8 powerful strategies for working with difficult clients. Your cheat sheet to navigate the most common coaching challenges.

It is not uncommon for people to have difficult clients, and it can be tough to navigate these situations. This article will provide 8 strategies that you can use to work with your clients and help them reach their goals.

The nutrition coaching strategies is a helpful article that offers 8 powerful strategies for working with difficult clients. It is also a great way to get through the most common coaching challenges.

Working with individuals who are “unmotivated,” “resistive,” or “stubborn” may be challenging for both seasoned and novice fitness instructors. Instead of throwing in the towel, try one of these eight methods for coping with the most frequent coaching issues, such as demanding customers.


Consider the following scenario.

You get a request for assistance from a customer.

They’ve tried working out previously. They’ve tried a variety of diets. (There are probably a lot of diets.) Nothing, however, worked. (At least not for the time being.)

They see the need for change, but they need assistance. They need your assistance.

Nothing makes you happier than assisting them. After all, why not? After all, you’ve attended classes. You’ve got the credentials, the books, and the lingo down pat.

You’re a natural at this! (Are you not yet certified? With the Level 1 Certification—the world’s #1 rated nutrition certification—learn how to help anybody achieve permanent change.)

So you make the most gorgeous spreadsheet-based food plan in the world. You must balance macronutrients, regulate time, cycle calories, and consume the proper fatty acids. It should be color coded to death.

Combine it with a workout routine. A periodized, meticulous asskicking routine with minute changes in sets, repetitions, rest, and pace. Energy systems, motor patterns, and 1-rep max percentages are all things to consider. Math for a space station. This is a piece of art.

The customer has agreed to participate. They’re giddy with anticipation. “Let’s do it!” says the group. There were high fives all around.

But then something goes wrong a few weeks later. The exercises are just halfway done. The meal plan is (sort of) followed… on occasion. Your customer seems to be on the verge of leaving.

As a result, it’s back to square one. You go through the exercise again. Make a new food plan. Your customer should be cajoled, cautioned, and bargained with. There’s nodding, maybe an embrace, and possibly an optimistic high-five. This time, though, things will be different. It needs to be that way.

Despite this, it isn’t.

Your customer is still stranded. You know you should do something, but what should it be?

This is a well-known tale.

Take heart if this has occurred to you: you are not alone. Many trainers and coaches are perplexed as to why their customers aren’t making progress despite having access to seemingly endless resources.

People may get trapped in the middle of a change process for a variety of reasons and at various locations.

That’s why, when everything else is equal, your teaching abilities are the deciding factor.

Let’s speak about coaching now.

Here are eight situations in which you may encounter individuals who are “unmotivated,” “resistive,” or “stubborn,” as well as our recommendations for dealing with them.

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1st scenario

“I’m having trouble connecting with this individual. It’s as though we don’t understand one other. Nothing changes no matter how many times I address their problems.”

Saying the right things, in the right ways, at the right moments is critical to connecting with clients and guiding them to success. Although it is not always obvious, it is something that can be learned.

Working on your coaching style, language, and listening skills can help you make these connections.

Above all, it entails shifting from “awfulness-based coaching” to “awesomeness-based coaching.”

Much of the fitness business is built on the concept of “awfulness.” Consider hardass instructors with crossed arms pointing out your faults and shouting at you to correct them. Loud, belligerent, and antagonistic… That isn’t conducive to long-term development.

Awkwardness is the polar opposite of awesomeness. An empathetic coach working with their client, praising achievement, and building on their client’s current strengths to create health and fitness success is known as awesomeness-based coaching.

The foundation of awesomeness-based coaching is what we term “client-centered” coaching. We assist customers discover their inner reason and own their choice to change via this process. Then we provide them with clear, practical answers to help them feel more confident in their choice.

It takes practice to become an awesomeness-based coach. However, if you start following its principles, such as taking the time to ask questions before providing advise, you’ll find that you and your customers become more connected. You’ll also train them to achieve greater outcomes.

Check out Effective coach talk: What to say to clients and why it matters for particular instances of client-centered coaching.

Scenario number two

“My customer is always complaining. They discuss how much everything irritates them, how much it hurts them, and how unhappy and damaged they are. I try to be upbeat, but it just seems to make things worse.”

You’ll never connect with your customer if you attempt to make up for it with sunshine and rainbows. They’ll bury their heads even deeper in their sorrow. This is referred to as “The Positivity Trap.”

Maintaining a persistently optimistic attitude in the face of client difficulties (and clients will struggle – change is difficult) suffocates understanding and rapport.

Highs and lows, ups and downs, are all part of the lifestyle change process. The lows aren’t to be glossed over or overlooked. They are, in fact, an essential component of the transformation process. You’ll come off as indifferent and ignorant if you can’t recognize and connect to what your customer is going through.

That doesn’t imply you should wallow in your sorrow. It just entails taking the time to listen to their resistance and ambivalence. To empathize with it. After all, you’ve undoubtedly experienced something similar at some point in your life.

Embracing the full emotional range of the transformation process is the greatest approach to keep your customers moving ahead. Before moving on, give it a chance to be heard.

Check out this article for additional information on The Positivity Trap, including how to deal effectively with difficult clients: The Positivity Trap: How positive coaches may sabotage client outcomes

#3 Scenario

“My customer isn’t following my orders. They’re uninspired. I’m beginning to think I should simply ‘fire’ them.”

We’ve found that individuals tend to fall into one of three types, each needing a distinct coaching approach, after working with over 100,000 customers and students.

  • Type 1: There is a lack of conformity. Struggles to stay on track with the program.
  • Type 2: High compliance but poor outcomes. Follows the regimen, although the outcomes are less than ideal.
  • Type 3: High outcomes, high compliance. Follows the program and achieves better-than-expected outcomes.

Surprisingly, all three kinds are capable of significant transformation. Unless they’re taught in the manner that works best for their personality type, they’ll all suffer at predictable times. (Yes, even those with a high level of compliance.)

Consider which customers fall into each of the three categories when you review your client list. Then start coaching each personality type depending on their specific requirements.

Check out: for a comprehensive analysis of each customer type and what they need for success. The three kinds of customers are: Here’s how to help each personality type succeed.

Scenario number four

“I’m providing my client the most sophisticated workouts and dietary regimens I can, yet they keep running into obstacles and sliding off the wagon.”

The majority of abilities are developed on the foundation of lesser, more basic skills. We can’t become particularly good at more complex things unless we have solid “basics.”

For example, excellent ankle, knee, and shoulder mobility, core strength and stability, and nervous system coordination are all required to perform an efficient Olympic lift like the snatch.

This is why novice (and, in many cases, intermediate) exercisers struggle to snatch correctly. They haven’t dedicated enough time to studying and practice the basics.

The same is true for all aspects of fitness, including diet, stress management, and sleep.

It’s easy to forget as a trainer or nutritionist that everything you ask a client to do is predicated on the development of some skill set.

Consider anything as straightforward as “eat breakfast.” Breakfast requires your client’s understanding of what to eat, where to get those foods, how to cook those meals, how to modify their schedule to accommodate the additional early preparation, and more.

When we skip over the fundamentals and go right to the big stuff, we’re putting our customers on a weak, failure-prone foundation.

We can provide a solid foundation by digging deeper into the abilities our clients are acquiring and understanding the practices that will help them develop those talents.

Check out this page for the same method we use to assist customers acquire new abilities via everyday practice, as well as a printable worksheet you can use as well: Coaching has been revealed: A tried-and-true method for assisting customers in making positive changes in their life.

#5 Scenario

“At initially, my customer seems ambitious, but he soon loses drive. They don’t follow through on all they claim they’ll or want to do.”

Ah, the catch-22 situation. In the beginning, an ambitious customer seems to desire a lot. After that, you hand it on to them. And then they collide.

It’s your duty as a fitness and nutrition professional to know more. Because offering a customer several things to alter at once is a certain way to undermine their long-term success.

No matter how eager customers are to get started, addressing a large number of tasks at once puts in motion a lifestyle and psychological chain reaction that only a few individuals can handle. Even the most determined client may become overwhelmed, out of balance, dissatisfied with their progress, and ready to quit up.

Experts believe that when individuals attempt to alter a single behavior at a time, they have a greater than 80% chance of keeping that habit for a year or more. When individuals attempt to change two habits at once, they have a 35% probability of succeeding. When they attempt three or more behaviors, their success rate drops to fewer than 5%.

So, rather than allocating a slew of modifications all at once, start with one.

Break down the adjustments into manageable chunks that your customer can practice and improve on over time. They don’t have to be tiny to be effective. They should, however, adhere to our 5S guidelines.

Check out Fitness success secrets: On practicing one strategic behavior at a time for additional information on how to develop the correct habits with clients, including comprehensive instructions and examples.

#6 Scenario

“Every time I propose anything, my customer comes back with a reason why it won’t work. They won’t budge no matter how hard I attempt to persuade them or how strong my case is.”

This tug-of-war will never be won by you.

Trying to persuade your customers to change (e.g., “If you ate healthier, you’d lose weight,” or “Trust me, if you exercised more, you’d be able to stop taking your blood pressure medication”) nearly always backfires.

Clients will typically reject what they perceive to be “your agenda.” They’ll adopt the opposite strategy and begin defending their inability to change. Even if they didn’t really want to change to begin with.

Yes, it is aggravating. It is, nevertheless, natural.

When it comes to change, most customers are hesitant. Ambivalence is the sensation of wanting to do something but yet not wanting to do it. It’s a typical human reaction to change.

Pressure doesn’t make ambivalence go away. When you push ambivalence, it will push back. The more bossy or demanding a coach is, the more the client will resist and fight back.

Rather of attempting to persuade, cajole, or convince, embrace the ambivalence that comes with change. You can assist customers sort out their ambivalence and make the best decision for themselves with the appropriate coach talk. There’s no need for a tug-of-war.

Check out Motivational Interviewing: Free Coaching Workshop and Effective Coach Talk: What to Say to Clients and Why It Matters for additional information on how to assist clients who seem indifferent and resistant.

#7 Scenario

“My customer speaks a lot about “when.” I’ll do it “when…” but they never do it, so they don’t go anywhere.”

Who hasn’t put off doing something essential because the “proper moment” hasn’t arrived?

Waiting for the “ideal” moment may be a major source of distraction for any of us. It may be a means of avoiding the danger of really doing something. Others use perfectionism and avoidance to protect themselves from failure, criticism, and humiliation.

This delay may last months, years, or even decades, depending on the cause.

To assist a client in getting started right away, remind them that all-or-nothing thinking seldom gives us “all.” It typically yields “nothing.” Show them how to get started right now, with what they’ve got, and from where they are.

The key is to begin at the beginning. This entails a set of specific, strategic approaches that clients are sure they can implement right now. Jumping into the midst of a process is the polar opposite of this. This entails preparing for significant lifestyle adjustments that are both frightening and daunting.

Which would you like to have when undertaking something completely new (such as changing professions, learning a new language, or having your first child)? “Just try this one thing!” or “Change everything!”?

Everyone can start doing “this one thing” right now. Our procrastination reaction is usually triggered by major overhauls.

Check out this article for additional information on how to encourage customers to take action now rather than waiting for some fictitious ideal time: I’d want to get started, but I’m waiting for the right opportunity.

#8 Scenario

“Nothing seems to work, no matter how many meal plans I offer my client.”

In this case, it may be time to reconsider your meal-planning strategy.

Restricted meal plans are unrealistic for most individuals. They often lead to binge eating. Most importantly, they aren’t required.

The little nuances of a food plan don’t important to anybody except a physique competitor a few weeks away from a competition. The larger trends are the ones that matter. These are the items that are most easily overlooked.

Long-term dietary success is similar to financial success for this reason. It isn’t about super-detailed spreadsheets or hard-and-fast regulations. It’s all about having a basic understanding of how much money you make and how much money you spend, making decisions about what you want to spend it on, and sticking to sensible spending rules.

Instead of imposing rigid rules, limitations, and “follow-this-to-the-letter meal plans” on clients, which often leads to dietary revolt and collapse, assist them in making eating a low-stress, natural part of their life.

Check out: Why Meal Plans Typically Fail for a fascinating look at why meal plans usually backfire. Meal planning are generally a waste of time: Here are six more effective strategies to improve your nutrition. Also, here’s a good alternative to calorie tracking and food planning: Don’t bother about calorie counting: This calorie-counting guide is suitable for both men and women.

If you’re a coach or wish to be one…

It’s both an art and a science to guide clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy food and lifestyle adjustments in a manner that’s tailored to their individual body, tastes, and circumstances.

Consider the Level 1 Certification if you want to learn more about both.

The health coaching scripts are a resource that has been created to help people with the most common challenges that they may face when working with difficult clients.

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