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I Don’t Know Doesn’t Stop a Meta-Coach

What does a Coach do when a client says, “I don’t know!”? What can a Coach do when they run up against the “I don’t know” roadblock? Do they quit? Do they shift to another subject? Do they ask the tormenting question that the client cannot answer and which they just told you they cannot answer, “Why don’t you know?” I hope not! So, if not that, then what’s a Meta-Coach to do?


Ah! Lots of things. That’s because “I don’t know!” does not and will not stop a skilled Meta-Coach. The fact is that there are many ways to respond to: “I don’t know!” Do you know them? If not, here are the 15 key-ways to respond.

Responding to "I Don't Know"

First, a Meta-Coach will be sure to acknowledge and validate the client, “That’s great! Not knowing means this will really be a valuable conversation we’re about to have!” Or, “That’s okay, so if the coaching can help you to know that, would that be of value to you?, Would that enable you to move beyond this barrier of ‘I don’t know!?’ Great, then should we move right along and enable you to know?” Your Meta-Coach can now begin to explore what kind of not-knowing it is for you. There are many kinds.

1. Lack of Information - Do you need some information?

Perhaps the person just does not have the information that he needs and that’s why he does not know what to answer. What information do you need in order to know? Do you know how to get that information?

2. Insufficient information - Do you have enough information?

Perhaps she has information, but does not sufficient information to be able to answer the question. What information do you already have? How do you know that it is insufficient? What criteria are you using?

3. Confusion - Do you have too much information?

Perhaps she has information, but does not sufficient information to be able to answer the question. What information do you already have? How do you know that it is insufficient? What criteria are you using?

4. Not-prioritized — Is the not-knowing due to the lack of prioritizing?

Perhaps she does not know because she has not prioritized the things of importance, or the things to be done and so doesn’t know what to choose. She needs to identify her values and sort them out in terms of importance. What are your values that you can use to prioritize that information?

5. Fear of knowing — Are you afraid to know?

What do you feel about knowing, about gaining that knowledge? If you did know, what would that mean to you? Is there any fear in you about finding out?

6. Repression — Do you not allow yourself to know?

From the fear of knowing, comes a taboo about knowing, and eventually an unconscious repression of knowing or of some information. Do you have permission to know?

7. Self-Distrust — Do you not trust yourself?

The not-knowing could be that you have not given yourself permission to know, that you don’t have permission to trust yourself with the information. Do you trust yourself with knowing, with finding out? How much do you trust yourself with the information?

8. Unwillingness — Do you want to find out?

The not-knowing could be a lack of desire to know or even a willingness to know, to explore, to find out. Do you want to know? Are you willing to find out? Are you ready to make a decision that you will find out?

9. Over-identification — Are you confusing the map with the territory?

The not-knowing could arise from an identification that a person has made between some information or knowledge and how he identifies himself or something else. Is your identity tied up in this information?

10. Unsafe — Are you simply not willing to tell me?

Perhaps the statement about not-knowing really means that the person does not feel it is safe to share the information with you. Perhaps she feels that it makes her too vulnerable and exposed and/or weak and so does not want to tell what she knows. Do you feel safe enough with me as your coach to share this?

11. Ignorant about Cause — Do you not know what causes this experience?

Sometimes we say that we do not know when we are really saying that we lack knowledge about causation, what causes us to think, feel, say, or do something. Sometimes we know, we just do not know about an experience’s origin or source. Are you really saying that you don’t know where this came from, its source?

12. Distortion — Do you have a distortion in your mapping?

Perhaps the not-knowing really means that he has a distorted map, one that is twisted in such a way that it prevents him from being clear about something. What do you need to do to start sorting out what you do know— a mind-map, a flow chart, a list?

13. Blind-spot — Do you have a blind spot that prevents you from knowing?

Perhaps there is a blind-spot in something that is your strength, somewhere where you have become over-focused, and you have a blind spot that’s preventing you from knowing. Are you surprised or even shocked by your own responses and just don’t know where they came from?

14. Inexperience — Do you lack experience in or with something?

Perhaps you do not know something due to inexperience. You don’t know something because you have not and sufficient experience with some area or skill. Is this an area where you need more experience in practice?

15. Lack of Strategy — Do you not understand how it works?

Perhaps you do not have a strategy and that’s why you don’t know the strategy for doing something. It’s new or different to you and so you don’t know how it works. Do you have a strategy for how to accomplish X?


So, as you can see, “I don’t know” will not stop a Meta-Coach. We are highly skilled in facilitating clarity for our clients and in having conversations that really get to the heart of the matter so you can step into your highest and best. Contact Modo today to find out how coaching can assist you.


Michael Hall Headshot - I Don’t Know Doesn’t Stop a Meta-Coach

This article was co-authored with Dr. Michael L. Hall, Meta-Coach Co-Founder.

Dr. Hall’s doctorate is in Cognitive-Behavioral Psychology is from Union Institute University, Cincinnati Ohio.  His dissertation explored the languaging of four psychotherapies (NLP, RET, Reality Therapy, Logotherapy) using the formulations of General Semantics.  He addressed the Interdisciplinary International Conference (1995) presenting an integration of NLP and General Semantics.  His Masters degree was in Clinical Counseling and Psychology from Regis University in Denver Colorado and his Bachelors of Science was in Management of Human Resources.  Prior to that he took a Masters in Biblical Literature and Language.

As a prolific writer, Dr. Hall has written 58 books, another 30 serial books, over 100 published articles, and is recognized as a leading NLP Trainer and Developer.  Most notable of the models is the Meta-States Model, also The Matrix Model, Axes of Change, etc.   Michael co-founded, with Dr. Bob Bodenhamer, Neuro-Semantics® in 1996 as a field which focuses on meaning and performance.

As a modeler of expertise, Dr. Hall has completed 27 modeling projects which include modeling resilience, self-reflexive consciousness, “thinking,” communication excellence, sales, persuasion, accelerated learning, wealth creation, women in leadership, fitness and health, cultures, leadership, collaboration, and more.

About the Author Tamara Pickard

Tamara Pickard is an Executive Coach, Trainer and a Managing Director of Modo Coaching and Training, with many years of experience leading large organisations. Tamara is a certified Meta-Coach, Master NLP practitioner and experienced Enneagram facilitator, and her passion is to facilitate people to discover and actualise their highest potentials in their personal and professional lives.

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