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Things To Watch Out For: Part C - Wanting to Be Liked

By: Elizabeth Saigal, Ph.D. CLC

The previous two posts in this series focused on how working too hard and engaging your own ideas and attitudes can reduce coaching effectiveness. This post looks at how wanting to be liked undermines the coaching process.

Clues that a desire for personal approval is fogging your coaching lens include:

  1. Worrying about client perception: Anxiety about how the content of the coaching conversation reflects on you and your value as a coach restricts your ability to lead. Some of the attention that could be focused on the client is redirected to analysis of what is being said. This reduces capacity for listening to and tracking with the client, compromising your ability to coach at a deeper level, and often results in an increase in closed questioning. The irony of striving to manage the client’s opinion is that it is frequently counterproductive and results in a reduction in rapport and a loss of coaching quality. Tackle this tendency by taking time to increase your confidence in your coaching: both in terms of the value of the process itself and the value you place on yourself irrespective of the opinion of others.
  2. Not feeling safe sharing what comes up: If you are concerned about being judged or exposed it is possible that you might hold back from sharing. Great coaches are okay with being direct with the client and checking out intuitions without assumption or attachment. This forthrightness is not leading the client or making them wrong it is just stating the way it is. If you notice constraint, consider different ways of framing that allow you to express your wisdom. For example, “I’m picking up on something and I’m not sure how it is going to come out so I’m just going to throw it out and see where it goes and correct if needed”. You can even speak to the elephant in the room if there is judgment involved such as “May I share what is coming up for me even though it is a bit ‘out there’ just to see if there is any value in it at all for you.”
  3. Seeking business support: Many coaches get feedback from current or past clientele and might want to leverage that process. If this is on your mind when coaching, it could influence the coaching conversation, especially if you are sensitive about constructive criticism. Be cautious about when to make requests for testimonial or advice so as not to shift the spotlight away from the client’s agenda and only when solid rapport has been established. If possible, allot a separate time to differentiate it from the coaching conversation. Whenever you seek endorsement also solicit feedback on growth opportunities. Find out what the client would like to see added or dropped. These recommendations provide enormous scope for honing your business and coaching skills and should not be avoided. In fact, if clients observe you taking action on their suggestions they will hold you in even greater esteem.

If wanting to be liked dominates our motivation it may impair our level of professionalism. As outlined above, aspects to be alert for include stressing being ‘nice’ over being authentic, backing down from challenging the client, or avoiding the ways in which you could improve your services.

Developing as a coach means raising your awareness of the presence you contribute to each session. As you do this the flow of your coaching will improve, you will be less attached to what is generated through your exchange, but much more deeply invested in the gifts that emerge over time.


Elizabeth Saigal is an ILCT Certified Life Coach. She offers Life Design Coaching for those intent on connecting with their inner truth and aligning with their intuition to live a life on purpose. You can connect with her and sign up to receive her Free Ten Step Life Design System at