One of the important ways that we get to know clients is by discovering their personal style: how do they process decisions? How do they think? How do they feel in different situations? Are they led by emotion or by logic? Identifying whether your client is a “slow changer” or a “fast changer” is an important step in discovering how they think and process.
Slow changers are people who like to take their time and get oriented in order to develop trust. They need to find out how they really feel about something to get to the point where they can say “Now I’m ready to take action.” They like to process in their own time. They don’t think “Oh, that’s the thing? Boom. Let’s go do it.” Slow changers can be truly wonderful clients because you’re able to thoroughly develop a relationship and focus on your connection as coach and client. With slow changers, it’s important to be patient and to understand that they’re not going to jump right into making change. Don’t get disappointed if they don’t respond to your suggestions right away.
Some great questions to ask slow changers are “How would creating this change look in your day-to-day life?” “When you think about implementing this change or habit, how does that make you feel?” “What’s something that you could do today, or this week, or this month, to change that pattern?”
Fast changers, on the other hand, are much quicker to jump at the idea of change in their lives. They’re more likely to decide to do something and follow through immediately. Here’s a useful metaphor for coaching fast changers: imagine a train that’s speeding down a track on its way to self-growth and transformation. How do you clear the track for the next three miles so that they can go fast and accomplish their goals? How can you allow them to go at their desired pace while still checking in each time they reach a destination? Some fast-changers change direction every week, and coaching them is about learning to help them find ways to process the changes that are taking place. Sometimes the work that you do is helping them make time to integrate that change. Teach them to process the meaning and aftershocks of their new positive actions before deciding on the next change they’d like to make.
Some helpful questions to ask fast changers are “So, how’s this area of your life going?” “How do you find balance?” “What’s an area of your life that you’d like to nurture in some way?” “How could you be more present with that?
It’s important to remember not to try to change your client’s personal processing style. Instead, guide them in making their style work for them. A large part of that is simply being present with them at whatever pace they’re changing and growing, and to remember that one style is not better or worse than another. Each one has challenges and benefits that help us build our coaching skills and work towards helping our clients create lasting change.