How to Handle Your Client's Inner Critic like a Pro| by Mike Bundrant

Plus a 5 minute video sharing a 3 Step NLP Technique to calm down the inner critic!

unsplash-womanphoto-1465982-cropAs a coach, you work with clients on a number of challenges, but if you don't address the one issue that rules them all, you're flirting with disaster.

Your client's inner critic.

If you can't navigate the turbulent waters inhabited by this saboteur, your coaching ship is going to sink. That's right, you're very likely to be FIRED by your client's inner critic!

Maybe I'm being melodramatic. However, rest assured that, between sessions, your clients' inner demons are weighing in on how the coaching is going. If their darker side wins, then coaching - and their own success - may be out the window.

This happens to coaches and their clients over and over... and over. The client starts out optimistically. A short while later - before any permanent progress could possibly be made in the real world - the mood changes. Suddenly, your client isn't as gung-ho. Coaching appointments are missed, and soon coaching is a thing of the past.

How Does This Happen?

Here's the simple scenario: The inner critic convinced your client that the coaching wasn't working and was a waste of time. All done.

Many self-critical clients can hold onto their optimism and deny the inner critic for short periods of time. However, the inner critic is both powerful and patient - and in so many cases, it wins because it just won't go away.

So, let's learn the most effective way to not only deal with the inner critic, but turn it into and ally.

What is the Inner Critic?

Freud called it the Superego; a psychological part of you that holds impossibly high standards and criticizes "you" for failing.

Most experts agree the inner critic forms in early childhood as a defensive response to an overwhelming world of expectations. For many, the inner critic takes on the voice of a critical parent. In other words, we internalize perceived criticisms and spend much of our life spewing negativity.

How Does the Inner Critic Work?

Understanding how it works is the key to a lasting, more or less peaceful, relationship with the inner critic. Once you understand a couple key points of leverage, you can unravel the elements of the inner critic that keep it lodged in place.

There are two important aspects of the inner critic that - as a person and a coach - you should be mindful of. These two elements lead directly to healing.

1) The inner critic addresses "you." In other words, that negative inner voice specifically uses the word you when it talks to you.

  • You're going to fail.
  • You're wasting your time.
  • You're stupid.

2) The inner critic speaks with an air of finality.

The inner critic is not open minded. When it criticizes you, it does so with an air of finality. It's as if after every criticism came the words and you always will be.

  • You're a failure (and you always will be).
  • You're going to blow it (and you always will).
  • You're not up for it (and you never will be).

And so on.

Linguistic tools like NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) allow coaches to deconstruct self-defeating scenarios like this one and craft elegant solutions. Understanding the above linguistic elements of the inner critic, we can take counter measures that ultimately transform the process into something that ends differently.

Here are The 3 Easy Steps to Calm Your Inner Critic:

The following 5 minute video reviews these concepts and shows you how to apply the most effective solution for handling inner criticism. Enjoy (and apply)!

If you liked this article with techniques to deal with your inner critic, you may also like:

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Contributing Author:

Mike Bundrant is a Master Certified Coach (MCC), NLP trainer, and life coaching instructor with the iNLP Center. With students in over 100 countries, the iNLP Center integrates Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) and ICF accredited life coach training.

Learn more about Mike & see all their articles here >>


  1. Jason

    Thanks for sharing this & so much already. I'm hoping to do much in this area for myself & others who may need or apply this in a leadership role; something that helps to alter behavior of theirs or another from "bad" or "dumb" to a pause & finding a new option of behavior, maybe a thought that leads to a positive solution or compromise. Thanks ever so much!!! J.R. Uttley

    • Emma-Louise

      Dear Jason, so glad you found Mike's article helpful. NLP has lots of powerful tools and models, we hope to share more of them going forwards! Warmly, Emma-Louise

  2. Kate Gladstone

    I was, indeed, “surprised at the direction it goes” — because this exercise made things much worse, so I had to stop. Going from “You are a subhuman abomination” to “Yes, I am a subhuman abomination, and ...?” just hasn’t helped.

    • Emma-Louise

      Hi Kate, that must be tough - and frustrating!

      I'm not sure if you're a coach or not? This website is aimed at coaches, many of whom will have training and a more advanced understanding of what to do in these areas.

      There is quite a bit to the exercise including accepting the voice as just "a part" of ourselves - and not who we are. Also, not being defensive (which also means not "engaging" with the critic or not even resisting what it is saying, but not BELIEVING either). Which can be hard!

      Also, seeing what the and... brings. I think what Mike is suggesting could disarm an inner critic - if it feels heard. You might get to ...and I am scared, and... I hate you and... I still hate you... until you get to and... I feel terrible. Then our natural instinct will be to care for that part of us that feels awful/scared etc. And usually once that part of you realises you have this under control, with some reassurance and kindness it will stop (for now!).

      My voice used to say "You're a worthless piece of sh*t"! Now I recognize when that happens and usually it's because that part of me is scared. The and would probably say and... I hate you over and over (the reason usually being because I'm doing something that scares that part of me - which I do a lot!).

      If you are struggling with an inner critic, you could consider hiring a coach - or even a counsellor to work with you. It can be really hard to do this stuff alone!

      I hope that helps a little! Warmly, Emma-Louise


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