Help! My Client Won't Talk To Me!

We've all experienced it. A client signs up for coaching, is excited to get started, but when they get into the sessions, they stop talking.

They come to the sessions unprepared, they refuse to go deep, and they deflect when the coaching get too personal or emotional.

Don't worry though! This inability to open up is entirely typical.

When faced with change, no matter how much a person wants it, the brain shuts down and the walls to go up.

Think about every New Year's Resolution you've ever tried and failed.

So what do you do about it when the resistance comes from your client?

Last year, I was assigned a corporate client through a coaching company. One of the downsides is that I don't have the luxury of choosing my clients. I get who I get.

The client that I got was an older male who is about two years away from retirement. He worked the last 37 years of his career out in the field doing construction until he was moved in-house to become a manager.

This guy was true salt-of-the-earth.

Once we got over the hurdle of video chat, we got our session underway.

One of the questions I like to ask new clients to open up our sessions is "Why did you choose coaching?"

His answer, "I was voluntold to be here."


Then he proceeded to tell me how he didn't believe in this "heady stuff," that he "once tried therapy and it was bullshit," and since he was here, he was going to go with it because "according to 'them' I need the help."

So we got off to a great start.

Over the next couple of sessions, he resisted me at every turn. He challenged me on every level. His deflected anything and everything I threw at him. The only thing he would talk about was his cats (and mine), his kids, his motorcycle, and the "annoying people at work."

I was at a loss.

I sought advice from several colleagues. I needed him to open up to me and everything I tried, failed miserably.

So I did the only thing I could do, I met him where he was at.

If he wanted to talk about the cats, we talked about the cats.

If he wanted to talk about his son, awesome.

If he wanted to talk about his motorcycle and the last road trip he was on, by all means, we're going to talk about it.

I just sat back and listened.

Then an amazing thing started to happen. My client began to open up, albeit just a teeny bit, he stopped deflecting and started talking to me. The most important, and surprising thing of all was that he kept coming back.

I learned through this experience that by merely being present and listening, I was able to make an impact on one of the most resistant clients I've ever experienced.

So what do you do when a client doesn't open up to you?