Why your marketing may work against you as a coach

Dear coaches,

You may not realise this, bit your ‘therapeutic’ relationship with your clients begins with your marketing.

Because you want to sell, you search for needy people, and you present your programs as the thing they need.

If you are successful, your client will give you the power to fulfill their needs. This by itself is okay, even needed at first. I wrote this blog about that.

But there’s a catch.

Your clients don’t see you. They see whatever they need, and project that on you.

This is called transference.

You can use that. But please be aware of it’s presence. Because otherwise you could well end up with ‘countertransference’.

If you start to believe what your clients see in you, you invite the risk of wanting to please them.

One obvious disadvantage of that is that your self-worth will be attached to satisfied clients. A mismatch with one of your clients will hurt more than is has too.

The other disadvantage is that you will lose your sharpness.

Clients are dodgers, they avoid the things they need most to address.

If you really want to help your clients  (I know you are the kind of coach that isn’t satisfied with a shallow success), you will want to help them face these things.

And here’s the thing.

You will have to work very carefully with transference, use it, and transform it.

Your marketing will make your clients see you as the expert. And at first your relationship is built on authority. That may seem the perfect starting point to get your clients to tackle the things they are avoiding.

But it isn’t.

Because the things they are avoiding involve shame.

What you need to walk with clients through their shame is a trusting relationship.

This is why I like the branding approach of Esther de Charons Wonderfuly Weird Women.

She brings authenticity to your brand.

If you want really top-notch skills to take your clients through their shame take a look at this academy: (sorry for Dutch readers only, but don’t worry I took my education there, and I can help you If you want to reach next level-coaching)

Use your sensitivity, to guide your clients to the process, and please, teach them the skills to keep on growing. Because however great your program, you know they are just starting out on a journey.

Please don’t leave them needy.

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It’s never the method, it’s you

(Dutch version here)

No matter how great your method is,

you are what makes the difference.


Because your program may be perfect, but everything depends on the mindset of your clients. Especially the reason behind their enrolling.

When I was a teacher at elementary school, I used to coach children on woodwork. We didn’t have standard programs, children would come in, with a project in mind and I would guide them in the process.

That was the idea.

A great one, except . . .

Children didn’t want the process, they wanted the finished product. Usually a sword, or any other cool object they saw from other kids.

You know, there would always be this kid that was interested in the process.  That was great. She or he would work her or his ass off, totally submerged in the work. And then finally (maybe after some frustration and trying again) there would be this very cool product. A sword, a chair you could actually sit on, a dolls house, toys for a doll’s playground.

And then the other kids came in: “I want what she’s having!”

Despite my warnings, these kids would begin enthusiastically, but soon enough they would not only need my help, they wanted me to take over.

You will get clients like this.

They will skip large parts of your online course, and if they don’t, they will try to find out what result they think is necessary , and work towards that result, skipping the process.

They even can do this with artistic, out of the box programs.

They will be constantly searching what it is they need to deliver. And they will deliver it, like the good student they are.

When your course is about dealing with perfectionism, they will deliver perfect faults.

This is one of the things where you come in. You have to find out what it is they are avoiding. You have to guide them in their acceptance. Real acceptance, not the one they will show you, the one that suddenly pops out because you triggered something, with the right question, the right remark (or that look, that only you can give).

This is never in any program.

It’s in you.


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The choices of the Camel

(Dutch version here)

You know the story of Frith and El Arairah? It’s from Watership Down.

In the story Frith gives animals their ‘presents’,  their special powers.

But the story doesn’t tell that the animals could choose their own abilities.  They could, and I would like to tell you about the choices of the Camel.

The Camel had some specific wishes:

Long legs, with broad feet, to be able to walk in the desert.

A double pair of eyelashes because of the sand that blows in his eyes constantly.

And no more thirst, there’s so little water out there.

Frith frowned at that last wish, but granted them all.

“You can come back, if you change your mind”, with these words Frith waved the Camel goodbye.

The Camel did come back. Three weeks was all it took.

“Hm”, said Frith: “I thought so. Tell me, what is it?”

“The legs, feet and eylashes are great, never better, but . . . ” the Camel hesitated, ” . . . but I so miss the thirst. You know, I get a drink sometime, form an oasis. But it’s not the same. Water doesn’t taste good anymore. I so miss it, when I finally see an oasis, dying form thirst, and then plunging my head in the cold water.”

“I thought so”, said Frith, “You know what? I’ll give you two lumps om your back, to store water, because you’re right, there’s precious little of it. But I’ll give you back your thirst. You will be always wishing for the well, form time to time.”


As a coach you are the well. 

And that’s a good thing, at least at first.

Be aware that your clients often have stood dry for quite a long time. The crave for recognition. Rejection sensitivity is a bitch!

Let me tell you about rejection sensitivity, not the meaning because the words are self explaining, but how it grows.

Your clients are highly sensitive, right? That means that they stand out. They see other things, make other connections.

As a kid, when the teacher, asked them something they could think of at least seven answers. And then they found out that only one of then was considered right. Wow! weird world, and a puzzle! Even if they do get this puzzle right, they take longer than others, considering the possibilities and the circumstances.

This process is even more difficult when it’s about social stuff.

So stand out they will! And if their family didn’t do an awesome job supporting their standing-outishness, they feel rejection. Please note that this feeling is also stronger when you’re highly sensitive.

So they try to fit in. Trying to be faster at making the puzzles, and breaking the social codes.

And they are less and less themselves, which makes it more difficult to be seen for who they really are.

So there you are, the tail biting ,self-fulfilling prophecy.

There’s another reason why your clients are not feeling their self worth.

They hate the fight for the high places on the social ladder, so they let other go first.

They are so desperate for an oasis.

And there you are as a coach. 

Be the oasis.

And then teach them how to refill their lumps.

Teach them to find other oasis, so finally they won’t need you anymore.

But first: be the oasis.



Please don’t teach them they can find the oasis in themselves. I believed that bullshit for too long. Lumps yes, no.
Don’t people have an incredible inner source? Yes they have!
But recognition and being seen isn’t to found in that water. That is why Frith made all those other people.
And vice versa, peoples inner source isn’t for them alone. It’s for all those others.


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Why your clients still avoid the stuff they think they’re working on

(dutch version here)

Sometimes I meet a client who doesn’t feel shame.

This always makes me a bit suspicious. We need shame. Shame is the feeling when you trespass on other peoples values.  We need shame to stay connected. Of course we also need to learn how to deal with shame, because we tend to relate it to our self-worth.

Because of this relation with self-worth, shame is one of the most important things to work on with clients. Balancing personal values and values of others. These two need to communicate:  our values need to be fed from the pool of other peoples values, and that pool needs our personal values. If this communication is done with self-compassion, we develop a healthy set of personal values.

The more our clients live according to their own values, the less they let shame hold them back.

Going beyond shame is not the same as feeling no shame. It is deciding that your own values are worth so much that you are willing to act regardless of your shame.

So what about those clients who think they feel no shame?

(I’m not talking about sociopaths, they are not clients of ours.)

Two things can be the matter:


Sometimes the feeling of shame can be too hurtful. The unconscious solution is to avoid or reflect the feelings coming in. The cost of this is disconnecting from others and disconnecting form self. 

This recognizable. Maybe coaching isn’t the first step. Maybe therapy is needed.


Not recognizing shame

The most common reason that people say they feel no shame, is because they confuse shame with embarrassment. Embarrassment is the light version of shame, it comes and goes, while shame tends to stay.


What this means for your online programs.

By interchanging shame with embarrassment people are prone to skip over exercises involving shame, because of: “been there done that”.

This “been there done that” is one of the ways to avoid facing the real stuff, the stuff where the exercise is really about.

Another common way in which clients avoid the real stuff is doing the exercise in their heads. Imagining instead of feeling.

This effect makes it so very difficult to get your clients really engaged in your online programs, where the interaction one-on-one is limited.

There may be a facebook group, but that group can be as easily used to help each other avoiding things as it can be a means to help each other face them.

One of the answers is  in the moderating.

That is a skill.

Because you want the perfect mix of encouraging and tickling you participants.

You will have to use your sensitivity to ‘smell’ the avoidance patterns of you participants.

You will have to use your sensitivity to feel when someone is ready for the next layer.

I think this could be the most important skill for a coach.

If you do this right it will set you out form the average online course.


Pleas share your thoughts on this


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The two ways to use an exercise in coaching

Dutch version here

When I started out as a trainer, somewhere in the beginning of the 90’s,  my only goal was giving people insight.

For me, personal growth was all about insight. I even was so naive as to expect my participants to get the one insight I wanted them to get. I designed my training’s that way: now you will see the light I want you to see.

I saw it as a failure when people didn’t see this light. I was jealous of other trainers who had more guts to push harder, so they could break through the resistance of their participants.

Soon I learned that my weakness was not a weakness but just being prudent and considerate. I learned that not everyone is ready for everything at the same time.

So I learned to trust my ability in sensing what it was that people were ready for. I guided them to take that step. I learned them to deal with their own resistance.

But still it was about a breakthrough, an insight, an experience.

And for a long time I thought that that was it: with this new way of seeing themselves and the world, nothing would be the same, ever!

That was true, but  I was wrong thinking they were ready to take on the world.

Because they weren’t.

Having an insight doesn’t automatically give you the skills to cope with life. It’s a condition, not a guarantee.

So while the first, very important function of an exercise is creating an insight, an experience,

The second one is about growing and learning.

Technically knowing how to throw a spear doesn’t win you the match.

Breaking through your resistance in a controlled exercise doesn’t mean your resistance is gone.

So there are the exercises that you give as homework: taking little steps, trying out. Again and again. And remember about the 40% rule. (Read about that here)

And if you want to know what kind of thing your clients need to learn, take a look here.

It doesn’t stop at being aware!

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The 9 fields on which your client has work to do

So here is this highly sensitive client. Yes she is, you can bet on it. Because I am and you are. We sniff each other out. Because we’re safe.

And because she (yes she can be a he, but let’s just get on with the female pronouns) is highly sensitive a few things happen.

Feeling can be overwhelming.

Sharing what you feel is impossible (no one gets it)

Rejection sensitivity builds up: HS people stand out even when they don’t mean to. They are slower to respond (because they need time for all the associations in their heads), and when they respond, it’s always slightly skewed, off the mark.


So they tend to shut up and do it all in their heads. Even the feeling, because the pain of rejection sensitivity causes real pain, comparable with physical pain.


Not every highly sensitive person does this. The ones that grew up in an environment dat was encouraging their uniqueness do quite well. They don’t develop rejection sensitivity. But you will not see them as a client, because they don’t need you.


So here they are.

In their head.

And most of what they feel is also inside their head, because they are fast thinkers, and wildly imaginative. And this is what makes them so difficult. They can fool you because they can fool themselves.

So if you do a thing about feeling selfworthy, feeling powerful. They can relate. They can even do an exercise about it and really feel that. They can dig that up, and at the same time  carefully avoid the place where all their unworthiness is.

They can give you the feeling you want as a coach (they are such pleasers) and at the same time block their feelings.

So how do you get them out of their heads, and keep them out of their heads?

I know.

I was a head-dweller myself. And now I am so much in my body that whenever my head is robbing my attention I friendly tell my head that it can play with my attention a bit, but not too long, because I want it back.

And it works, it keeps on working.

Because I did the work.

I worked at all nine fields of the resilience toolkit.

I love the word resilience, because you can not avoid being floored by life, but you can learn to get up by yourself. (Asking for a hand is also doing it by yourself).

To get out of my head and stay there I learned to

  1. Be open minded.
    Letting go of judgments. Learning to be curious again.
  2. Letting go.
    Seeing my flow of thoughts for what is is, and be able not to go with it all the time.
  3. Focus and attention
    Becoming  aware of how  my attention was all over the place, and learning to control it.
  4. Acceptance
    Going to the dark places. Feel what is there. Letting it be, instead of wanting to alter it.
  5. Facing it
    Learning to deal with pain. Letting my body get used to feeling pain and anxiety. Teaching it that these are just feelings nothing to be afraid of.
  6. Flexibility
    Practicing all this in real life with very small and fun (yes also a bit scary) steps. Knowing it is not about the results but about what I feel at the moment. Building courage muscles.
  7. Equality
    Dealing with differences in status. Little evolutionary story: we HPS’s are not fond of the fight for a higher place on the ladder. So whenever we meet someone where the difference in status is not obvious, we lower our status, so we won’t get into a fight. To be able to be fluent in status change we need to practice high status without shutting off our feeling (that being the easy way to pull of high status).
  8. Joy
    Learning again to enjoy all of my senses, without holding back
  9. value-based actions
    Here is the shame-guilt thing:  Shame is feeling that you trespass on values of others. Guilt is feeling that you trespass on values of myself. I need shame, because my own values need to be checked with the values of others. There is this constant interaction between the two. But now I get to decide what is healthy for me and act on that. My decision to care about values of others is my choice, not based on fear of rejection. My values are worth that rejection.

It was not one thing I learned that as an avalanche triggered all the others. Not even my transition could do that. In fact my transition was the cause of, as well as the condition for many of my work on these fields.

They all depend on the other, they overlap, but you need them all. And as a coach you should be aware of that.


These nine fields are based on the toolkit from the Ducth expertise center on High Sensitivy “GaveMensen run by Xandra van Hooff.
Xandra has made her toolkit based on this book: 

Mind and Emotions, Mathew McKay, Patrick Fanning and Patricia Zurita Ona.

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The smarter the goals, the more dangerous they are in coaching.

Coaching is all about interventions.

Everything you do with clients is an intervention in their lives.

Or it is about putting in perspective the interventions that life has to offer.

Your clients learn form these interventions.

And, as with every good learning, the process is more important than the result. Most schools, sadly, haven’t figured this out yet. I hope you have.

Ill’say it again, because this is really important.

The process is more important than the result. It is about growth mindset.

As a coach you will have a goal with your client, and that’s okay. But please . . . forget that goal during your coaching!

The smarter the goals the more dangerous they are in coaching.

Because by their very nature they focus on results. (And the time factor alone will kill everything.)

And strange as it may seem, it’s also not about the actions.

I know!


Because all these actions and results are visible successes! Good for the confidence of your coachee (and let’s be honest, good for your confidence and your marketing too).

But the
“I finally did it!”,
“Hey! I can pull this off!”,
“I did something, I didn’t dare before!”
are meaningless in the light of what your clients felt when they did it.

If they felt anything at all.

Because, when the challenge is too big, they shut down their emotion.

I remember a summer when I looked up at my older brother because he could dive from the highest dive board.

He made a project out of me diving form the highest board that summer. As a real coach he worked on me, telling me that I could, that I had it in me. So, in the end, maybe just because I didn’t want to disappoint him, I did it.

But that didn’t mean I faced my fear. I just blocked my fear long enough.
I never dived from a high board again.

This is what happens when you focus on results. Your coachees will block their feelings. And if they are not aware of that, you not only missed a chance, but you’ve just taught them a new avoiding mechanism.

On a scale of scary, from one to ten, your clients need to work on a level not higher than a four.

Then, they are able to feel, because then there is room for fun, next to the sacry bit. They can laugh at their faults. They can make room to really feel what is going on inside them.

They can play.

You only learn when it is playful.




It is your task as a coach to help your client bring down the interventions that life deals, to a four.  And that is not always possible, I know, life is good at dealing the unexpected. But when that happens, it is good for your client to know that she dealt with a seven or even a ten.

And as for the exercises you assign (which are kind of your interventions on remote control), make them a one a two or a three. Make them playful. Design them for your client, so that they can include them in their own routines.  These exercises are not about the results, but about to get to learn what is going on inside them, while they are doing them.


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Coaching is a bit like domino day

We all teach our own journeys.

And that’s great, what else is there to teach? And it’s awesome to pass on what we’ve learned.

Wouldn’t it be great to do better yet?

Let’s say you’re a coach, teaching women to feel more powerful.

Let’s say you need to focus on one particular thing (because marketing, you know how it is)

So let’s say you made a freebie-crash-course on saying no. That’s a powerful first step.

You know saying No, means learning to find your Yes.
You know that finding your yes means learning self compassion.
You know that learning self compassion means facing your shadows.

But how do you get your clients there?

Because what they crave for is that strong and powerful light. They are so clever in dodging what they are afraid of. They even hide for themselves the fact that they are dodging.

So, even when  you get them to join your online course and your facebookgroup, how do you guide them to take the next step?

There is no one beginning that will automatically open the road to all other steps. Not even if you turn it around, and start with what seems to be the more essential part.

If you’ve got your client so far as to accept a part of her shadow, this will not automatically lead to self compassion in other area’s. Self compassion does not automatically lead to a Yes. A strong Yes does not automatically lead to be able to say No.

They are all interrelated (and I haven’t covered everything yet), they all need each other.

You as a coach have found one great starting point. The thing that triggerd you, and got you on the road.

Hopefully that starting point will set off a whole domino trail for your client.


But hey!

There is not one domino trail. There are two.

Thinking and feeling.

The thinking trail is the one you see in a a domino challenge.
The thinking trail sets of spectacular actions (you know, like making music, sending of a balloon or a rocket, or saying no)

You can easily reframe your clients thoughts and lead them into actions. You know, the cognitive therapy kind of thing.

But how about the feeling trail?

The feeling trail is the aorta.

When they do a really big domino challenge they always have a second trail running, the aorta.
It is not the one that is being followed by the camera’s.
It is not the one that sets off spectacular actions.
But is IS the one that keeps the show running when a domino falls short. And it will. Because thinking only gets you so far.

How do you keep the aorta running, how do you start the trail again when it stops, when you have only got your online training and a group?

And how do you know how big the trail is, and what projects are in it?

This year I am completing a course on the psychology of high sensitivity.

In that course I learned the whole trail, I felt the aorta. And I know which projects there can be.

For my end assignment I will translate all I learned to see what online/distance interventions there are to make your coaching more meaningful: both broader and deeper.

Contact me if you want to work with me on that.  I give away my knowledge for free with five coaches to work on better programs. Because I need you for my end presentation to complete my course.


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Dear coach, are you teaching your clients bypasses?

Dear coaches,

We need to have a talk.

You are sprouting up all around the place. And that is good!

I used to have a prejudice against all these nouveau-coach coaches.  I thought it was a hype.

What I didn’t see was that

We coaches could actually change the world.

The way I see it now is that you all are voting with your feet. Stepping out of the treadmill, refusing to play that game anymore. Guiding others to do the same. Teaching the world that it’s possible to live by your own standards, and not to be bullied into someone else’s.

That is awesome!

But I’m worried

Because it’s going so fast.

Because we are missing something.

How to explain?

I will try, stick with me.

A friend of mine Marcel van Driel is a great writer.  He also writes about his writing. His message is that writing is not the glamorous thing people think it is. Your talent doesn’t write books, you do, and It’s hard work, even if your very talented. And it doesn’t get easier. Every new book is better, but it is also harder to write. Marcel taught me this quote:

“You never learn how to write a novel. You just learn how to write the novel that you’re writing.” ― Gene Wolfe

The same goes for living your life.

Your coaching doesn’t learn people how to live. It learns them how to take the next step.

You know that.  

At least, I very much hope you do, because I see coaches who are so much in love with their first wow/aha/awe moment: a theory, a method, an insight,
that they are passing that on as a medicine for everything.
These coaches are NOT learning the first step, they are learning to avoid taking real steps.
(Ask yourself in all honesty: am I really sure I am not doing this? If you’re not sure, contact me. We have work to do.)

So, even if YOU know:

Does you audience know?

Does your audience know that this step they are taking is the first of many?

That it is NOT getting easier, that it could well get harder?

That every new step involves facing the things they have been hiding from theirselves? (and that there was a very good reason they were hiding it)

Let me tell you about taking these first steps. Hey, you were there yourself, you will recognize this

I was in awe.

A whole new world opened up for me. I thought I finally ‘got’ the world, understood other people and understood me.

I was on a long time high, searching more and more, growing more and more . .

. .  not realising I left a whole lot behind.

In fact, the stuff I learned taught me to hide all the shit I left behind?

Ever heard of spiritual bypass?

(JW is John Welwood)

There is a big COACHING/TRAINING bypass as well!

When I discovered this, I went looking for coaches, workshops programs, where I could learn to deal with my stuff.

And you know what?

I couldn’t find any coach, any training, any workshop where they recognized this bypass.

And I don’t see from your websites and challenges and freebies, that you recognize it. (Well maybe a few, you know who you are)

All the coaches and trainers I worked with were all to happy and proud when I showed them my carefully chosen, not so smelly, shit. I took big courageous steps, they said.

And while I used to love these pats on my back, I soon got enough of it.

Finally I found a place where I could really confront my hiding mechanisms. It was an needle in a haystack.

The fact that I decided to transition late in life also helped a lot!

And my!

How different this was from all I  learned. How I saw through all my bypasses.

(By the way: NO online program will ever be able to do this)

And I know now, I needed these first steps. But it would have been nice not to bypass the next steps, for thirty years.

Today, I see bypasses everywhere. It’s like a drug. It seems that we can’t help doing it.

To stop doing it, you need the equivalent of an anti-addiction program.

Did you know that you set up your clients for this addiction?

Are you teaching them bypasses?

Do you warn them?

Or do you promise them they can become a successful writer in an online course of six weeks?

And do you use their vulnerabilities?

And by the way,

when was the last time you really faced some of your own shit?


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You thought you were brilliant? You don’t even know the half of it

When you are highly sensitive ,  the world is so much more beautiful.

But the world hits you harder too.

And if you are known to rejection, the spiral down can take you. The harder they come, the harder they fall.

So we come  a little less hard, hoping we fall a little less hard.

High Sensitivity has no OFF switch.

But we all have found our own replacements.

We don’t make the conscious decision to do it, but we do it. We all have our hiding mechanisms well in place.

Even if you have shed your masks, and are bravely facing the world as your true self. You still have some. Because there is no once and for all “be yourself” solution, that will fix everything.

Chances are that the very things you used to lay off your mask, are part of you hiding mechanisms now.

So there you are, being yourself. But still holding back. Your own OFF switches still in place. You may not even know that you are using them.

And that’s a pity.

Because you give the world so much, but you’re still holding back.

Yes, your life is a rollercoaster, but remember that a rollercoaster is a predefined ride with the seatbelts on.

How about a different kind off daring?

Because it IS possible. Finding your own OFF switches, and learn how NOT to use them.

You thought you were brilliant? You don’t even know the half of it!

I can’t teach you business. I can lead you to your switches.

And it has to be me.

Because these switches are there for a reason. This has to be handled carefully. By someone who has found her own, and knows what it is to mess with them.

Someone who knows how she can go through this, and still can find the energy, to start again the very next morning.

Contact me:  emma@emmavoerman.nl

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