The Quiet Coach – 4

January 30, 2023

How to deal with a client who ghosts you

I’m not normally the biggest fan of millennial slang (yes, yes, I know how old I sound) but ghosting is one of my favourites. Defined as “the act of someone suddenly cutting off all communication without notice or any explanation”. It’s normally used in the context of dating but every coach reading this would be sadly shaking their heads at how familiar this phenomenon is in coaching.

If you haven’t yet had a client ghost you, don’t feel left out, it will happen at some point.

The important thing to remember is that (most of the time) it’s not about you. Clients ghost for a variety of reasons and the intent of this post is to explore some of those and how you can deal with them without doubting your own capability.

Ghosting tends to happen more in the beginning parts of a coaching relationship – mostly right after the initial chemistry conversation or perhaps after a couple of sessions. The initial meetings seem to go well but then the client vanishes and does not respond to contact and the coach is left wondering what they did.

So why do clients do this? Here are the two possibilities that most coaches tend to consider

  1. Coaching isn’t a priority for the client at this point in their life or things have come up that seemingly need more attention
  2. There was something in the dynamic with the coach that didn’t work for them and they’re too polite (or don’t care enough) to bring it up

And sure, in some cases, these could be the reality. There are plenty of times when companies offer coaching to leaders who don’t want it but don’t want to say no for fear of being seen as uninterested in personal growth. So they show up for a session or two and then vanish.

There are also times when the wavelength/style of the client and coach just don’t match. I’m guilty of ghosting a perfectly good therapist myself, many years ago, because the modality she wanted to use wasn’t something I resonated with.

But it would be reductionist to assume that these are the only two possibilities why clients ghost. There are many unspoken/unconscious expectations that both client and coach could be bringing into the relationship that cause it to not work.

From my own work with clients, here are a few more reasons why clients could ghost:

  1. The process of change is scary: I remember talking to a leader once who had done really well on the basis of her strength in operations. Her manager wanted coaching to support her in developing her ability to think strategically. While overtly she agreed with that goal, the idea of making that change could seem like she was letting go of what had worked. It’s easy to see how she could unconsciously avoid moving into these unchartered waters by not showing up for coaching.
  2. Taking accountability isn’t always easy: As coaches we invite people to own their stories and sometimes people are not ready to do that. I remember a client who spent the first couple of sessions going over a story of how her boss had turned her down for a promotion, three years ago. She wasn’t ready to accept my invitation to look at what she could now do about the situation and found reasons to postpone/cancel sessions.
  3. Clients may be playing out patterns of behaviour they have had with other people in their past – For example, if someone habitually tends to challenge authority, they may rebel against you as a coach because the organisation wants them to be coached. I had a client once who would pull away as soon as he sensed someone getting close to him because the idea of intimacy provoked anxiety.

There are a whole host of other possibilities but for now, let’s look at what you can do about it as a coach.

If a client ghosts you after the initial call, ask yourself these questions

  • Did you spend enough time explaining the process of coaching and inviting the client to articulate how they felt about it?
  • Did you role model the competencies you would be using in coaching?
  • Is there something you could strengthen about these two?

If the answer is yes, yes and no – chalk it up to “this happens” and move on. Not every person you have a lovely chemistry conversation is going to become a client and that’s just the way it rolls.

If someone you’ve worked with for a couple of sessions ghosts, here are some things you could do

  • Ask yourself what unspoken/unconscious expectations could the person have had that were not met and caused them to discontinue?
  • Reflect on the clients that you are working well with – how is this individual similar to or different from those?
  • Take it into supervision – either speak with a coach supervisor or ask a peer to coach you through it
  • Keep the door open with the client – I like to say something like “I’m writing to follow up with you on whether you would like to continue coaching or not. If not, could you tell me if there’s anything in our conversations or the coaching process that made you uncomfortable? We could set up a short call to talk through this. If I don’t hear back from you, please know that I wish you happiness and peace”

And most importantly, be kind to yourself. Yes, it is important to sharpen our skills but it’s equally important to remember the intent with which we’ve decided to be coaches. We’re here because we’re drawn to the idea of personal growth and supporting others as they grow….that process is sometimes painful and messy so treat yourself with compassion.

Do leave a comment about how you feel on reading this. And please feel free to ping me at if there’s a topic you’d like to see addressed or you’d like to contribute.

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    One response to “The Quiet Coach – 4”

    1. Roshni says:

      This is not something people talk about very often with peers but nevertheless an important thing that may put the seeds of self doubt in the minds of a coach. It’s wonderful to have this said into the open and to remind as coaches we need to be kind to ourselves too

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