Cognitive distortions are the lies your brain tells you. If your client does not recognize these lies, it can stop your progress and overall growth. As a micro business coach and consultant, in McDonough, GA, I find that distorted thinking patterns are obstacles that separate clients from achieving success. As a life coach, you can use proven psychology tools to empower your clients to stare down and conquer the lies their minds tell them.

What Are Cognitive Distortions?

Cognitive Distortions are irrational judgments that warp your perception of reality. They are a result of "lies" people tell themselves based on their thoughts and emotions around an experience. These illogicalities lead to self-defeating and forward-progress-halting behaviors.

Irrational Thinking: Cognitive Distortions, Part 1 | The Human Mind Owner’s Manual (CBT and REBT) [Video From Transformation Academy's Joeel Rivera]

What Are Cognitive Behavioral and Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapies

In the psychotherapy domain, two types of talk treatment include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and rational emotive behavioral therapy (REBT). Therapists use cognitive behavioral therapy to help patients challenge the accuracy. REBT is CBT with an added layer. This treatment helps people unfold the root of distorted thinking.

So, what's the real difference between CBT and REBT? Both CBT and REBT both help with illogical thinking; however, the latter helps you understand why you think the way you do. Remembering that therapy and coaching are not the same, cognitive tools can help your clients identify and replace behaviors that get in their way of reaching their goals.

As a coach, it is not your job to unpack or help your client heal from the trauma behind the irrational thought. Your job is to move them forward.

Here Are 8 Cognitive Distortions And What to Do About Them

  1. Polarized Thinking [All-or-Nothing]

    Polarized thinking causes you to generalize a situation without taking the time to process it in its entirety. It derives from a victim mentality, which more than likely comes from a bad experience. People with victim-thinking perceive extremes in situations and avoid taking responsibility.

    For instance, Michael saw a great deal on a camera. He’d been waiting for a special for months, and today was the final day of the sale. He excitedly went to the store, only to find out the last camera in stock was just sold to another customer.

    Michael angrily stormed away grumbling, “Things never work out for me!” He stormed off before the salesperson could offer a raincheck, honoring the sale price.

    How to help your client: Help your clients see the gray between the black-and-white by encouraging them to challenge their way of thinking. Empower them by helping recognized extreme (and untrue) deductions and finding alternative ways of responding to disappointments.

    If Michael had better control of his emotions, he could have separated his feelings from his actions. His irrational thoughts clouded his judgment and opportunities.

  2. Overgeneralization

    Overgeneralization is a cognitive distortion where you draw a flawed conclusion about a group or situation based on one example. I had a case where a client concluded she would never be successful at running a business because her two first attempts were failures.

    How to help your client: The best way to deal with discouraged clients that overgeneralize is to have them find examples that disprove their thoughts.

    Fortunately, my business clients can find plenty of examples of well-established business people who had failures before achieving success. For instance, FedEx founder Fred Smith faced two significant setbacks before becoming a successful company. Oprah, the Queen of Talk, was told she was "unfit for TV."

  3. Jumping to Conclusions

    Jumping to conclusions is another type of negative thinking. With this faulty thinking, the client does so by either mind-reading or fortune-telling (no psychic ability involved).

    With mind-reading, the person assumes others are either negatively judging them or have ill-will towards them. While in fortune-telling, the client predicts a disastrous outcome before the situation occurs.

    For instance, Judy found out that the dress she ordered for an upcoming corporate event may not make it in time to have it altered before the event.

    “This is devastating! How can I show my face at this event? I can't attend and now I'll be passed over for the next promotion. My life is OVER,” she wailed.

    How to help your client: In this situation, help your clients reframe their thinking. Reframing is a way to change the way you look at your circumstance which leads to an experience that presents more options and alleviates stress. For example, looking at a failure as a learning experience or a disappointment as evidence that you are on the right road for success.

    Judy used reframing in her situation.

    “The possibility of the dress not coming on time concerns me; however, I have enough time to pick out another outfit, should the dress not make it on time. I can also call my seamstress to see if she can perform last-minute alterations. I’m grateful that the store let me know ahead of time that the delivery date is at risk.”

  4. Magnification or Minimization

    Magnification or minimization of a situation is where you either exaggerate or minimize the severity or significance of a circumstance.

    For example, Shelly took Lisa's car to the local store without asking for permission. When Shelly returned, Lisa accused her of stealing the vehicle while Shelly didn't see the big fuss since she was "only" gone for five minutes.

    Lisa exaggerated Shelly's unauthorized use while Shelly downplayed the severity of taking someone's property without permission.

    How to help your clients: Your client may magnify or downplay based on uncontrolled emotions. Ask your client to list the good and the bad in a given situation. Ultimately as your client sees that flaws do not discount who they are as a person, they will learn to take responsibility and to respond to a disappointment appropriately.

    After letting their emotions die down, Lisa and Shelly were able to come to a resolution.

    Lisa told Shelly, “I’m sorry I overreacted. While it may not seem to you that taking my car as a big deal, I felt disrespected and a little violated. I was wrong for accusing you of stealing my car. I let my heightened emotions judge the situation.“

    Shelly responded, “I was wrong for taking your car. I crossed a boundary and then minimized it. I'm sorry”

  5. Emotional Reasoning

    Emotional reasoning can send you into a tailspin. It is a cognitive distortion that makes you interpret your emotions as facts. When you assess things based on your feelings, it can lead to counterproductive behavior, such as procrastination.

    For example, Jimmy is a bright, hardworking young man who has always excelled at everything he does. He just found he failed the bar exam.

    “I’m a failure. Whatever gave me the notion that I could be a lawyer?”

    How to help your clients: There are plenty of effective CBT & RBET tools to coach your clients through emotional reasoning. One approach is to have them create two separate lists: one describing their emotions and the other describing the facts of the situation without referencing their feelings.

    They can also act as if a friend is experiencing the same negative emotions. Have them describe what they would tell that friend and ask them why the same wouldn't apply to their circumstances.

    Jimmy remembered the tools he learned from his coach. He decided to write a letter as if his best friend failed the bar. Jimmy then applied everything to himself. The letter writing help Jimmy see that failing the bar did not take away his intellect, wit, or accomplishments.

  6. Should Statements

    Should statements are negative thought patterns that either bring about or heightens existing feelings of anxiety, fear, or worry. They also cause you to avoid situations instead of facing them. You can spot these irrational thoughts as they often include words such as "should" or "ought."

    For example, Leslie gets nervous before tennis matches. Her anxiety increases on playday. Her stomach starts churning and she starts sweating.

    She then beats up her self by saying, "I shouldn't be nervous. I've been playing tennis since I a child! I ought to have gotten over this fear already."

    By the time Leslie’s playing the match, she is so tense that she appears unsportsmanlike. She knows that something has to change.

    How to help your clients: Have your clients evaluate self-defeating statements. Encourage them to come up with realistic and attainable solutions.

    With proper coaching Leslie, learned to be kinder to herself. As her nerves built up before the next match, she said, "I do hate that I get so nervous before a game. It's because I care very much about doing my best. I love this sport and while I don’t particularly like feeling anxious, I know my love for the sport is greater than my fear and I play my best every time I set my foot on the court.

    Leslie's healthy perspective helped her control her debilitating anxiety before a match. She now sees “game day nerves,” as proof that she does not take her skill or the game for granted.

  7. Personalization

    Have you ever been around someone that feels that everything people around them do is directed toward them? Personalization is a form of cognitive distortion where you take everything personal—even situations that have nothing to do with you.

    Larry was late for his colleague’s presentation. As he walked into the meeting, the projector malfunctioned. It delayed the meeting further by twenty minutes.

    “OMG! I have this knack of bringing bad luck to every situation!”

    How to help your clients: If any of your clients have similar situations, You can help your clients by asking them to challenge their assumptions. Another powerful tool is the survey method where they consult a group of trusted friends and family to help them find a better perspective.

    Larry talked to a few trusted colleagues about how he was feeling. He learned the meeting had not started because of the malfunctioning projector. The presenter was attempting to troubleshoot while waiting for technical support to arrive. The malfunction had nothing to do with him.

  8. Labeling and Mislabeling

    Labeling and mislabeling are overgeneralization’s extreme cousins. It’s when you attach a negative label to yourself or others that's disproportionate to the incident or problem.

    For example, Mike's boss always sings his praises. He's gotten two promotions in less than two years. However, Mike missed a critical project deadline without reporting that the date was at risk. Disappointed, his boss demanded an explanation.

    Feeling disrespected by his boss, Mike hastily concludes that his boss is unfair and he wants to quit immediately.

    How to help your client: Have your clients evaluate the incident from the person. You can support them in productive self-evaluation by asking them relevant questions.

    Mike realized that his response to the situation was inappropriate, immature, and aggressive. His boss had a right to be disappointed.

    “I apologized to my boss for not letting him know the project was at risk. I’d gotten so used to being praised that I became arrogant. Still, I’ve learned a lot from this situation. I now have better communication and project management skills.

Irrational Thinking: Cognitive Distortions, Part 2 | The Human Mind Owner’s Manual (CBT and REBT) [Video From Transformation Academy's Joeel Rivera]

Become a Cognitive Behavioral or REBT Coach

CBT and REBT techniques are powerful skills that can help your clients as a niche in itself or with another niche, such as life purpose, and business coaching. Transformation Academy offers a range of high-quality certification programs and online coaching techniques for affordable prices. I am a student, promoter, and affiliate marketer for Transformation Academy.

Use the links to get your discounts. And subscribe to my newsletters to receive notifications for future specials.

Certifications Options

CBT Cognitive Behavioral Life Coach Certification

Empower yourself and your client to master the ultimate manipulator, the mind. As a certified CBT Coach, you will help your clients: get unstuck, control their thoughts and emotions, stop self-sabotaging, and develop the confidence they need to take the driver's seat in their life.

Read the complete course description here.

Discount Code: Use daley70 to get a 70% discount off the regular course price.

REBT Mindset Life Coach Certification

Help your clients reach their potential by helping them recognize irrational thinking and limiting beliefs and replacing those limitations with empowering thoughts and actions. As a life coach, you want nothing more than to see your clients reach their potential!

The REBT Mindset coach certification will empower your clients to challenge self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviors and live the life off their dreams. Read the complete certification course description here:

Discount Code: Use daley70 to get a 70% discount off the regular course price.

Have questions? Submit your questions or feedback directly to me. Also, follow me on Facebook.

I am Jowanna Daley, a micro business coach, consultant, and an affiliate marketer with a passion for empowering people!