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Coaching Presence: How to be Mindful about Justification, Rationalisation, and Intellectualisation

Become aware of one's justification, rationalisation, and intellectualisation in coaching clients

Dr. Paras
Dr. Paras
Apr 20, 2020
Coaching Presence: How to be Mindful about Justification, Rationalisation, and  Intellectualisation

We are often ruled by our emotions, behavior, beliefs, and habits. And, in the coaching world, we are exposed to a gamut of emotions that clients experience which they are unable to handle. Here’s a quick glimpse of what goes beneath the multiple layers of coaching sessions and how to arrive at a successful coaching result.

As a Life Leadership Coach, I’ve had the opportunity to connect and coach many individuals from different backgrounds with diverse sets of issues. One of the common threads among all unresolved issues were -

  • Justification
  • Rationalization
  • Intellectualization

Clients  who experienced one or all of the 3 required greater care and alertness to make them reach the specified coaching goals. A coach may experience difficulties with the coaching session if he/she is unable to observe these within a client. A coach may even justify the situation by saying, “I’m a bad coach” if he/she is unable to resolve the problem-areas. The coach may not be able to witness the shifts between deeper layers of emotions in a client.

There is a need to pause, reflect, and ask questions by displaying curiosity. 

What is Justification? Why should coaches be aware of this?
With justification, there is a need for an individual (client) to justify his or her actions. In many cases, wrongful acts or incorrect decisions are also justified without clarification thus not helping the client move forward. A coach needs to be able to observe this justification (which may turn into a blindspot making it difficult to ascertain). 

A client who wants to be fit may actually justify his procrastination of an exercise routine due to lack of time. “Oh! I don’t have the time to exercise!” he may say to his coach. Justification stems from the Critical parent whose thought processes have been absorbed in the growing up years. The internal critical voice defines what is right or wrong. What is good or bad. The need for this arises from the “Shoulds”, “Must”, “Have to” and “But, if” which materializes into, “Oh! I should not have done this.” Thus, justification becomes a process of determining one’s actions that are deemed right as per the beliefs installed in the thinking system. This is done without being consciously aware of what is being conveyed. 

Justifications exist at an individual and societal level. These are based on the values as per the role in the system. As a child grows up, he may form his/her own beliefs as well. But, this is often put under restraint due to the beliefs held individually or displayed to the public. Sigmund Freud mentioned that we filter out our feelings, wishes, images from the self-conscious system. Justifications are designed so that the individual and the people around accept the reason that is being justified.


Another aspect that is important to coaching methods is being observant of Rationalization.

What is Rationalization? 
A client may rationalize his/her behavior in situations by coming up with an explanation that is designed to make the behavior acceptable to others (coach). One can define it as “making excuses” i.e. internalizing things. What happens when a client rationalizes? He/she may justify controversial behaviors which are put across simply and logically. The rationalization may not be visible on the outer layers. Deep down, they may be unrelated and the larger picture may be invisible to the client and coach. 

Example: A person may plan to apply to a job but doesn’t do it. He rationalizes by saying, “Oh! What’s the use, I may not get the job anyway!” He may come to the coach for career coaching but his goals would be blocked with rationalization.

A woman who is in a bad relationship won’t step away because she’ll feel, “Oh! He may change someday.”

The inherent emotional issues are not being addressed with rationalization. A person changes the facts to justify the actions, desires, behavior, one’s emotions, and more. A person who wants to apply to that job may have self-confidence and self-worth issues. The woman may be too afraid to begin a new life with no belief in her abilities. Both may seek coaching to improve their personality but it needs the skill to look deeper beyond the layers to identify the blockage towards growth. 

Everything that happens here is internal. There is no awareness about addressing it. Justification and rationalization often overlap to present a different picture to the coach.

There is yet another way one avoids addressing one’s emotions. This is often cloaked with the cover of intellectualization.

What is Intellectualization? 
A person who does not acknowledge the emotions but focuses only on the thinking level displays intellectualization. An individual puts up the defenses to avoid experiencing one’s unpleasant feelings on a deeper level. The client does not bring it to the surface level and does not acknowledge this emotion with self. 

Intellectualization may be good to ensure a person can handle tough situations albeit for a short while. In the long run, intellectualization may not be a healthy option as one ignores the emotions by holding them within. This means, an individual is not allowing his/her difficult emotions to be processed. It’s akin to being numb to certain things to make one deal with reality without experiencing some or all of the emotions. Intellectualization is also a part of justification.

Everything that happens here is internal. There is no awareness about addressing it.

A coach needs to partner with the client to work toanaging emotions. There is a need to bring awareness to avoid shutting down emotions by experiencing and letting them go. 

Often, justification includes rationalization and intellectualization making it tougher for the coaching process.
How does a coach work towards addressing deeper issues?

The methods of reflection, and taking a pause… 

Mindfulness coaching in particular raises one's awareness of the present moment. One can witness and experience the emotions without any judgment. One does not attach the emotion to the situation but is able to sense it as it happens. There is no denial or pushing away of the same. There is a strong awareness of what is happening, why is it happening and how one can be at ease. 

Mindfulness Coaching brings the attention to reflection

I urge coaches to practice the methods of processing information. Why does a client get defensive? Understand that he/she has no permission to think or experience emotions as they are. They may be conditioned to defend or protect their feelings as a result of things experienced during childhood days. They may not be allowed to reflect and explore emotions which makes them choose to justify, rationalize or intellectualize their thinking. There is a need to pause, reflect, and ask questions by displaying curiosity. 

How does one develop the habit to pause and reflect?
Adopt Mindfulness practice!

  • Read self-help books
  • Meditate
  • Vipassana
  • Reflect on self
  • Get Coach Supervision

By building these habits, you equip yourself to deal with internal critical dialogues. You learn to pause and reflect without being impacted by your emotions. As you practice this with self, you move a client to make his/her own decisions without seeming to enforce, suggest, control, or guide the client. You build your coaching sessions to become client-centric without judging yourself and create space for the client to explore his/her goals. 

Mindfulness gives you the clarity to experience your coaching sessions without any attachment or the development of assumptions about self or others.

Have you tried being mindful in your coaching sessions? I’d like to know.

Dr. Paras


Dr. Paras

ICF-certified (Master Certified Coach) and ESIA -Coach Supervisor Dr. Paras, and Co-Founder of Dr Paras Wellness Pvt. Ltd. with brand Matrrix has been focused towards initiating change and transformation in people. As a certified Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) Master Practitioner and Mindfulness Coach, he brings a fresh approach towards learning the psychology of one’s thinking and behavior patterns. In his 18 years’ journey, he has trained, coached and mentored over 1.5 lakh individuals while certifying over 240 coaches. The leadership development programs of Matrrix have honed over hundreds of professionals while resolving workplace issues and ensuring higher ROI for firms.

Dr. Paras uses the power of coaching, counseling and positive psychology frameworks to resolve organizational issues, manage internal conflicts, and accelerate business growth. His programs for professional certifications in NLP, Mindfulness, Counseling, Coaching, and more have solidified his name as a transformation coach. Dr. Paras is also the founder of the Iinner Universe Education Foundation that runs Tava-Mitram (not-for-profit) to improve emotional wellness. He is also an avid blogger and social media enthusiast who loves keeping in touch with his international audience.

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