What are Softeners in Coaching? With 7 Examples

Coach using softeners with coaching client
In coaching, softeners are simply a few words you use just before asking a difficult question to literally 'soften the blow'.

By using a softener, you're subconsciously preparing your clients for a potentially difficult shift in the conversation's energy.

Using softeners in coaching is therefore a great way to maintain rapport with your clients while asking the challenging questions that are going to move them forwards.

Here are 7 great softeners to get you started:

    1. I'm curious…     (keeping it open and light)
    2. Just for a moment…     (you won't have to do this for long)
    3. Let's suppose…     (let's play here)
    4. I was wondering…     (keeping it open and light)
    5. Help me out here…     (you'll be doing me a favour)
    6. Would it be OK to play with this?     (asking their permission)
    7. Let me ask you this…     (asking their permission more forcefully)

And of course you can always use silence (a pause) or something like a "hmmmmm" to indicate you're being thoughtful before asking a difficult question.

What softeners do you use? Tell us yours by commenting below!

If you liked this short article on using softeners in coaching, you may also like:

Emma-Louise Elsey Headshot

Contributing Author:

Emma-Louise Elsey has been coaching since 2003 and is the Founder of The Coaching Tools Company and Fierce Kindness.com. She's passionate about coaching and personal development. Originally a project and relationship manager for Fortune 500 companies she combined her love of coaching, creativity and systems to create over 100 brandable coaching tools, forms and exercises including 30+ completely free coaching tools. She now serves coaches and the coaching world through her exclusive newsletter for coaches, Coaches Helping Coaches Facebook Group and many other great tools for coaches, plus resources and ideas for your coaching toolbox. The Coaching Tools Company is an official ICF Business Solutions Partner.

Learn more about Emma-Louise & see all their articles here >>

Image of Coach using softeners with coaching client by fizkes via Shutterstock


  1. Jacki Bruchert

    I love the brief suggestions and ideas for "how" to work and "be" with clients. I am brand-new to coaching, and this is very practical stuff that really helps me. Thanks so much!

    • elelsey

      Hi Jacki, Thanks for your comments! I'm trying to make sure the articles are short AND sweet - ie. with useful, usable content. I've discovered that it's HARDER to write shorter, punchier articles than longer ones! But that is a challenge I'm enjoying. ANYhow, thanks so much for your comment - it's very encouraging that we're on the right track! Warmly, EL


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