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How to help clients uncover their values

As coaches, we might find ourselves asking our clients a huge question. And that is…’what are your values?’

Some people know what their values are, but more often than not, a lot of clients will ‘hmm’ and ‘aah,’ trying to fish out the answer in the space of a minute. 

Other clients might list their values right away, but they lack confidence in their answer, or the values don’t seem to match what they tell you about themselves. What could this mean?

As coaches, we need to remember that sometimes people are wrong about their core values. Of course, we can’t come out and say that, but it’s true! Instead, we can gently challenge them and guide them. 

Here’s what could be interfering with your client’s ability to see their real values: 

  • They want you to believe they’re a good person, so they pick values they believe will make you view them that way
  • They’re picking out words they like or stand out to them
  • They’re thinking about who they want to be, not who they are, and are picking words based on an unreal version of themselves
  • They’re choosing values that they or society believes they should have
  • They worked them out a long time ago and haven’t evaluated since, thinking values are fixed

Remember to make your clients aware of any of these pitfalls that can get in the way. And be sure to remind them, values can and do change! 

How can you help clients find their true values? 

We’re not going to tell you to show them a list of values. That tends to be a common approach – show clients a list of values and ask them to choose what resonates with them. This can be a handy exercise, but we like Dr. John Demartini’s approach and have adapted one from him… 

Values are not just words on a list, they’re something we do. So we need to look at what we do to find them.

Ask your clients these key questions:

  1. Where are you spending most of your time? And how does it feel to be spending your time this way? 
  2. Where are you spending your money?
  3. Where are you spending your energy?
  4. What inspires you?
  5. What do you often think about? 
  6. What do you like to learn about? 
  7. How do you fill your space? 

And so on… 

By answering these kinds of questions, you’ll help your client get closer to pinpointing those values. Get them to write down their answers. Explore which words show up repeatedly. 

You could even group words together and create a hierarchy of their values. 

Looking at their daily life is a good way of identifying their values. There’s more to go on than just a list and feelings. We can see where their values are playing out. We can see how our clients are guided by them, and find the evidence of their influence. 

So next time you ask your client about their values, and they break out into a sweat, try this exercise with them. It’s a powerful way of uncovering values and it’ll help your client connect with themselves at a deeper level.

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