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Module 3: Tough Love and Saying Hard Things

Listen to the Module 3 session recording above.


What is Tough Love?

tough love (definition) 

  • n. The use of strict disciplinary measures and limitations on freedoms or privileges, as by a parent or guardian, as a means of fostering responsibility and expressing care or concern. 


This is not what I'm talking about.


My Definition:

A clear reflection to someone about who they are being, how they are showing up and what results they are getting from it.

Sometimes you don’t need to say anything to be that for them. Just by being a clear mirror, and doing your own work, they may see what they can’t see just by the light of your witness.

Pure witness is tough love - no judgement, no praise, no blame, no diagnosis. Just pure seeing.

But there are times when it requires some action of you.

1, 2, 3 Tough Love Assessment: Note to Self Only

As their coach ask yourself:

1. Do they lack ego (they can’t stand up for themselves or others)?

When they lack ego it’s better to use tough love with a lot of caution. Use only sparingly, if at all. It will scare them away. They might not be your ideal client.

2. Do they have a healthy ego (they can stand up for themselves and others)?

When they have a healthy ego, tough love is between you and the Creator, in the moment, when you step into courage and do what you are divinely inspired to do. It happens without you, it comes through you. It’s very humbling. You can’t plan it. You feel it, it’s busting out of you.

If someone has a healthy ego, their self image on a scale of 1 - 10 if 1 is pure negative and 10 is pure positive, they should at least be a 5. If they are at least a 5 there is a lot more room to be on point with them.

3. Do they suffer with an ‘excess’ of ego (they stand up for a false part of themselves, worship the false God of power, aim to dominate - which might also be a lack)?

When they are heavily weighted down by ego they may have fake self-confidence, masking, a strong persona, be unrevealing, maneuvering, have sophisticated resistance and ways out of the hard work of self study.


How to Know the Difference Between Tough Love and Being Mean, Insensitive, Shaming and Bullish in Your Coaching

Tough love: you feel good, you feel bad; you have more energy.

Mean, Insensitive, Right, Shaming, Bullish: you feel good, you feel bad; you have adrenaline (fake/pseudo energy) that you crash off of and may have sobering regret or you go into denial which you know you are in because you have negative feelings about your client, internal complaint, sense that they are bad and wrong).

  • Sometimes you can’t know the difference until after you give it.
  • It’s laden with mystery, but trust your moral compass.

You have to err on the side of taking risks with your clients. If you play it safe you are ripping them off. They won’t be coming to you to stay in the comfort zone. Their ego will want the comfort (and you can give that to them too), but their soul wants the Truth. And the Truth can be extremely uncomfortable.

The Difference Between Being Right and Being Right On

  • Being Right: is sympathy and maintaining separation;  Being Right On : is empathy and closing the gap, being one with, having compassion.


  • Being Right will fill you with energy but will not engender connection;  Being Right On will bring you close with someone, they will trust you more, and you will have more energy.


  • Being Right will bring up a client’s resistance and possibly allow someone to remain stuck, wrongly using you as the excuse for doing that;  Being Right On : is highly transformational and engenders self-responsibility, self direction and drawing their own conclusions.

Preparing Yourself to Have a Difficult Conversation With a Client

  1. Let go of any feelings you have towards a person that are not love.
  2. Make sure you’re offering something rather than trying to get something (what would you be unconsciously trying to get?)
  3. Be prepared to get rejected and for them to not like or love you.

Tips for Giving It

Genuinely ask questions about what you perceive with the knowledge and wisdom that you might be wrong in your perception.

“I may be off base, but do you think x might be happening?”

“Check and see if x is happening for you. It may or may not be.”

“Have you noticed if what you’re going through/feeling/noticing within or without is a recurring experience?”

“Are there other areas of your life where you’ve had a similar experience?”

“Are you tired of it?”

“Is it working for you, or against you?”

When to Deliver Tough Love

In the first conversation you have with someone to establish what it’s like to work with you.

When you’ve seen their pattern.

When they are wanting to ‘move on’ to a ‘new’ problem, but you see they’re using it as a diversion to stay stuck.

When you see them back out of their goals and intentions they came to you with in the first place.

When they’re stuck in fear.

When they want to quit.

When they don’t have confidence in themselves.


Make a list of all the reasons you don’t want to say the hard things or practice tough love, as a coach. For each reason locate the energy of it in your body, and ask yourself if you could let it go.

 Click each pdf below to download and print.


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