5 Ways Coaches Use Emotional Manipulation

The coaching industry is rife with toxic business practices and harmful industry standards. Here’s five ways that coaches use emotional manipulation in their content marketing to coerce you into committing to their programs.

1. Pain Point Marketing

Several of my followers on Instagram and people in my conscious business group on Facebook have mentioned selling to “pain points” as one of the unsavory practices in the coaching industry that they find unsettling.

I wanted to talk about that because, apparently in the coaching industry, pain point marketing is synonymous with emotional manipulation and marketing to the beliefs and emotions you have about yourself in relation to your business instead of solely focusing on tangible business problems.

These business coaches will tell you to:

  • study your clients like science projects
  • use their language to say what they want to hear
  • speak to their pain
  • break their beliefs
  • anticipate and Refute their potential objections

If a business coach can tap into your fear of failure – or better yet, create one where it didn’t exist before – they can easily manipulate you into viewing them as the solution to your problem. This is exploiting emotional vulnerabilities and it’s a common practice among abusers.

I don’t care if they claim to help you heal this fear, using your history of trauma (which is where this fear comes from) to make a sale is UNETHICAL AS FUCK.

In any other situation, someone who studies your behavior and uses your pain to coerce you into doing something you don’t actually want to do would be considered an emotionally abusive dickbag at best, and a stalker and/or rapist at worst, so why do we think this is smart business when it comes to taking people’s money?

Your potential clients are not pawns on a chess board. They are people.

In reality, a business coach is not qualified to heal your trauma, and no coach can change how you feel about yourself or what you believe about yourself, anyway. Only you can do that. But they can surely use your beliefs and feelings to mindfuck you into believing that you need pay them thousands of dollars.

When a coach uses this kind of manipulative language, they are automatically targeting people who are vulnerable, because it plays on personal insecurities.

It intentionally targets novices who aren’t comfortable in their practice or themselves and don’t totally feel like they know what they are doing ––
easy prey. If you are confident in yourself and your abilities, it doesn’t work, which means there is no actual tangible value being sold here. It’s all just emotional manipulation.

What Pain Point Marketing Actually Is

Let me be clear: in the 16 years I’ve worked in marketing and advertising, both agency and client-side, pain point marketing never had anything to do with a human being’s actual emotional state. Paint points have always simply been the business problems that create issues for you, or for the end consumer – the problems they have to solve in their daily lives that take up a lot of time.

Pain points were meant to market practical solutions to common issues that create frustration, like barriers to innovation, staying updated on industry trends, tracking and measuring campaign success, or a lack of alignment within the organization to the organization’s mission.

As you can see, these are not emotional issues. They are business problems.

Pain point marketing is simple: tell your prospective clients how your product/service solves their problem. It’s part of the value proposition and there’s nothing wrong with that. Many coaches, however, have no quantifiable value to offer, so they have to create the illusion of need in the client’s psyche. They do this by applying pressure to a prospective client’s insecurities, traumas, and basic survival fears.

2. Scarcity Triggers

Triggering basic survival fears is a favorite among toxic business coaches. They’ll tell you all about how you’re in a poverty or lack mindset.

Take for example, some of the real life marketing copy I’ve come across on Instagram from various business coaches:

“I can’t afford it.”

This statement is the exact reason you are poor.

If you constantly say you can’t afford it, then guess what?

You will never attract money into your life with that kind of mindset.

This coach manufactured a problem that doesn’t actually exist. You may have been fine before, but now you’re suddenly afraid you have a poverty mentality or scarcity mindset.

Learn why money mindset coaching is a scam.

3. Self-Blame

The way they get people to pay top dollar for services that don’t offer any value is to make clients ignore systemic issues and/or believe they are responsible for all problems, and therefore, they can pay someone to help them overcome this non-existent or systemic problem.

They create problems in your mind by connecting them with fear and shame so they can then swoop in like a hero with a magical solution. They do this by intentionally undermining your self-worth. Here’s a few more real life examples:

Fear of not being enough:

“Stop making excuses”
“You’re not fully committed”
“Stop playing small”
“Imposter Syndrome”
“Invest in yourself”

Fear of being a disappointment:

“You’re letting down other people/yourself/the world”

Fear of failure:

“You didn’t work hard enough”
“You didn’t make $50K because you made this mistake”


“It’s not a problem, it’s your thinking about it as a problem that’s making it a problem.”

Fear of criticism:

“If you start making less money and not getting ahead of this, you actually become a part of the problem.”

Fear of being weak, or fear of fear itself:

“THAT is how we keep the economy afloat–– not by avoiding running our businesses out of fear.”

4. Aspirational Marketing

Aspirational marketing is a favorite among Instagram coaches and influencers. If they can bombard you with images of themselves living their best life that give a false pretense of success, they can trigger your envy and feelings of lack, and then you’re more apt to be convinced when they tell you that this largely unattainable lifestyle that they manufactured for social media can also be yours if you just pay them $23,000 for their coaching program.

You know the rhetoric. It goes something like:

Would you like to earn millions of dollars?

Make more money than you ever dreamed of?

Quit your job?

Be set for life?

Do you dream of freedom, flexibility, and fun?

Being part of a community?

Helping your friends feel more beautiful?

Having meaningful, long-lasting relationships?

5. Extraordinary Claims

Unrealistic promises of success are another popular tactic that you’ll see very frequently. Some more real life coaching claims from the ‘Gram:

Increase your salary by $76K in 35 days.

Scale your business to 6 figures in just 3 months.

Run an 8-figure coaching business just working a few hours a day!

I went from mess to millionaire almost overnight with this process.

I stumbled across a secret to instant success.

Each of these tactics is specifically crafted to exploit a potential client’s fears, insecurities, and trigger a fawning trauma response. Any coach using these tactics to guilt trip prospective clients into “investing in themselves” is taking advantage of their prospective clients’ trauma as a means to convince them to invest in their services.

This is obviously predatory and unethical, so it’s perfectly understandable why someone with spiritually aligned values would not feel good about any of this –– but anyone who questions these abusive practices is often made to feel as though they are the problem, not the coach, and definitely not the industry itself.

If you’re a coach and you’ve ever felt “icky” about using these tactics, you are not alone. If you’re following any coaches and their posts make you doubt yourself, feel inferior, like you aren’t doing enough, or generally feel shitty afterward, that’s a giant waving red flag that you are being emotionally manipulated.

I’m working on a new (free) ebook that contains a comprehensive list of all of the toxic marketing practices in the coaching industry with examples of what they look like. No promises about how long it will take me, but it is in the design phase, so hopefully not too much longer! Be sure to get on my email list so you can catch the rollout announcement.


PS: If you found today's topic intriguing and you're an entrepreneur or practitioner who offers services to others, I would recommend checking out my articles on conscious business and subscribing to get notified when there are new posts. Learn how you can work with me here and be sure to check out my new online course, Ethical Entrepreneurship.

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