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  • Writer's pictureMark Samuel

14 Questions Coaches Ask To Help Their Clients Combat Self-Sabotage.

Updated: Nov 16, 2023

Professionals may not realize that sometimes the biggest thing standing in the way of their success is their mindset. As the saying goes, people can be their own worst enemies, especially if they are prone to engaging in negative self-talk and behavior.


Forbes Expert Panel

When a coach notices a client is struggling with self-sabotaging behavior, they will often ask questions to help the client reflect on the ways they continually set themselves up for failure and figure out how to stop. Below, 14 members of Forbes Coaches Council share the questions they would pose to clients in such positions to help them foster new, more positive outlooks and ways of thinking about themselves and their work.


1. What Did This Behavior Bring You?

I would take the time to analyze my client’s self-sabotaging behaviors with them so that they are fully aware. We cannot change what we are not aware of. Once brought to light, I would invite them to answer the following questions at each appearance of this behavior: “What did this behavior bring you?” “What are your ambitions?” and “Do you think this current behavior will take you where you want to go?” - Xavier Preterit, BIMR EDITION


2. What Were Your Previous Successes?

After discussion, I would identify the client’s previous successes. I would then use a visual of a vertical line and, starting at the bottom, record with the client their first success through the last event. The purpose of this is to break the thought pattern of negativity to help the client see previous successes, relive them through the exercise, ignite positive feelings and explore from there. - Kim Neeson, Kim Neeson Consultancy


3. Does The Behavior Align With Your Core Values?

Self-talk often casts a light on what we think we should be at any given moment. Who we are is based on our core values. Reminding ourselves of our core values can create refutations in the face of negative self-talk. When faced with negative self-talk, I often ask my clients, “Does this align with who you are at your core?” - Jakob Franzen, The Modern Coaching Company


4. How Does Self-Sabotage Benefit You?

A key question to ask is, “How does self-sabotage benefit, protect or serve you?” Are there certain situations in which self-sabotage shows up—socially, professionally or with upper management, for example? What does self-sabotage cost you in terms of confidence, clear intention or reputation? What can you do differently to optimize the benefits you receive without experiencing the drawbacks? What support would you like in making the change? - Mark Samuel, IMPAQ Corporation


5. How Can You Leverage Your Natural Talents?

A critical question would be, “In what ways could you leverage your natural talents to help move your thinking in a more positive direction?” We would look at your top themes of talent to see which ones could help counteract your tendency to be self-critical. - Kristin Sistos, Percheron Consulting


6. What Is Your ‘Why?’

I would start by asking, “What is your ‘why?’” Fear of not having what it takes is a big contributor to negative self-talk and, ultimately, stress in life and business. Write down your “why” and return to it when you need to get out of your head and drive forward. - Jim Judy, TryFranchising.com


7. How Are Your Actions Helping You Reach Your Goals?

A good question to ask is, “What specifically do you want, and to what extent are your behaviors and actions leading you closer to what you want or undermining what you want to have to happen in the future?” I would remind the client that self-talk and the way it impacts your thinking has a way of becoming reality in the form of behaviors and treatment you receive from others. - Mark Gasche, North Shore Career Management LLC


8. What Made You Believe You’re Not Good Enough?

In order to stop the negative behavior, you first have to realize why you’re thinking that way. Reflect on what made you believe you’re “not good enough” or that you “can’t do it.” In most cases, you are completely capable but have limiting beliefs. Practice meditation to be more aware of what you say to yourself so that you can stop the thought in its tracks and reprogram your mind! - Kimberly Olson, The Goal Digger Girl


9. What ‘Dialogue Track’ Played In Your Mind When You Felt The Worst?

I like to ask them what “dialogue track” played in their mind when they felt the worst about themselves. Then, I ask where that voice came from—usually a former teacher, boss or person in authority. Then, we envision that person with their mouth stapled shut. We disempower that voice. It’s weird, but it works. - Randy Shattuck, The Shattuck Group


10. What Shows Up In Your Body When You Speak Your Goal Out Loud?

One key question to elevate awareness of self-sabotaging behaviors is, “What shows up in your body when you speak your goal out loud?” The physical reaction is a powerful gateway to surfacing negative beliefs. I then ask clients to name the feeling and share the mental picture they see. We can understand the cause from here and potentially rescript it into a supporting narrative. - Erin Urban, UPPSolutions, LLC


11. What Are Your Closest Friends Advising You To Do?

I would start by asking, “What are your closest friends advising you to do to solve this problem?” My clients don’t seek counsel just with me; I cannot assume that I know their peers and friendships just because I know them. When I hear what they perceive as advice from their friends, it helps illuminate where their impressions may have come from before we started to interact. Anything they say could be valuable. - John M. O’Connor, Career Pro Inc.


12. What Thoughts Are Holding You Back From A Goal?

I’d ask them to state the thoughts that arise that hold them back from pursuing a particular goal. Then, explore that statement to see what is a “lie” or story they’ve made up and what might be a nugget of truth. If that nugget is empowering, build on it. If not, explore what could be an empowering truth. State that truth out loud daily and feel the feelings associated with it in your body. - Rosie Guagliardo, InnerBrilliance Coaching


13. What Is Your ‘Champagne Moment?’

An essential question would be, “What’s your ‘champagne moment?’” We don’t find business goals motivating, but if we have one personal achievement we want to obtain—something that is personal and meaningful to us—then that is enough to motivate us and keep us focused on business. - Nick Leighton, Exactly Where You Want to Be


14. When Did You Start To Feel This Way?

I would ask them to trace back to when they started feeling that way and try to identify the actions and incidents related to it. Our behaviors and mental scripts are related to our childhoods. Getting to the root is the best way to handle any issue, rather than just treating the symptoms. In some cases, they might need therapy. As a coach, I try to open their minds to what the reason could be and offer tools. - Sahar Andrade, MB.BCh, Sahar Consulting, LLC

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