Person-Centered Coaching with Jackie Kibler

Lumia Coaching instructor Dr. Jackie Kibler discusses Carl Rogers' person-centered theory, and how this method can be applied to life coaching.

The Everything Life Coaching Podcast, featuring Lumia Coaching founders John Kim and Noelle Cordeaux, is a deep dive into the experience and business of being a life coach. Subscribe to get new episodes weekly!

A conversation with Lumia Coaching instructor, Jackie Kibler

Coach instructor Jackie Kibler, PhD

Dr. Jackie Kibler is a Life Coach, speaker, writer, and Ph.D. psychologist who studies wellness and focuses on how daily positive actions can connect us to each other, ourselves, and to a meaningful life. Her genuineness, love of life, ability to connect with others, and desire to make a difference make her an inspiring force for change. She believes in helping others discover the power of the daily legacy.

What does Jackie teach in the Lumia coach training program?

Essentials class: Person-Centered Coaching

Episode Transcript

John: Jackie Kibler.

Jackie: Hello!

John: How are you?

Jackie: I’m great! How are you?

John: I’m doing well. Thank you for being on our podcast.

Jackie: Thank you for asking me.

John: So, I think I did this — and is embarrassing — but I think when I first met you, I called you Jackie Keebler. Right? Like the elf.

Jackie: Yes you did. Everybody does.

John: Okay, so not just me.

Jackie: No, it’s not.

John: Okay, yeah.

Jackie: It’s that association with the eleven cookies — so, yeah.

John: Yup. Absolutely. Now, you’re a doctor — so do you prefer me calling you Dr. Kibler?

Jackie: No. I prefer you call me Jackie.

John: Now that’s confusing to me because if I spent five years plus and a hundred thousand dollars on a PhD — it would be on my license plate, you refer to me as Dr. Kim, I would not even respond to anything else but Dr. Kim or Dr. John.

Jackie: Yeah. No, I’m pretty casual. When I’m on campus with my students, I prefer that they call me Dr. Kibler just because — it’s an interesting dynamic on campus, it’s more common for students to call men “doctor” and then call women by their first name. So I do prefer that they call me doctor at campus.

John: Yeah. I don’t like that double standard.

Jackie: Yeah. And I don’t even think they realize they do it. It’s just, I think, women seems more approachable and are a little bit more standoffish maybe. I don’t know.

John: You know what you should do — you should say, “If you’re a man, you call me Dr. Kibler. If you’re a woman, just call me Jackie.” Anyway, so tell us about you and also like how we met — ‘cause I met you, how many years ago?

Jackie: Goodness. I think I followed you for probably three years and then took the coaching class a couple years ago? Two and a half years ago.

John: Yeah, so I think like five years. Five years? I mean, you’ve been following me, but I guess we officially met about maybe three years ago? Or maybe four.

Jackie: Couple of years.

John: Yeah, anyway.

Jackie: I say a couple.

John: Yeah. So, you are a professor and congratulations — you just got tenure.

Jackie: Thank you. It’s very exciting.

John: How do you feel about that?

Jackie: I feel very good about that.

John: Yeah.

Jackie: It’s a hoop to jump through, but it feels good to finally have jumped through it.

John: That’s amazing, I’m proud of you. I think that’s a huge accomplishment.

Jackie: Thank you. It is. Feels good. And it’s at a university that I like in respect, so that’s even better.

John: So Jackie’s one of our powerhouse coaches and professors, instructors, and she teaches person-centered. And we’ll talk about that — not only for coaches who are listening, but also I think it’s great for everyone. Like, you know, it’s soil for any relationships.

Jackie: It is.

John: Yeah, we’ll talk about what that’s about. But let’s talk a little bit about you first. You’re teaching — what else are you doing and what are you passionate about?

John: I’m really —

John: And how did you get into this business?

Jackie: So I’ve been teaching and working with college-aged students for probably 20 years. And that’s the age group that I’m really passionate about working with and adolescents — and I’ve done that for quite a while, I’ve done counseling with adolescents and then working with their families, and adults as well. I’m really passionate about suicide prevention, particularly at the school-age level and getting with schools. But taking a different approach to it — really a wellness approach and teaching coping skills. And I know this is gonna sound really hokey, but taking a positive approach — a lot of suicide prevention stuff is pretty doom and gloom, and that kind of stuff. And so my approach is much more positive and leaving kids with a good feeling. So that’s really my passion and it has been for a long time. That’s kinda what I do on the side.

John: That’s important, that’s really important work. Thank you for doing it, but also I applaud you wanting to present it in a different way. Whenever someone takes something, especially something that is so important in our world, and tries to make it better or unique or in a way that is honest to them — it always shakes things up and it always makes it more powerful.

Jackie: Yeah. Well and some people, I think, look at me funny when I tell them that. And it’s not that I’m taking it less seriously and taking it very seriously, but I think that there’s a different way that we can approach it that still gets the message across but gives people the tools to live a healthy life.

John: Yeah.

Jackie: So and coaching fits so well with that. The things that I learned through the Catalyst class just — it came at just the right time to help kinda propel my ideas forward and helped me take that message in a new direction. So it’s pretty exciting.

John: Awesome. What is person-centered theory? Or I guess it’s an orientation, but what is it?

Jackie: It’s really kind of a positive approach to working with clients. So when it first came out, the idea that was popular at the time was Freud’s idea, which was kind of — let’s dig back in your childhood and figure out what went wrong. And I think with coaching, our approach more often is — let’s take you where you are and let’s hope you move forward. And that’s what person-centered is, and it’s a lot of really good listening techniques and just meeting people where they are. And it’s skills that all of us can use in our daily life — and if we did, we’d be such a happier society. You know, you hear that quote “Most of us listen to respond, instead of just sitting and really listening.”

John: Right. Sure.

Jackie: And that’s person-centered — like, just listening and being with someone instead of trying to have the answer for them.

John: Yeah. And I —

Jackie: It’s meeting where they are.

John: I think this is just the fundamentals, the basics of any relationship. Learning how to listen, I think this is a class that should be introduced in high school.

Jackie: Yes. I agree.

John: Yeah. So let’s talk about that. Listening — what are some tips, what are some steps, what’s your opinion on that? How would someone be a better listener?

Jackie: I think one of the first things — and it’s something that I do with my students and something that I do with the Catalyst class as well — is encouraging people to not think when they’re listening so much, which you know sounds kind of weird. But just holding space is the term that I use a lot — just hold space for someone, don’t feel like you have to answer their problem, that people really have the answers within them. And that if we can just hold that space and use for reflective listening, where you’re kind of letting them know what you hear — ‘cause a lot of people don’t feel like they’re heard. And so —

John: Yeah. Oh sorry, go ahead.

Jackie: No, go ahead. Just —

John: I love that — so when you say reflective and you said, “letting them know what you heard”, it sounds kinda weird to actually do that, but it’s so helpful. Because you may mistake it as like “that sounds patronizing”, but it’s not.You actually literally repeat kind of what they said, right?

Jackie: Exactly. And it’s not mimicking, but it’s exactly what you said — it’s repeating back what you hear and then it gives the person a chance to correct, if you didn’t hear them correctly, or add to their story. And it lets them know that they’ve been heard.

John: Yeah. And I think for me — ‘cause, you know, I used to be very reactive — it puts a speed bump in it for you. So the first thing out of your mouth isn’t a response or telling them to do something or that they are wrong, but it’s like “this is what I hear you saying”.

Jackie: Exactly. ‘Cause we all have that friend — when you’re sitting and talking about something — who immediately jumps in with “Well have you tried this? And have you tried that?”

John: Right. Solutions.

Jackie: Yeah. And that’s not — sometimes we do need that. I mean, if your car’s broke down and you call someone, you do need solutions. But a lot of times, that’s not what we need. We just need someone to hear us.

John: Right. And if it is what you need, it doesn’t have to be the first thing that you hear.

Jackie: Exactly.

John: Right? It can come a little bit later. So yeah, guys, if you are a life coach or a therapist or any kind of coach — fitness coach, whatever — if you’re having a conversation with anyone, practice this type of listening, like to really listen to the person. Jackie’s totally right — when we listen, we are thinking about what to say before the other person’s even done with their sentence.

Jackie: Yup. And for me, as a coach and as a teacher, even as a parent, it takes the pressure off of me to have all the answers and just allows me to be there with the other person. And that’s nice to have that pressure taken off.

John: So, who is Carl Rogers?

Jackie: So he’s the one who is the theorist behind person-centered.

John: Right.

Jackie: So as I said, it was at the time when he came up with this theory — Freud’s theory was the one that was kind of the dominant theory. And Rogers came out with person-centered, which was really unique at the time — a complete deviation than Freud’s. A big part of his theory is seeing people as able to handle their own issues, seeing them in a positive light. It’s a very positive spin on coaching, on therapy, which is why it’s popular.

John: Just the name Carl Rogers and person-centered — it’s a trigger for me, it’s taking me back to my therapy school days. Freud, all of that stuff.

Jackie: Yup. Good times, huh.

John: Well, yeah. Kinda — long times, I don’t know if they were good. But, you know, it was helpful and at the time I just was a sponge absorbing all this. And I remember when we’re studying person-centered — just ‘cause some of the other theories are so complicated and dense, and you have narrative, you’ve got Freud, you’ve got all these theories, and Bowen and family systems and all this. The thing I found refreshing that was kind of like water with person-centered was the simplicity of it.

Jackie: Yes.

John: Right? So let’s talk about that. Why is that theory so simple?

Jackie: I think because it’s — for me, the way I use it — for me, it’s good communication skills. And when I teach it, I talk about — these are things that if you use in your daily life, it’s gonna enhance your relationships. So it’s different than some of the other theories that “this is family systems theory that you can apply in certain situations” or “this is another theory that has complicated steps”. A lot of person-centered theory is basically really good communication skills, and it will enhance your overall relationships.

John: Yeah. I like that it’s one of the primary colors when it comes to relationships. Even though it’s so simple, so many people lack it. Like so many people — you know, they’re smart and they’ve a lot to offer, they’re coming from a good place or good people, but they don’t listen well.

Jackie: Right. And I think even when I teach it, it’s just — for me, it’ a good reminder. I think I’m doing these things well, but my kids remind me sometimes “Hey I just need you to do this, and —“ ‘Cause we get caught up in life.

John: Well life and also emotions, you know. And I’m also guilty of that — I mean, just because I’m technically a licensed therapist and life coach, it doesn’t mean that I’m perfect. And I also have to remind myself to try to understand before trying to be understood. I’m also fast to anger and I have emotions, and that clouds things instantly if you don’t want to listen.

Jackie: Exactly. And it’s one of the things that I love about being a professor and I love about teaching in the Catalyst class that I get to teach these things so I remind myself on a regular basis of what best practice — and then my students and my own kids remind me of these things on a regular basis. So it’s just constantly reminding and refreshing — because we do, we’re human. And so that’s why it’s important. Even if you’ve heard it once, it doesn’t mean that it’s become part of your skill set that you use regularly.

John: So let me ask you this — if you’re a new coach and you are seeing a client for the first time, what would be your advice? How to use person-centered or any advice you have about doing first few sessions.

Jackie: So I’ve done counseling, but coaching was a new ball game for me. Especially because I did it online, which is a whole different format and I was very nervous. I’m used to meeting with people in person, which is a different dynamic and I’m more comfortable with that. So I think that a lot of people are looking for a script — you know, “what questions do I ask, in what order, how do I respond, I don’t want to mess it up, what if they say this” And I think with person-centered, you just take that pressure off. You should have some idea of what direction you wanna go — you know, get to know the person and allow them to tell their story. But a lot of times if you’re willing to listen and reflect back, you will allow them to tell their story. And that’s really what the first few sessions are — is allowing them to tell their story so that you can figure out what direction it needs to go.

John: Yeah. I think most life coaches beginning — that’s a very common fear. It’s like, “I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how to lead this.” If you kind of just trust that you’re gonna create — going back to this idea of creating a safe space, it’s a conversation at the end of the day and it naturally kind of unfolds.

Jackie: And I think, sometimes if there’s too much structure, it kills that safe space. It becomes too scripted and too much like an interview, which is sometimes too stilted and stale versus a conversation. So —

John: Yeah. It’s one of the reasons why I go into sessions completely blank, and just kind of being — just wanting to paint, splatter paint and see where it goes. And at the end, trusting that there’s going to be a painting.

Jackie: I’ve become better with that. And quite honestly, it’s something that you emphasized and I learned from other instructors in the Catalyst class because I lived my life pretty structured and scripted. Even my classes, the counseling sessions that I did — I needed a format. And then that’s one of the things you pushed us to do in the Catalyst class, and I started doing more of that — living life a little more unscripted.

John: Yeah. Right. And I think it takes practice, I mean it’s kind of like people who do stand up comedy or improv or things that are on purpose — not structured. And I think if you have the personality of someone who is very organized and thank God I don’t — I don’t have that. If you’re very kind of organized and have to need things with a distinct structure and you feel comfortable in that, it’s gonna be more difficult for you to kind of let go and trust.

Jackie: But magic happens when you do that.

John: Absolutely.

Jackie: It’s amazing — the things that come out of that. ‘Cause you allow other people to create with you, instead of taking control of the situation.

John: Oh, I love that. I love what you just said that “allowing other people to create with you”. And I think that is also one of the misconceptions about life coaching. I mean, you are leading, you are teaching, you are mentoring, you are giving advice — you’re doing all these things. But you’re not like fixing it on yourself, you’re not giving them necessarily answers — you guys are creating together, you guys are finding answers together, and that takes the pressure off.

Jackie: Exactly. And that’s what I think — sometimes as new coaches, you feel like it’s your job to fix it or come up with the answers, but it’s not. You are literally just kinda holding the canvass for them and allowing them to create.

John: Right. So I wanna switch gears a little bit and talk about connection. So we just had our AWAKE and IGNITE event.

Jackie: Yes. I missed it this year but I was there last year.

John: Yeah, you were. And thank you for coming, and I hope to see you for the next one.

Jackie: Yes.

John: This year was — it was tearjerker, it was crazy. So last year I think we had about 10 catalysts — I don’t remember — but, you know, a handful, it’s the first time we did it. This year, there were like 60.

Jackie: Oh my goodness.

John: It was crazy.

Jackie: That’s awesome.

John: Yeah. it was amazing to watch them because through their — I mean, you don’t see this — but the bonding that has formed from them taking our course and the tribes and on Facebook and all that, all the stuff that I don’t see. So when I see them walk in, they’ve already established such rich soil. And it’s like they were screaming — it’s like they haven’t seen each other in years. But what’s funny is that it was the first time they’re actually meeting in person.

Jackie: Yeah. That’s awesome.

John: Yeah, it was amazing. It really felt like we created something and there’s a movement and like-minded people, like everything. I feel like this year with IGNITE, especially it was just super powerful — lots of tears. I feel like it tipped this year, you know.

Jackie: Well I felt that sense this year, just in the groups. Like you sensed that building, that power.

John: Yup, absolutely. And that leads to this next topic — the power of connection, I want to talk about. And I’m interested in it because we live in a digital age where social media and Facebook and all these platforms are instantly connecting people, at the same time, it’s disconnecting people. You know I’m saying it ‘cause it allows us to also hide, it allows us to use filters, it allows us to present our self in a false way. So it’s been really interesting, and I think — this Dr. [Corey?] was speaking, and he’s an amazing life coach and he’s worked with addiction and he’s been helping people for about 30 years and he has his own concepts. And he said, “One of the reasons why we have so much stress is — well there’s two, one is being different and one is disconnecting. So once you feel connected with people, someone, a tribe, whatever — and by different, I don’t mean like in a unique good way, but feeling that you are less than, feeling that you don’t fit in, feeling all that — that’s what creates some of the biggest stress, and the way we cope with that stress is through unhealthy habits, etc. And I just thought that, especially after this weekend, I just thought “Man, I think we’re kind of coming full circle where we’re starting to really be vulnerable and trying to connect again.” Like back in the caveman days, it was all about the tribe that you were in. And from sunrise to sunset, you were with that tribe — you were hunting, you were dancing in campfires and all that. There was no idea of like leaving home and being an adult.

Jackie: Right.

John: And here’s what’s interesting — I think that as we disconnect, even though we are engaging with people — as we are going around in our cubicles, in our cars, and our little bubbles — when we start disconnecting with people, I think we also start disconnecting with ourselves. And I think it’s really important now to be aware of the power of connection. It’s happening actually in fitness, it’s happening in the yoga world. I think this idea of having a tribe — and, you know, that’s kind of what we’re also about — I think it’s changing the temperature of how we are and what we invest in these days.

Jackie: I would agree.

John: Yeah. And so what do you think about that? Connection, the power of connection — where it’s at and why we need it.

Jackie: Well I think, as humans, we all want this sense of belonging. And in the past, we used to get that in neighborhoods, which now we don’t do that as much — people don’t really hang out in neighborhoods as much — at least, I don’t think research shows that. And so people are looking for that sense of belonging, that sense of connection. But more than that, that sense of kind of authentic or genuine connection where they can be their — like you said — like their true selves. And so they’re searching for that and they may not find that in their community — in their soccer mom group or at work with the guys — and so they’re desperately seeking that out. And that’s what you’ve created in a tribe, where people can be authentic, there’s no judgment — if there is, that’s shut down very quickly. And it’s a safe space, [inaudible] created that safe space.

John: Yeah. I think you’re right. And you know, we began talking about this having this conversation about creating a safe space for someone in coaching sessions, etc. The SHFT tribe online is a safe space, your classroom could be a safe space. It doesn’t just mean one-on-one. And I think when you do that and people start to be transparent — and you know, Brené Brown is the person that’s kind of leading this flag about the power of vulnerability — but that I think is what produces the glue. That is the reason why people at IGNITE and AWAKE are screaming when they see each other and just jumping all over the place. It’s because they were vulnerable, it’s because they showed themselves. And because of that, they have formed an authentic connection.

Jackie: Exactly. So I think one of the challenges now is how do we get people to start taking that into — that vulnerability, that authentic — back where they are. Like how do you transfer that back into your home, [and to? into?] your relationships with your kids, your significant others, into your other friendships — how do you start planting those seeds, which I think is harder.

John: Absolutely. I think a lot people — they snap back like rubber bands. I think it like anything it has to be threaded into your life and it has to be a lifestyle. So you can’t just be vulnerable with your therapist and life coach, and then with your friends [inaudible phrase] and being completely not yourself.

Jackie: Exactly. You know, the point that you make — and you and Noelle make this that life coaching is a lifestyle — that’s why I think the Catalyst class is so powerful. It wasn’t just, for me, a class about how to be a life coach. It infiltrated my life — it affected my teaching, it affected how I do presentations, it affected my parenting, it affected my relationships with my friends. It’s a lifestyle. And so I think that’s the power of kind of what you guys are doing.

John: Oh, thank you. Yeah, I appreciate that. And I think making things a lifestyle is the only way things are sustainable. I mean, even if you talk about — let’s say, you wanna lose or you wanna get into shape — you can’t just go to the gym 20 minutes once a week. It has to be threaded into your life where it’s a daily routine.

Jackie: Exactly.

John: And I think it’s the same with being vulnerable, you know. I think it’s — if that’s your choice and you believe in it, and you want to be authentic and reconnect with yourself — you gotta remind yourself to be vulnerable even though it’s terrifying — with your boss, with your boyfriend, with your friends, with everyone.

Jackie: Yup. And that’s why the continued support that the tribe gives is so powerful. ‘Cause you don’t just send people out on their own and say, “Good luck to you.” It’s a continued support network — the Catalyst continue to support each other. It’s a network, and so that’s the power. ‘Cause we know what’s sustained change, it’s not like you said — you take the 20 minute class, good luck to you.  It’s a continued effort. It’s a lifestyle.

John: Yeah. And I have this theory that there is a tipping point when you find your connection, especially with yourself, then you start moving into a zone where things are greater than you. So whether it’s a belief or you’re making your client — or anything, whatever you’re doing, whatever dent you’re trying to make in the universe becomes greater than you. And I think that’s when you’re really like — talk a lot about living a [throomy?] life — that’s really when I think you’re the powerful, is when it’s not even about you, it’s about something greater. And I think to get there, you need the connection piece — like you can’t get there if you’re not authentic and you’re not you.

Jackie: Yes. I, a hundred percent agree. One of the things — and it’s something — I don’t know, you did a talk about this, like a two-minute talk one day, and it shifted — I was going to do a presentation and I was very nervous — and it shifted for me, I was like “This is not about me. I’m not doing this for me, I’m doing this for them.” And now I do that whenever I go to do presentations, and my nervousness stops ‘cause it’s no longer about me — it’s about them. And I just need to show up for them.

John: And I do that too, I have to remind myself — but I think that’s when you’re in an attracting state instead of a chasing state.

Jackie: Yup. I agree.

John: So when I do — if I have a little talk I need to do, I almost pretend like I just sat down with God and he said, “I’ve got a message for you. If you deliver this, if you just go into that room or that stage or whatever, and you go in there like you have something to say and you deliver this message, you’re going to save three lives.” Or something like that, when I’m about to start — I know that it’s not about me, but it’s about me being more of a conduit delivering a message or whatever it is. Or thinking or believing that the audience needs to hear this, not for me but for them.

Jackie: Yup. That’s awesome.

John: Yeah. And then it makes me completely not afraid. ‘Cause then I’m not self-conscious, I’m not thinking about what my hair looks like or what I look like or what they — there’s no time for that. There’s an urgency, basically, I need to get this message out and I’m going to do it.

Jackie: Yup. ‘Cause in the end it’s really not even about us. Like someone or something will resonate with something, you know.

John: Right. And if you don’t — we’re getting really philosophical, which is great — if you don’t make it about you, it creates more connection.

Jackie: Yup.

John: And when you make things about you, it creates more disconnection.

Jackie: Yup. ‘Cause people see that. And they feel it.

John: Yes. Everywhere.

Jackie: Totally agree.

John: I love where we went with this conversation.

Jackie: Yeah. It was awesome.

John: Yeah. And if you guys are listening — it doesn’t matter if you’re a life coach, a mother, a girlfriend, father, brother, whatever, teacher — what we’re talking about just applies to humans. And what’s happening in the landscape of just wellness — people are so thirsty, which is good news, people are so thirsty for a better version of themselves. And I think because wellness has commercialized, there’s less less stigma with self-help and self-betterment that it’s such a great time to start these conversations and spread them.

Jackie: Yup. And people need to hear what you have to say. I know that the market is kind of — it’s becoming saturated. And even the stuff I’m doing — I’m like, “Ugh. It’s been said.” But it hasn’t been said the way you wanna say it, and someone needs to hear it the way you need to say it. So put yourself out there — if you have something you wanna say, get it out there, don’t be intimidated.

John: Yeah, absolutely. And I agree with you Jackie, a hundred percent. Don’t think about what’s out there, how much is out there.

Jackie: No.

John: Just think about what is truthful to you. And I italicize what Jackie says, which is “make it your own”, right?

Jackie: Yup.

John: So your voice stands out. And whatever the material is, it’ll be unique ‘cause it’s coming from you and your perspective, your point of view, and your language.

Jackie: Yup. Just be you.

John: Yeah. So just be you. Alright guys, if you want to subscribe to this podcast, we are always creating a dialogue with our instructors and with Noelle and other guests — I’m gonna have Dr. [Corey?] on soon, talking about meaning and putting weight on that to find happiness. Any other words — you know, since I’m a man, I’m gonna call you Dr. Kibler.

Jackie: You almost said Keebler.

John: I know, I had to stop myself. ‘Cause you know why, I’m always thinking about cookies. And there’s this weird subconscious thing where I can’t say Kibler, I have to say Keebler — because, my sugar addiction.

Jackie: You caught it though. Proud of you.

John: Yeah. Any last words?

Jackie: [My?] think that message I try to get to people is just — live your legacy. Like nobody can live it like you can, so go out there and do what you’re supposed to do. You have your purpose.

John: I love it. And Jackie, thank you so much for being a part of our team and helping people help people.

Jackie: I love it. Thanks for the opportunity.

John: Okay guys, be well.

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