? Is that what you wanted? Needing some kind of verification of your client, you are needing something from the client, rather than offering the client a space completely reserved for them and whatever their needs may be.
I want to just take a minute to think about this. Because I think the most magical thing about coaching is giving the client this gift of space to just be with them. You asking nothing of them, you are simply there to serve them in whatever capacity they need. And coaches always remember this, when your client is inviting you into their life, their thoughts, their feelings, it is an honor for you to be there. I see this as a sacred space that I enter into with my clients when they let me in. This is a space of true intimacy and vulnerability where my client is willing to be totally open, and I am to treat their thoughts and feelings with extreme care; no judgments, just care and space and love to help another soul with their own development, with their own relationship with themselves.
I believe using this as a frame can be one little key to helping you stay out of that needy place of wanting validation. It reminds you that you are invited into a sacred space with your client; honor it; show up to serve. Okay, so back on track here with a few more ways this validation can be a problem. It clouds your best coaching. Coach, I promise you if you are falling into this, even if you don’t realize it, it is not allowing you to be the most powerful coach. When you’re thinking about you, you will automatically be directing the coaching to get a positive response from the client, rather than what the client may actually need. This may come up in the form of trying to make the client feel better, rather than helping them to move to a space of seeing and experiencing hard feelings that need to be seen.
It may show up in you going in for a quick aha with the client over possibly doing a longer process that may allow them to discover more. It may even show up as you teaching, talking or telling more in the session, rather than doing a lot of asking, and discovery coaching with the client in an effort to impress them. The bottom line is, however, this shows up for you, if you are in a validation seeking place, you won’t be the same open, curious and masterful coach you are capable of being. So really watch that and just notice that it will cloud your coaching.
One more way this is problematic is it puts pressure on the client. When the client is feeling compelled to validate you, they may not be honest with you, they may not tell you their real experience of the work you are doing. For example, rather than them challenging something you’re saying, or saying that doesn’t resonate with me or this is where I’m struggling, they may tend to agree with you.
And as they work to validate you, they’re also trying to make sure that you think something positive about them, right? When they validate you, they can feel good, and everyone is trying to make everyone else feel good. But we may be missing out on discovering what the client really needs. It keeps it at the surface level, rather than going to a deeper experience. Pressure on the client to validate you will never serve them at the highest level, I promise you that.
Now I know we’re focusing a lot on why this is problematic, but I promise you that just raising your awareness here is going to help you install this automatic stopping point that you will realize when you’re falling into it. And because you do want to help your client and you do care about them, this conversation, this podcast alone is going to help you have a natural shift. So let’s talk about the last way that this is really not effective that I’m going to speak to today.
Being in a validation trap with your client does not support empowerment for the client. When the client is losing weight to please you, they are in a dependent role of pleasing rather than doing it for themselves when they want to impress you with maybe how well they stayed on schedule this week, or whatever the plan was that you talked about with them.
They aren’t really learning that independent empowered skill of taking ownership of their life for their own sake. And honestly, that empowerment that comes from taking ownership of their life is one of the most powerful things they will take with them long term from the work you do with them. So let’s not let insecurity or validation seeking on the part of a coach, get in the way of that gift, right? It’s too important.
Okay, so let’s talk about some of the ways you know, you’re falling into this. My guess is that a lot of you already know, and you can feel it and you can tell. But let’s take a minute to talk about it anyway. For sure, when you are asking, was that helpful? Now there’s a difference. Sometimes I will ask this when my clients have asked me a question or especially in the teaching format, if they’ve asked a question, and I’ve given an answer, and I want to confirm that they’ve gotten what they’ve needed from it. So not to say that we don’t ever ask a question like that, but think about the energy you feel with it. I know a distinct difference when I’m asking, was that helpful? Like, am I okay? Are you okay with me? And I’m asking it from a place of wanting to settle my emotions? versus asking was that helpful to get clarity and confirmation as to what the client needs.
So notice the difference for you. And if you are feeling that sense of asking was that helpful to settle your emotions, notice you’re falling into the trap. The other way you can know that you’re falling into this is if you definitely get pretty lit up from that praise and take a lot of praise from your clients, and taking a minute to pat yourself on the back. Now. I think it’s great to always notice and remind yourself of the ways you’re doing well as a coach, and appreciate your strength 100%. But if you notice, you kind of get that high from getting that validation and you’re really focused on how great you are, rather than being focused on really a true gratitude for the power in the session, you’re falling into the trap.
Another thing you may notice that will be an indication that you’re falling into this is feeling uncertain when the client doesn’t praise you. When the client is focused on them, and there isn’t a focus on you, are you feeling unsettled? And are you feeling the need to ask other people, ‘Am I doing a good job?’ Ask another client, was this helpful? If you feel that definitely that is an indicator.
And the last way that I’ll just mention here as to how you know you may be falling into this is seeking even in small ways validation and assurance that you’re doing a good job. This could come out in the form of wanting to get testimonials, not because you need the testimonials, per se, but because you want to hear it. This can be in the form of getting feedback from clients, not because you’re planning to use the feedback as data, but because you’re wanting that pat on the back. So any ways that you notice that you’re seeking this, this is an indication that you have just a little bit of work to do here.
Now, if you’re having that sinking feeling of judgment come up for you. Now, remember, validation is normal, you’re most likely a helper, it’s totally fine because now that you see it, it can change. I follow the optimum health clinic, they help people who are recovering from chronic fatigue syndrome, and they are amazing. And one of the phrases that Alex Howard of Optimum Health Clinic uses that I love is he says, “If you can see it, you don’t have to be it.” And it’s such a simple reminder, and the same thing is true here. If you can see it with that validation, you don’t have to be it. You can learn to shift away, and instead create a coaching practice that is totally client focused.
Okay, let’s talk about a few cardinal rules and have a little bit of discussion here before I let you go for the day. Never take credit for what the client is trying to give you credit for. Always put it back on them, and show them how true it is. Here’s an example; the client says to you, “Thank you so much. Last week was amazing. If it wasn’t for you, I never would have been able to stick to my plan.”
This is where you put a pause and you say to the clients something like, “Let’s take a minute to think back as to why you follow through on your plan because it wasn’t really me. I could have had that same conversation with 20 different people, and they all would have done something slightly different. If you’ve created a positive result this week in your life, it’s because of something you shifted. It was your thoughts, your feelings, the action you took, your commitment. So let’s go back and take a look at what it was for you that happened and how you did it.”
Do you hear how empowering that is for the client? The client wants to give you credit, and when you can show them, they did this, it proves to them that they can do it in the future, too. This is where you help to empower your client to be a person who feels capable in their life rather than dependent. So powerful!
Another tip here: cardinal rule, holds space of curiosity for success, rather than holding an after party. So this is very similar to what I just said, a client comes to you and says, “I had an amazing week. You know, I stuck to my food protocol. I lost weight, I did whatever it was.” Obviously you want to celebrate with them, but I want to show you the difference between the impact it has, when you do option A of ‘Wow, that’s so amazing. I’m so happy. I’m so excited for you.’ And you’re throwing confetti, and you’re popping the champagne and you’re having a super fun party to do that, and definitely there’s a place for that. But let’s talk about option B.
This is very similar to what I was just talking about without taking credit. When they say I lost weight this week, I stuck to my protocol, and they’re so excited. How powerful is it to say back to the client? “It sounds like you feel so proud about what you have accomplished. Tell me what is this like for you? What is it that you’re feeling so amazing about here? This is why it is powerful to do this.”
If your client comes to you one week and they’ve lost weight, and they know Molly’s proud of me when I lose weight, Molly’s happy with me when I lose weight. Molly has a judgment about what I should be doing and what success is for me. Whereas this other approach tells the client what success is to you is what matters. ‘I don’t feel more proud of you this week than I did last week, I’m just here to ask you, why does this matter to you? Why does this feel good to you?’ And that is, again, how you turn the client back to themselves put them in a place of being empowered personally, feeling capable of handling their life, and creating that self validation experience for themselves.
All right, you’re ready for another tip? Define what success as a coach means for you separate from the results your client is creating? So I suggest this for every new coach that I am training, and every coach that I work with, personally, every coach that I work with in the Coaching Collective, you want to define what success means for you? And I’ll tell you the things that define it for me.
Number one, I know that I’m being a great coach, when I show up for my client 100%. Notice me showing up 100% has nothing to do with the client showing up 100%. The client yes just gets to be them. For me, I want to show up 100%.
Number two, to love my client unconditionally; this requires nothing of my client. The client just gets to be them. But when I can love my client, it puts me in the space of never seeking validation from them, but rather to be there to serve them. When I’m there to show up with love for them, it means that I’m not bringing judgment to them. That is how I define if I’m showing up as a good coach.
Number three for me is, am I showing my client their thoughts? Am I showing my client what is happening for them internally? When I can do these three things, show up 100%, love my client unconditionally, and show them with truth what is happening, I know that I am being the coach I want to be. These things have nothing to do with what my clients’ results are. So make sure for you that you are defining what it means for you to be a great coach, and find ways to check in with yourself on that. Am I doing X, Y and Z? Validate yourself if you need to up level any of those and you’re not doing a great job. Great, how can I do a better job? How can I show up more 100%? How can I love my client more? Draw a line between the success your client is creating and how you’re showing up as a coach.
And the last tip I’ve got here for you is stay in your own space and give your client their space. It is totally human and normal for you to have insecurities and for you to want validation. Not a problem, but take care of it in your own space. Manage your own emotions. When it comes up for you in a session, put a pause, take a step back, manage your mind and reconnect with the client. That is truly the skill of a masterful coach. Not to never have noise come up in your head when you’re coaching but to understand how to move back into a space of connecting with your client, even though it comes up sometimes.
When you can manage your own insecurities and not bring it into your clients’ space; it is everything. Guard that space for your clients. Allow them to be able to be focused on their thoughts, their feelings, their life and whatever they need, regardless of you and your emotions.
All right, coaches, that’s what I’ve got for you; notice where this validation seeking is coming up. Remember that amazing phrase; if you can see it, you don’t have to be it. Take all of this in and go and be masterful. I’ll see you in the next episode.
Thanks for listening to the Masterful Coach Podcast you can check out www.thecoachingcollective.com for info about the ultimate program for coaches building a business. To find out more about Molly you can visit www.mollyclaire.com
Molly Claire is a 7-figure business builder with a blended family of 10. She is dedicated to helping women overcome their own limits, make the money they want, and have the time, freedom, and flexibility to be with the people in their lives that matter most. Especially the little ones.
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