Friday Fired Up-Day: “I Don’t Know”

I love when clients say, “I don’t know”.  I think it’s exciting and amazing and wonderful.   After all, this is what MasterFull coaching is all about.  How to handle “I don’t know.”  Anybody who is a Master at something realizes just how much they don’t know.

Any black belt master in the martial arts is the first one to say, “I don’t know.”  But that doesn’t stop them.  It compels them, pulls them forward.  Any master musician or tradesman admits their limitations, but that doesn’t get in their way.  Instead it engages them in powerful and exciting ways.  For a master, “I don’t know” is an invitation to unlimited possibilities and potential.

And yet, it seems that most coaches out there just don’t know how to handle the dreaded phrase of “I don’t know.”

Hm.  Isn’t that ironic?  You’d think it would be exciting.  I mean, if you think about it, if your client already came to you knowing everything, then what are they calling you for?  They’re calling you because THEY DON’T KNOW.  Right?

But for many coaches, “I don’t know” is scary.  It’s a problem.  Something is wrong.  The coaching stops.  We’re stuck.  “Oh crap.  I just asked an awesome question and the client shot it down with, “I don’t know.” What do I do know?”  We are hijacked by the client’s unwillingness or inability to go deeper and give us a brilliant answer that tells us we’re awesome coaches.

What do we do?  How do we respond and handle that?

First off, before anyone replies with “Why don’t you just ask them “Well, if you did know, then what would your answer be?”” let me go on record with saying I HATE… absolutely HATE that response. (In fact, I think that every school, teacher, mentor, coach that teaches that phase should be be severely reprimanded for the damage they’re doing to the coaches they are growing.  So if you do that… please stop doing it.)

Yes, I know, sometimes that opens the door for your clients, but not nearly as often as you think.  If you ever coach me, DON’T ASK THIS QUESTION.

Why?  Because my response would be something more like, “Didn’t you just hear me, coach?  I just said, pretty clearly, that I don’t know.  Which means exactly that: I DON’T KNOW.”  What a way to indicate you don’t respect the client’s experience.

Let’s realize that when a client says this, it’s likely that they’re struggling.  There is some impending doom coming towards them if they don’t solve their problem, and as a result they are literally unable to access their creativity and intelligence… you know, what they DO know?  Besides, some people can’t think out of the box that easily, access and identify their emotions, be creative.  And asking them “What if you did know?” is like trying to pretend that there’s no problem.  It’s very dismissive.

Yes, I know it’s an attempt to get them to think out of the box.  And I agree with that approach.  But there are much more effective ways to do that.

  • Take away their threat.  “If money weren’t a problem, what would you do?”  “Imagine for a moment that this issue was solved, magically, then what would be different for you?”  And take if from there.
  • Step away from the problem for a moment and take the client to someplace else that they do know.
  • take a look at “I Don’t Know”.  In other words, ask your client what it’s like not knowing.  Or how does “I don’t know impact them”.
  • You could take the risk and challenge them with “Is that true?” but be careful that doesn’t shut your client down as the “What if” phrase.
  • Ask something like, “What do you wish the answer was?” which is different.
  • Go a different direction completely.  Let it go and ask a different question.  Perhaps you’ll come back to it later and the client will have a better insight.
  • And there are tons more approaches.

Besides, when we’re taught to ask this question, we fall into the assumption that that is the magic question.  “All you have to do is ask your client that question and you’re doing amazing coaching.”
Yes.  True.  Except when it doesn’t work.

In other words, (and here’s another reason why it gets my grease-can) “Well, what if you did know” is a set response to the coach’s own experience of “I don’t know.”

Crap.  I don’t know what to do with this client.  I don’t know how to respond to what they just said.  I don’t know how to get out of this mess and i certainly don’t know how to coach “I don’t know”.  So why are we teaching our coaches how to handle “I don’t know” so poorly?

To tell you the truth… I Don’t Know.

What I DO know is that “I DON’T KNOW” is an exciting and amazing place to be.  It’s the doorway to unlimited possibility and potential.

Imagine instead of those dreaded three words, your client is actually saying, “Gee coach, I don’t have enough awareness, information or connection to my thoughts or emotions a this moment to answer your question clearly.”

What would your response be then?  think about it.  your client just said they don’t have enough awareness, information or connection to their thoughts and emotions.  What a coincidence!  That just happens to be your specialty (or, at least it should be).

Yes, I’m fired up about this.  It’s coming out now because it was a fantastic topic on today’s Fast Pass to MasterFull coaching class, where, on top of the lesson for today that explored ALIVENESS, we also focused on how to powerfully handle “I Don’t Know” in amazing ways.  How to appreciate and embrace “I don’t know”.  How to see “I don’t know” as the doorway and access to your client’s absolute brilliance and wisdom.

I could share more with you, but

A) This is a simple blog post, not a full out lesson.  that would take way too much time to write and I’m not sure if you would actually stick around and read it all anyway.

B) There’s so much more information that’s part of the Fast Pass class.  So I’ll invite you to join the next round beginning May 26 and you’ll not just learn how to handle “I don’t know” powerfully, but you’ll be able to do it, too.

C) There is no one way.  Every coach has their own way of handling this issue, and every clients works differently as well.  What is that magic and powerful way for you?

I don’t know.

But I’d sure be curious to find out.


So how do YOU handle “I don’t know”.  Please share.

(And before you quickly reply with “I don’t know”, stop for a moment.  Connect with that powerful, awesome and amazing coach that I know you are, and see what answer you come up with.

I’d love to know what you come up with and share.)

On the 4th week of Classes my Fast Pass gave to me…

On the 4th week of Classes my Fast Pass gave to me…

4 powerful coaching completions
3 fantastic coaching focuses
2 stages of deep learning
And 1 Confident and MasterFull coach

There are four, and only four, ways you can complete a coaching call powerfully. If you don’t, then you have instantly diluted all your wonderful work with your clients.  It’s important for us as coaches to be responsible for the “echo” that we leave our clients with—those last moments.  Otherwise, they will be less likely to stay connected to their discoveries, remember your acknowledgments, do the homework or continue exploring on their own—let alone be excited about the following session.

The “Fast Pass to MasterFull Coaching” teleclass is a unique and powerful course that continues your coaching growth like no other work out there. 32 CCEUs, 7 Mentor Coaching hours, 1500 super packed minutes, and powerful tools, techniques and proven principles designed to unleash the powerful coach that you truly are. Valued at over $3500, this is the advanced coaching work that coaches are calling “Deeply inspiring”, “transformative” and “the best bang for the buck”

And now it’s your turn. Visit to sign up for this course beginning January 22 or the following March class and you’ll begin to notice a different in your coaching right away with your welcome packet. As the weeks progress you’ll watch your confidence grow as you move faster towards truly becoming a Confident and MasterFull coach.

Your Coaching Will Never Be the Same

Getting Present with My Presents

All right, so I enjoy a good cocktail, and especially a single malt scotch.  However, usually my budget only allows for the more moderate $20 bottle, from time to time, and the really delicious stuff tends to be a little more pricy (ain’t that always the case).  Strangely it was only a couple years ago when I realized that I could cash in my change jar every year ad give myself a special annual birthday gift of a more complex, tasty and refined bottle.

So I did just that last week.

Now the thing about good scotch (like a good wine) is that there is usually a complexity involved in the flavors.  Now, I’ll admit that my palate is not apparently as sophisticated as some “professionals” who seem to distinguish “ripe green apple, a hint of bacon and a soupson of sweet asparagus”.  I just taste “good scotch”.

Also, to preface, I teach in my class (The Fast Pass to MasterFull Coaching) that an easy way to “get present” with our clients is to first practice “getting present” with ourselves.  And an easy way to do that is to direct our focus and energy towards the experience with a particular sense (sight, smell, taste, touch, sound.)  I suggest that we pick a sense and then spend 5 minutes focusing on one thing with that sense.  Kind of like isolating a specific muscle when we’re exercising.

So I decided to try this with taste.  And specifically with the new scotch.

I took a sip and let it swirl around on my tongue, over and over, breathing air gently in to mix and release the vapors.  And I discovered an amazing and complex levels of flavor in just one sip.  Slightly smokey, and a little sweet.  there was a hint of salty at first, and then at the end an aftertaste of vanilla.

Curious, I decided to do it again (was that a little orange present this time? Or apricot?) my tongue now fully awake and searching frantically for more salty, sweet, savory, and bitter tastes.

A sip of water to cleanse the palate and start fresh, only to explore this few drops with even more depth.  (There’s something kind of nutty.  Ever so faint and light.  I probably never would have noticed it before.)

Then, I got distracted and I took my next sip while listening to my wife talk.  (“Hm, good scotch.  tastes scotchy.”)  All those wonderful flavors disappeared.  they were gone.  How could this be?  It was the same scotch from the same glass.  nothing changed, except my focus and energy and attention.  Instead of drinking automatically and absently, I resumed my intentional and focused and curious drinking.  The flavors resumed.

What’s even more exciting was that after each sip i was very aware of the flavors lingering for several seconds, perhaps 30 or even a full minute.  Whereas when I just sipped and swallowed, the flavor lasted about as long as it took to sip.

Now this isn’t the first time I’ve done this–I’ve enjoyed scotches, wines and foods and savored the complexities and stretched out and deepened the experience before–but it was the first  time I did this with a clear context of growing my coaching sense of “presence” and “awareness”.

I can sure tell you that Thanksgiving dinner was a very different experience for me than for just about everyone else.

So I’d love to hear about your own savoring of the moment.  Perhaps where you isolated a specific food (cheese, chocolate, coffee, tea, or anything else) or maybe just take a few moments and pick and object to study, a sound to explore, a touch to truly feel, a smell to deeply inhale–just for 5 minutes–and then please share your experience  in the reply to this post.

I can’t wait to hear what happened.