How to Handle a Crying Client as a Life Coach
In your experience as a life coach, or a therapist, you've come across different types of people. These people have varying reactions to therapy and treatment, and sometimes it's not the sunniest. Crying in response to trauma is a basic human trait. Our body can make us relive some of our worst memories just through slight stimulation. Hence, you have probably met a lot of people that cry their way through therapy. It's not a bad thing, necessarily. However, it's not the most well thought out way to navigate through life.
Even with life coaching, you will meet people that are going through something significant in life. It won't always be the young CEO who's a workaholic trying to relax more or a stay-at-home parent with a sunny disposition looking at life to give it something more. Sometimes, it'll be people recovering from past traumas which they find difficult to talk about. As young adults, we aren't taught how to regulate our emotions properly. In some cases, we're often told feeling things too vividly makes us weak.
Life coaching is all about providing your clients with the ability to identify their triggers and emotionally control subsequent reactions. You're helping clients live through life despite their traumas. You are helping them rebuild their confidence and having them fight to achieve their goals. This article explores how you can aid the treatment of patients that have a tendency to cry continuously during sessions.
Controlling Your Reactions
It's sacrilege for a therapist to interfere with a patient's process emotionally. They keep their opinions and biases to themselves, no matter how adversely or positively they feel about it. Their job is to be a sponge, absorb the feelings and emotions, but not let them bounce back to the patient. Therapists have their own opinions about how long someone "should" or "shouldn't" cry and whether or not crying in this or that way for that long is good. So they must be mindful: they must be aware of their reactions, thoughts, and feelings, as well as their impulses. They risk rushing in to intervene inappropriately if they don't do this, which can quickly invalidate the client. Research shows that even therapists may cry during a session; however, this still does not reflect how they handle a patient.
However, life coaches are different from therapists regarding mutual bonding between client and life coach and the communication that ensues. A life coach can be your friend, your guru, someone you highly look up to. This is why even life coaches need to know the right thing to say when someone is pouring out their heart to them. You can essentially provide your take on them balling their eyes out, but should you? And if you know the right thing to say, when do you get a word in?
It's important not to let your energy slip into theirs. Them probably crying may trigger a past event that was scarring for you. Hence, it would help if you keep your reactions to the scenarios in check as well. The onus is on your client, which requires immediate attention.
Empathy vs. Sympathy
If you're a coach or want to coach, you're probably already a naturally empathic person. Emotional intelligence is becoming increasingly important in the business and coaching worlds. As a coach, empathy is, without a doubt, your superpower. Many people confuse sympathy with empathy. Many people don't understand either of them.
Sympathy is a more surface-level expression of sympathy. We say to people, "I hear you," and indeed, we comprehend what they're going through, and we feel sorry for them. Simply put, sympathy is when you demonstrate or tell someone that you understand how they think, even if you aren't experiencing the same emotion at the time.
Empathy has increased in intensity but in a good way. It's like sympathy, but it's a lot deeper. A lot more deliberate. Empathy isn't only sharing feelings with someone; it's as though you're going through the same thing and feeling the same way. And you feel sorry for them because you've allowed yourself to view things through their eyes and experience their feelings.
With your client, validate and normalise the response. Declare that crying is a natural reaction with compassion. Please clarify to the client that it's fine to cry; there's no need to hold back tears. "Please don't keep those tears back," it's often helpful to say when providing a tissue box. It's perfectly fine to cry as much as you want." Create a safe space for them where they can exist openly and freely.
Crying is a sure-fire way to release emotions and feel lighter. As a life coach, you can use this to your advantage. For some patients, crying is a sign that their barriers are demolished, and they're ready to accept the help. This is your opportunity to get a little mindfulness in.
You can encourage your clients to cry mindfully. The majority of individuals have never done this; when they cry, they are entirely absorbed in their sorrow. "See if you can notice what it's like to cry...," we can offer in a calm and grounded tone. Take note of the sensation of tears on your cheeks... Take note of how your shoulders move, what's going on in your throat, and the tone of your voice... "Pay attention to how you're breathing... pay attention to the feelings in your body that are linked to these tears..." and so on. Amid the weeping, you'll often notice the client developing a sense of tranquillity and peace.
Many clients will accept your offer, but not all. You can then coach them through the process of sobbing while remaining present and looking at you. Most clients will tell you that this is the first time they've ever been able to look directly at another person while crying when you debrief them.
Advice to give your client: Don't deny yourself while you're experiencing a particular emotion. Recognize and accept the presence of the feeling, whether it's anxiety, grief, sadness, or whatever else you're feeling at the time. By practicing mindful acceptance, you may embrace challenging feelings with compassion, mindfulness, and understanding towards yourself and your relationship.
Every one of your feelings is fleeting. They emerge, stay with you for a while, and then vanish. When you're dealing with painful emotions, it's easy to lose sight of this. Allow yourself to witness and observe your feelings with patience and kindness, allowing them to evolve and, in some situations, entirely vanish.
Afterward, ask your client to take a moment to go deeper and investigate what happened once they have calmed and soothed themself from the effect of their emotions. Pose the following questions to them:
- "What set you off?"
- "What is it that is making you feel this way?"
- "What is the source of your discomfort, and where is it coming from?"
- "Was it a reaction to something someone said or did, or was it the outcome of your critical mind?"
The plan is to get inside their mind and mine out the specifics. That way, you can make the most out of a moment where your client is vulnerable and ready to accept compassion.
Sometimes, We All Need a Good Cry
Tears moisturize and comfort the eyes of all mammals, but only humans shed tears in response to emotional stress. Crying allows us to acknowledge our feelings, and emotions urge us to empathize, coordinate, and collaborate to survive. Crying has a vital social role. It conveys the strength and nature of relationships, inspires sympathy, and, in some cases, aid, and bring people closer together.
Crying is a beautiful and therapeutic experience. A brave and natural way of expressing oneself. "It's okay," I answer when someone says, "I don't know why I'm crying." You are not required to do so. Let's have a look at it together." You don't need a reason to cry or express your feelings. It just occurs from time to time. And it's usually our pent-up emotions that we strive to suppress, whether subconsciously or deliberately.
Many clients come in and say they can't weep but desperately need to. As a result, clients may turn to self-inflicting physical pain or participating in maladaptive behaviors to have that emotional release. To avoid these behaviors, it's imperative to deal with clients how you would deal with a loved one.
The best thing about being a life coach is there is no pre-defined boundary regarding your relationship with a client. You set the limits yourself, taking into account the comfort levels of both parties. Hence, you can be a shoulder for them to cry on, but also a mirror so they can reflect on their actions and emotions.
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