Do Introverts Make Good Life Coaches?
Want to become a coach, but not sure if you have the right temperament?
Maybe you’ve heard that in order to make it, you will need to “put yourself out there.” And if social media were your only guide, you might well conclude that aspiring life coaches have to live in the public eye in order to build a successful business.
For people who draw from a more inward source of energy, the very idea of networking, sharing online, and constantly “extroverting” can feel exhausting.
But before you head off for a power nap, know this:
While the online marketplace offers a glimpse into the life coaching industry, it’s far from the whole story. A lot of what you’re seeing online are marketing strategies, not coaching itself.
So if you’re asking yourself if you can make it as a life coach in a profession that seems tailor-made for extroverts, then it’s time for a new question!
The reality is that successful professional coaches operate from a foundation of strong interpersonal skills. Business development - what you see happening online - comes later. And there’s more than one way to do it. (For just one example of this, listen is as Lumia Coaching CEO Noelle Cordeaux grapples with her own reservations about "showing up" online.)
In this article, we'll explore what it takes to perform the actual duties of a life coach. Read on to discover how your introversion may just turn out to be an advantage!
Who Says Introverts Can't Be Great Coaches?
Time for a refresh on what it means to be an introvert. When we Googled it, the very first definition to come up is “a shy, reticent person.”
Talk about misguided and unhelpful!
We could publish an entire article on the inaccurate stereotypes about introversion. Suffice it to say, this definition is a reflection of our extrovert-biased world. It's also a common misconception about what introversion is all about. (But we bet you already knew that!)
Here's something that can be useful to know: it’s estimated that about 75% of the world population is extroverted. Which explains alot!
So much of what you see other coaches doing online - all that exhausting extroverting - simply reflects the reality of the world we live in.
In other words: the extrovert way doesn’t have to be your way.
Introversion and extroversion are psychological concepts introduced in the 1920’s by psychologist Carl Jung. These terms were originally used to describe where people source their energy - either internally or externally.
Over time, “desirable” and “undesirable” qualities have been assigned to each type. But here’s the thing: where you source your energy is neither good nor bad. It’s neutral.
The truth is, many people are a mix of both. The trick to managing your energy as a life coach is in understanding what types of activities energize you, which are depleting, and why.
If you identify more with the introvert side of the spectrum, know that who you are has distinct gifts and advantages. Let’s take a look at what some of those benefits are, and how you can work with, rather than against, your natural style.
Gifts Of An Introverted Coach
According to Marti Olsen Laney, author of The Introvert Advantage, introvert brain wiring really is different! Studies have shown that introvert brains have more blood flow, which leads to a higher level of brain activity. This is the biological underpinning of the “inward focus” that’s so often associated with introverts.
Ready for another fun fact? Scientists traced the higher blood flow described above and found that it travels to parts of the brain that are associated with internal experiences like problem solving, memory, and planning. Who doesn't like the sound of that?
So how does this translate into advantages as a life coach?
Introverts are good listeners
While extroverted brains are designed to scan the environment for quick hits of stimulation, the introvert brain lingers on the details. Your brain chemistry naturally supports you in coming into coaching presence, and picking up the nuances of what your client is really saying. How cool is that?
Even better? The ability to do this is so fundamental to your performance as a life coach that it’s considered a Core Coaching Competency by the International Coaching Federation!
Introverts ask thoughtful questions
Rapid mental processing means that you can connect dots quickly in your head, even as you’re listening to your client. This in turn allows you to pose relevant follow up questions that can help your client gain insights and achieve their own revelations.
Contrary to popular belief, the most vital tool in any coach’s repertoire is not the ability to think on their feet and give sage advice! It’s the art of questioning, and knowing when to use silence as a tool.
Effective coaches instinctively ask questions that can move the dial for their clients. Formulating good questions, and giving enough space for someone to really think about their answers, starts with keen and attentive listening.
Introverts go deep
One of the qualities associated with introversion is a preference for depth in your interpersonal relationships. And because the coaching partnership is designed to support growth and transformation, coaching conversations often go straight to the core of who a person really is inside. Excellent communications skills are important, but this isn't a job that requires a whole lot of small talk!
An introvert’s inclination to connect meaningfully with other people is your coaching superpower. The ability to hold space for others is a skill that all good life coaches must possess, and (you guessed it!) represents another ICF Core Competency. Doing so effectively is not just about how you listen and respond to a client. It’s also in how you show up as a human being - with curiosity, compassion, and acceptance.
How To Flourish As An Introverted Coach
You can set yourself up for success as a coach by intentionally honoring your sensitive nature. Need an action plan? Here’s five strategies to support you in aligning with your introverted gifts and preserving your internal source of energy.
1. Notice what energizes (and what drains) you
Pay attention to your energy flow for a few weeks. What activities and interactions leave you feeling satisfied? Which ones are a drain on your batteries? As you become more aware of those things that deplete you, limit them to the extent you are able, or create buffers around those commitments. Give yourself the time you need to recharge.
2. Sleep on it
Your brain continues to work even as you sleep! Give yourself permission to not respond immediately to requests for your time, or when you need to make a big decision. We live in a fast-paced, need-it-now culture. However, YOUR best answers will often come after a period of reflection.
This also holds true if you feel pressure to think fast in client sessions. Remember, your job is not to “have all the answers”. You can take the pressure off by remembering that in most cases, your client should be doing 75% of the talking. Your job is to support them in finding their own answers. (Need more on this? Check out: If Life Coaches Don’t Give Advice, What Do They Do?)
3. Set limits around social media
Explore how much energy you can recapture by being more mindful about technology, and reducing the amount of mental clutter it creates.
This can be particularly helpful if you plan to use Facebook, Instagram, or other social media platforms to promote your life coaching business. Decide in advance how often, and when, you plan to go online. To cut down the amount of time you spend on these activities even further, you can develop content in batches and use a scheduler such as Buffer or Hootsuite to post automatically.
4. Pace yourself
We all have natural rhythms. If you haven’t already done so, learn how to work in harmony with yours!
Begin by looking at what you have control over. If you’re self employed as a life coach, you can structure a schedule in a way that works for you. In other words...
- If you aren’t fully functional until after your 3rd cup of coffee, don’t schedule early morning coaching sessions.
- If you feel depleted after consecutive coaching calls, limit the number you'll do in a day or give yourself more downtime between appointments.
- Need concentrated time to plan, create, or write for your business? Regularly block out larger chunks of time on your schedule for these tasks. During that project time, turn off your phone, email, and other distractions so you can focus and stay in flow with your thoughts.
This doesn’t just apply to how you structure your day. Notice too how your energy waxes and wanes over the course of a month, and across the seasons of the year. You’re likely to discover patterns that reveal when you are predictably more creative and outwardly focused, and when you require more space and downtime.
5. Think holistically
You only have so much energy to go around, so consider your personal and professional obligations as part of a continuous whole.
- When you have a busy client week, you may want to counterbalance that with fewer social obligations over the weekend.
- If having the energy to engage deeply with friends, family, and community is your top priority, choose a workload that feels sustainable as you build your coaching practice.
When you live in greater harmony with your natural inclinations, everything flows more easily. This, in turn, provides you with the energy to tackle those “against type” tasks that we all must contend with from time to time. It’s much easier to extrovert when the occasion requires if you listen to your energy and recharge those batteries on a regular basis!
Want to Be A Coach?
One of our values at Lumia is that we dare to be different. Our coaches ignore the expectations society tries to impose on them, and seek to live from their own truth instead. If you are ready to step into your power and you’d like some partners in the process, come check out Lumia Life Coach Training. Grounded in science, our ICF accredited program features authentic instructors, a robust curriculum, and business instruction to prepare you for liftoff.