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Why You Should Never Ask Clients "Why"

If you've been coaching for any period, you'll have heard this line of advice to ask clients:


"Why is this goal important to you?" or "Why do you want to achieve X?"


Almost as if it's the magical recipe to uncover someone's innermost desires, motives and thoughts.


Or maybe taking advice from the organisational realm from Simon Sinek's "Start With Why", or even following Senge's advice and asking your clients the "5 Why's" to try and get to the root cause of a problem.


During my time working as a Police Officer and learning to interview suspects, we learned that when it comes to communication, we have to consider:

  • What is the reasoning behind the words and comments used
  • How are they likely to impact others 
  • What is the intention behind why they are used


For example, how would you feel if I asked you the following questions?


"WHY didn't you do that?"

"WHY do you want to go keto?"

"WHY aren't you logging your results or sticking to your nutrition plan?"


Notice what we expect when we use the word 'why' - you must account for your actions or inactions.


By leading with 'Why', I'm demanding that you

  • Explain
  • Justify
  • Excuse
  • Come up with a reason for your thoughts/feelings/actions.


It's the coaching equivalent of putting a toddler on the naughty step; it asserts you as superior (in the right) and the client as inferior (in the wrong), which undermines any empathy you've built and leads to over-reliance on the coach as well as degrading the coach-client relationship over time.


By leading with 'why':

❌ You put your clients on the defensive

❌ It demonstrates that you're trying to 'fix' or 'solve' the problem for the client vs guiding them to solve it themselves.


Next time, try switching out your 'why' questions for 'what' questions to take a more effective and collaborative route.


❌ Why didn't you do X?

✅ What can you do differently in future to ensure this gets done?


❌Why do you want to go keto?

✅ What made you choose to go keto?


❌ Why aren't you sticking to your nutrition plan?

✅ What can we do to create more consistency in your nutrition?


Restructuing your questions with these subtle changes leads to a significant impact.


We cover strategies like these inside the Integrated Performance Foundations Program, where we have an entire module dedicated to upgrading your communication and consulting systems.


Click here to learn more and to apply.



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