What to say when they say “I don’t know.”

How often do your clients say, “I don’t know.”? 

It seems to be a pretty common response to almost every question you could ask, and most often, it can put a block in the way of you moving forward with a client. 

If you are a job coach who wants to know how to best support your clients, you need to know how to ask engaging and thought-provoking questions – questions that will open the door up for life-changing answers.  The best job coaches in the industry know exactly how to challenge a clients response to “I don’t know,” by using a powerful response which I’ll share with you at the end of this blog!  

Once you’ve learnt how to ask questions that will help you get to know your client and their needs, you can start to explore even further, with questions that will allow your clients to explore the possibilities available to them.

One way to learn how to ask good questions is to model the coaching experience. If you are new to the job coaching world, or someone who feels they want to get better at asking great questions that truly help the client, then first look around your organisation. 

Seek out a confident colleague who gets positive outcomes with their clients and ask them to share their experiences. Find out what sort of questions they ask and how they respond to answers like “I don’t know.” Once you have found a great job coach, ask them to mentor you or model how they approach their clients with you. They can show you how to use questions effectively and easily. You will be amazed how quickly you can get at asking good questions.

Asking great questions

Learning how to ask great questions is a real skill – so upskill! Talk to your manager or team leader and let them know you want to develop your coaching skills so you can ask better questions and feel more confident in your role.  

I’m sure you already ask lots of questions with your clients, but do you know how to ask questions that get great responses? It’s not just what type of questions you ask; it’s HOW you ask that really matters. Do you know how to frame the question effectively? Do you know what your tone of voice is like? Do you know what your body language is saying? Do you know how to soften the question, so it’s received well? 

s part of our Bounce Job Coach Certification, we teach you exactly how to ask great questions. But they are only one part of the 4 tools of the Language of Influence. When you master the Language of Influence, you are on your way to becoming an outstanding job coach.  The Language of Influence is a powerful strategy that teaches you how to use suggestion, questions, frames and words that get results. Find out more about Job Coach Certification here.  

Reframe Technique to Overcome “I don’t know.”

So, what can you say to a client that says, “I don’t know?“? 

Try this re-framing technique and see how it works for you: 

Coach: What sort of work would you like to be doing? 
Client: I don’t know. 
Coach: That’s ok. I understand you don’t just yet. But if you did know, what sort of work would excite you? 

Coach: Where would you like to be in a year from now?  
Client: I don’t know.  
Coach: Ok – but can you tell me if you did know, what would it look like?  

You can see that that the secret is in using the word ‘if’. 

If is a powerful little word, and when it’s used in this context, it allows the client to shift their thinking into the future and with possibility. It allows them to imagine or see things from a perspective of optimism or positivity, and this is often where the magic happens. Give it a try today!  

Become a certified Job Coach

The Way Finders Academy is where you go to become a certified Bounce Job Coach. The course is delivered through our our expertly-developed learning platform inside the Academy. Bounce Job Coach Certification is the must-have training for anyone working in employment services.


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  1. I don’t Know!
    Just joking. It awesome language being used to reframe the question to be curious about what your clients wants; what excites them. It allows them to delve into their system 2 part of the Brain which requires energy; it is effortful thinking challenging the client to look into their future and imagine.