Is Your Business/Life Coach a Sociopath?

For the past few weeks, the social fringes of the coaching world have started fraying among a small group of critically engaged, actively frustrated folks.  People with certifications, degrees, and abilities out the wazoo.  Engaged and enraged by the HEAPING TON of bullshit circulating the world of the interwebs, these smart coaches and professionals have started rounding the troops to blow the proverbial whistle on the industry.

The response? Utterly epic.

Angry so-called ‘coaches’ crying nonsense, vulnerable victims saying ‘this happened to me too!’, people coming out of the woodwork in droves to proclaim from the rooftops ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

I too have joined the cries and the frustration, in fact I wrote a pretty angry facebook post about it today.  But you see?  The problem with all of these posts so far is that they don’t get to the root of the problem.

The coaching world is rife with sociopaths.

There. I said it. And the worst part? It is other sociopaths that have created these minions.

Don’t believe me?

How many times have you seen the following story posted?

“Just a year ago I was bouncing from job to job, was broke, and couldn’t keep a relationship solid to save my life.  These days I started a coaching business without even a certification from a reputable agency and now I make one billion dollars!  I have the love of my life, I am so over the moon happy, and everything is perfect.  You can do it too!  Just pay me 3 easy payments of your soul, your first born, and your life savings and I’ll teach you how to do it. And if you don’t hire me?  You’ll never succeed.  xoxo Your favorite coach”

Sound familiar?

That’s because it is. If you’ve been in the coaching world or online marketing world forever this is the common refrain. The ubiquitous battle cry.

There is nothing wrong inherently with this story. In fact, it is a great story.  BUT it is problematic if:

a) It isn’t true.

b) They don’t deliver on the material,  or

c) They manipulate you into thinking this is the only way to be successful in online business.

Side note & Funny story….Did you know that some coaching schools are supposedly advocating for this level of lying in your marketing because it leads to more sales?  Cute, eh?  ‘Coaching schools’ are LITERALLY breeding tiny, lemming sociopaths.

Want to avoid ending up with a sociopath as a coach?

Here are 7 warning signs of sociopaths from the DSM* (it’s the diagnostic bible for psychology) and how they manifest in coaches/coaching.

Warning Sign #1: Ego Driven Self-Identity

This is the biggest one.  But not enough to qualify someone.  According to the DSM-5, ego-centrism is a huge driver of sociopathic behaviors.  In fact the self-esteem of sociopaths tends to be derived by personal gain, power, or pleasure.  If gain, power, or pleasure shifts…Their self-esteem drops drastically.

How this manifests in coaching:  Do they post constantly about how perfect and amazing their life is without reference to the how it got there?  Or maybe they only post about their successes and never their failures.  OR maybe they are high as a kite one day because they are SO SUCCESSFUL, then two days later are posting how sad and depressed they are and miserable because one potential client said ‘no thanks’ .  Or their income drops by 10% and they freak out instead of say ‘ah yes, I’m doing well still’. Or they never talk about gratitude, their mentors, etc. and say it was ‘all them’?  Do they conflate their success so far with the ability to share it and be a gazillionaire?  (RUN AWAY.)

OR the best one?

They say “I have all the answers” but have zero training, experience, or long-term chops to prove to you they can do it. But they say they can teach you anyhow.

All this points to this warning sign #1.

And generally speaking someone much like them coached them into this belief they can do anything (without proving themselves first).

Warning Sign #2: Whacked Out Goal Setting

Goal setting is meant to be a holistic process.  And according to the DSM-5, if a person’s goal-setting is all 100% personally motivated, and focused only on the gratification of ME ME ME then we have a major problem.   Good goal setting?  The Desire Map.  Bad goal setting?  Pinky and the Brain taking over the world-ing. 

How this manifests in coaching:  They talk about their money goals almost exclusively and never refer to other goals they have for their life, family, house, etc.  Or maybe they talk about their money goals without saying WHY they want that money?  And they can’t often explain why they want more money other than to say ‘abundance’.  And their goals seem intrinsically linked to how successful they will be, and have zero relevance to other less tangible stuff (happiness, etc).

Warning Sign #3: Lack of empathy and Generalized Callousness

Empathy is defined as the ability to share or understand the feelings of another.  And a lack of this ability shows some warning signs to being not ‘normal’.  And how about people who in general don’t feel for people who are struggling because the struggle is just some ‘mindset’ or ‘story’?  They can shove off too.  (That is called callous.)

How this manifests in coaching:  Coach mistreats you then says it’s your fault?  Or screws up and doesn’t apologize or says it is YOUR mindset?  That is lack of remorse.  Or maybe they say “Oh I hear how difficult your situation is but if you truly want it you’ll find the money?” Yeah…Also lack of empathy.  And that notion that ‘your life situation is all 100% mindset’, also bullshit callous nonsense.

Warning Sign #4: Manipulation

Manipulation is a huge problem and is a favorite tool among sociopaths. Manipulation can be quantified by many things including using your influence to control others, and a focus on seduction and charm to influence others.  (AKA making people like you because you’re ‘awesome’ not because you’re ‘of value’ so to speak.

Another key of this?  Shiny, sparkly, enigma. It feels…Off.  There isn’t much to say about that, other than it doesn’t feel real.  It feels manufactured.

How this manifests in coaching:  Think that saying ‘buy this coaching package or you’ll never be successful” is a sales tactic?  Think again.

Coaches, people, and business owners who only use manipulation are worth steering wicked far far away from.  Sales is showing people why they need your thing, manipulation is telling people they NEED IT no matter what.

Shaming people into purchasing packages. Coaches that say that only THEY have the ability to make the shifts happen, no other coach.  Coaches who promise six figures in their marketing and then make you sign a waiver that says ‘I can’t promise it will happen, sorry.’  Coaches who bully you into believing it is ALL YOUR FAULT and that there is zero onus on them?  Yeah…All of that is manipulation.

Warning Sign #5: Deceitfulness and Misrepresentation

This is my favorite.  DSM says:  Lying, embellishment, and misrepresentation of facts as they occurred is a big ‘un.  Over exaggeration?  Also a thing.  This is a big problem because it undermines trust, and creates distance from the truth.  Sociopaths aren’t a huge fan of the truth.

How this manifests in coaching:  Those rags to riches stories?  They are great.  If they actually happened. All those posts about freedom?  ALSO FAB!  IF they happened.

Lying and misrepresenting your experience, point of view, or current state of being?  Big problem.  Blatant embellishment and fabrication of events is the kicker.  See also:  Fraudulence.

Read Becca’s treatise on this.  Better than anything I can add here.  

Warning Sign #6: Irresponsibility

According to the DSM-5, many sociopaths have difficulty claiming responsibility for their actions and way of being in the world.  This can manifest in hundreds of ways, but often shows a lack of remorse for behaviors such as mistakes they have made, difficulty owning up to financial responsibilities, and more.

How this manifests in coaching:  Does your coach have a general dislike and disrespect for their financial obligations? Did the coach screw up and not deliver a program and then proceed to NOT offer refunds?  Or did they say “but I almost gave everything to you so you can’t be mad.  And I learned so much from it!” Yeah…Those are red flags.  And my dear friends over at Makeness media knocked this one out of the park.

Warning Sign #7: Difficulty Sticking to Things, People, Plans

One of the major signs is constantly changing directions with no clear reason.  Saying that their old employers/lovers/clients ‘just couldn’t handle them’.  Or that they don’t/never have had any friends?  These are big old flag waving WOAH moments to look out for.

How this manifests in coaching:  Launching new programs constantly.  Rebranding every year.  New relationships regularly.  Couldn’t hold a steady job before they were a coach.  Always posting about new lovers and shouting about how perfect this person is as compared to the last 20 people.  Always talking about how ‘unemployable’ they are. Saying that they never have friends and can’t make friends.

Now, should you go and start diagnosing the coaches of the internet?

NO.  Definitely not.  Especially because probably ALL of us fall prey to this stuff.  We’re humans, and the internet more or less increases the sociopathic tendencies of humans as a whole.  

BUT, should you watch out for some of these things?

 YES!  Yes yes yes. And should you ALSO check yourself?  Double yes.


So what now?

Well, if you don’t want to get sucked into the sociopathic cluster avoid these things/marketing tactics….

1.  You need this program

If a coach says you need them?  You don’t.  Full stop.  You don’t need anything but yourself and your genius.  The rest is bonus gravy.

2.  You’ll make 6 or 7  figures working with me

I have seen ONE coach who has claimed this and offered a 90% money back guarantee if she didn’t make it happen for you.  The rest?  It is nonsense.  Any marketing that claims you’ll make oodles of money is frequently lying.

3.  Inconsistent Storytelling

Last month was the person saying how broke they were and this month they are making $10,000?  Unlikely.  And likely a lie, because the minute they say it SO MANY PEOPLE will pay them to teach them how to do it too.  Don’t be that person.

4.  They won’t give you references

When you hire a coach, CHECK REFERENCES!  For goodness sake.  Seriously.  You would NEVER hire an employee without checking, so check your coach’s references.  It isn’t that hard!  They have testimonials, talk to those people.

Want to share some moments in the comments?  Feel free.  Tell us about the crazy things you’ve seen in the online world. All I ask?  Zero naming and shaming.  Because it is OUR radical responsibility to do the research, and the issue is industry wide.  A few names does diddly squat.

Merci buckets.

*Please note:  I know a lot of amazing coaches, and I am not a professional mental health anything.  I’m a coach.  BUT, I am also a fantastic researcher.  Have extensive coursework in psychology & coaching.  AND wrote this article taking material from the DSM-5, the bible of psychology.  This is the diagnostic criteria written by all the smarty pants, well-educated psychologists and psychiatrists use.


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