Opinion: The Best Life Coaches Are Highly Sensitive People

A highly sensitive person works as a life coach

HSPs have the ability to listen deeply and show great empathy toward others, which are huge assets for a life coach to have.

It’s a bold claim, but highly sensitive people may very well make the best life coaches. I believe we are uniquely suited to helping others see their gifts and what’s holding them back.

While going through a coaching certification program this past year, I was told from my very first practice session that I’m a “natural coach.” I believe it’s because I am a highly sensitive person and that gives me an advantage when it comes to coaching others. From my deep level of empathy to my intuition, I have skills and strengths that come to me naturally that are advantageous when it comes to being a coach.

And what is a life coach anyway? Someone trained to help you tap into your full potential and reach your goals. They are like a supportive friend and trusted mentor all in one. They help you identify your goals, hold you accountable, and provide encouragement along the way as you strive to be the best version of yourself. And when I see people accomplish what they set out to do, it is the most fulfilling feeling. Here is why I think the best life coaches are highly sensitive people.

5 Reasons Why the Best Life Coaches Are Highly Sensitive People

1. They’re great listeners and “go deep” in conversations. 

HSPs are known for our preference for intimate conversations over superficial chit-chat.We’re not into small talk: we don’t want to talk about the weather and celebrity gossip — we’d much rather talk about what lights you up, your big life plans, and what it means to find your purpose.

While we might get overwhelmed in a noisy networking situation, put us in a one-on-one or small group situation where we can have a “real” conversation, and that’s when we really shine. 

Highly sensitive people are also great listeners. We listen not just to respond, but to really hear what the other person is saying. We take it all in, consider all the angles, and naturally look beyond the surface and want to dig deeper. 

These are all important skills to leverage as a coach and I think the following points play a part, too, in why we listen so deeply.

2. They’re super observant and are pros at reading people.

HSPs are very observant and great at picking up — and reading subtle cues —  that people give.

This is referred to as sensory acuity in the coaching world and it’s all about being more aware of details in your surroundings. By looking at things with increased sensory acuity, we tend to see things that other people miss. While it’s a skill anyone can learn, it comes naturally for HSPs.

We do it whether we notice it or not. In fact, brain scans have actually shown that highly sensitive people use more parts of the brain associated with deeper processing of information while performing tasks — especially those that involve noticing subtleties.

Using your sensory acuity in your daily life might look like knowing something is “off” when your partner walks into the room — there’s a lack of eye contact and they seem a little stiff. It doesn’t have to be overt, and they don’t even have to say anything for you to know there’s trouble in paradise.

In a coaching session, I can tell by reading body language if a client is feeling empowered and on track, or low energy and depleted, before we even get started. I use sensory acuity to tell when they’ve entered a trance-like state during hypnotherapy, if they’re able to really tap into an emotion they want to embody or not, and in countless other ways.

Noticing these subtle cues allows me to know how a session is progressing — if we’re on track or if I need to check in and make adjustments, such as diving deeper into an issue or taking another approach if progress is stalling out. 

This all speaks to one of the defining traits of HSPs: our depth of processing. We don’t just notice more than the other 70 percent of the population; we process all of this information in a highly organized, big-picture way.

We’re integrating the info, comparing it to past and similar experiences, and looking beyond surface appearances to how things really are. Because of all of this, highly sensitive people are often the first ones to see what needs to be done. 

3. They’re highly intuitive; they often “just know“ what to do or how things might turn out without realizing how they know.

Most HSPs consider themselves to be very intuitive; some would even say it’s like they have a sixth sense. I believe our heightened intuition stems from our awareness of the subtle and depth of processing.

Think of the HSP brain like a supercomputer — constantly scanning the environment and collecting data. And remember: this is more “data” than most people notice in the first place.

The supercomputer isn’t just collecting data, though. It has a special script running in the background that we don’t consciously notice, but it’s constantly sorting through (and making sense of) all that information.

The “HSP script” is then comparing the new information to the past and making predictions about the future based on what we’ve seen. The result is that we often “just know“ what to do or how things might turn out without realizing how we know. That’s really what intuition is — and we have it in spades.

Being super observant and highly intuitive are valuable skills to have as a coach. They allow you to make the most of every client session by getting right to the heart of the problem and offering insights that others might miss. 

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4. They’re empathetic — your struggles are their struggles.

Sensitive people also have a natural sense of empathy and keep other people’s thoughts and emotions in mind in all that we do. I know I find it very easy to put myself in another person’s shoes and see issues from multiple viewpoints — and I bet you do, too.

When you can deeply relate to (and understand) where someone else is coming from, it’s only natural to be very empathetic.

One study I found very interesting actually showed that not only does an HSP’s brain activity indicate stronger feelings of empathy than non-HSPs’, but it also showed more activation in areas. This suggests they wanted to do something to act and make the situation better.

Now, there is a common misconception that emotions cause us to think illogically. I have to admit, when I started my coaching certification, I was concerned that perhaps I was “too emotional” and “too empathetic.” I wasn’t sure how I’d be able to not only sit with someone in their struggles, but how I’d be able to hold my composure and guide them through a healing process. I feared I would get too caught up in their pain and not be able to help. 

That’s never been the case, though. I believe it’s because, while we HSPs are very empathetic, we also have this deep desire to help others. So we are able to turn down the dial on our emotions in order to effectively coach them to the other side of their pain. And when we do so, it comes from a really sincere and compassionate place.

Even recent scientific thinking has placed emotion at the center of wisdom, and I couldn’t agree more. Being very empathetic is not a disadvantage at all; it’s actually another coaching advantage for HSPs.

5. They’re great at “holding space” and making people feel safe.

An HSP’s ability to deeply listen, use their intuition, and show great empathy toward others all make people feel safe to share. This ability to quickly build rapport with clients is a huge asset for a coach to have.

When a client knows that you’re a safe person to share with, they’re more likely to open up and reveal what’s really going on with them. When we’re able to peel back the layers of an issue and really get to the root of the problem, that’s when deep transformation can take place.

It’s very common for me to do a session with someone that’s never met me before, they don’t really know anything about me, and yet they feel safe to dive right into sharing some deeply personal struggles. They’ll often share afterward that I felt like an old friend and it allowed them to be brutally honest not just with me, but with themselves as a result.

Our calm, sensitive demeanor really can help draw out a client’s own strengths and boost their confidence as a result.

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

If you’re a highly sensitive person, then you may be uniquely qualified to help others see their gifts and what is holding them back. HSPs are intuitive, empathetic, good listeners, observant, and make people feel safe to open up and share. I believe we can offer something special as life and success coaches because of our ability to deeply feel the pain of another human being without turning away from it. 

It’s also safe to say that you’ve probably cursed your sensitivity at some point and wanted to wish it away. It can be difficult to be highly sensitive and also manage the demands of work and life as we strive to succeed. However, if you use what makes us different to your advantage instead of fighting against it, you can find your true purpose and help those around you to do the same. 

In this chaotic world, we need to find balance in our lives. That can be easier said than done, but when we learn how to create an environment that fosters health and happiness for ourselves — as well as those around us — it’s a powerful thing!

Julie Lowe is a highly sensitive introvert and entrepreneur, and has successfully helped thousands of online coaches and consultants grow their businesses over the past decade at SociallyAligned.com.

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