7 Ways Coaching Differs from Friendship

Over the years prospective clients have asked me to explain how coaching differs from friendship.  Here are my thoughts on the matter.

  1. Guarantee of  Confidentiality – Coaches commit to keeping the content exchanged during their client relationships private.  In fact, coaches do not acknowledge they have a professional relationship with a particular client without the client’s express permission.  Friends often share stories of their friends’ lives with other friends.
  2. Commitment– Coaches schedule a pre-determined amount of time with their clients each week, month or year.  Coaches prepare for client sessions and keep track of clients’ development.  Friendship is catch-as-catch-can; particularly for moms who are employed or entrepreneurs, friendship often falls to the bottom of the activity list by necessity.  Furthermore, a coaching relationship is finite, for however long the coach and client determine.  The premise of friendship is that it’s indefinite.
  3. All About You – Coaching is focused exclusively on the development of the client.  Coaches do not expect support from their clients, nor do they feel used if they don’t get equal time to talk about themselves. A healthy friendship goes two ways; it’s about what both people like, want and need.
  4. Professional Skills and Expertise – Coaches bring specific knowledge and capabilities to each relationship.  As a coach, I bring my toolkits in psychology, business, organizational change, and conflict resolution to every session.  It’s my professional responsibility to continue learning and growing so that I can add more and more value for my clients as they grow.  Friends typically do not feel responsible for educating each other.
  5. Role Models – Coaches are role models for effective communication.  They are willing to be open, direct, and even vulnerable for the sake of a client’s growth.  Friends naturally protect themselves at times conflict may arise, sometimes rightfully so.
  6. Objectivity – Coaches are non-judgmental.  As a coach, my only agenda is my client’s success.  Friends may have other agendas too.
  7. Transferability – Not all friends have coaching skills, but ideally coaches have friendship skills.  Occasionally, with their permission, I use my coaching skills with my friends.  I am fortunate to have relationships with both friends and coaches who do the same with me.

In the comment space below, please share your thoughts about these points and other comparisons, particularly if you have ever been a coach or a coaching client.  I look forward to the dialogue!


  1. Paula G

    I love this Debra! While I have talked about and tried to articulate this in the past, you do so very succinctly and professionally. There is a place in our life for coaches and friends yet it is important for people to understand the different dynamic, results, and impact.

  2. Debra Woog

    Thanks, all, for these comments. All great points! Here's a comment I received via email from someone who prefers to remain anonymous. "nice. yes, I always liked when we drew the line & officially made separate "coaching time" and "friendship time" "

  3. julia

    A very, very useful list for those thinking about using a coach but may rationalize they don't need one because their friends can help them … this article makes it clear how friends and coaches play VERY different roles. thanks for sharing!

  4. Jessica Zambarano

    Great article! Sometimes it feels like your friends are your personal coaches, but I think emotions often get in the way and you can't always count on them to be honest or clear or hold you accountable.

  5. Chris

    Great list, Debra! : )
    A Coach is this and so much more!! A Coach is a committed listener that holds the space for the client. What that means is the Coach holds the focus, needed learning and accountability for the Client to ensure they reach their goals. Coach's have the ability to 'see' what's missing that when put in would make a HUGE difference in how easily a client moves forward and addresses the strategies of 'how' to succeed.

  6. Debra Woog

    Thanks for commenting, Marcy. You added a great point about who wants help via coaching skills, and how much. I have had formal coaching relationships with friends over the years and in those I felt fully empowered to call them to step into their brilliance!

  7. Marcy

    Hi Debra – this is a great list! I've never consciously thought about this difference before.

    As a coach, one BIG difference between coaching and friendship is that my coaching clients WANT my feedback on what they don't see clearly about themselves. My ability to offer that with friends depends on how much they're into self-development, how deep our friendship is, and how well we know each other. Sometimes, friends just want to vent and they really don't want my thoughts on making it better 🙂