Chat GPT and AI bots vs human coaching

You’ve probably seen the headlines. Chat GPT launched in November 2022; the tech world is in a frenzy and the rest of the world is...intrigued.


What is Chat GPT?

It’s a new and vastly improved artificial intelligence chatbot (AI bot). These bots have been around for years but this is the first time one can generate human-sounding answers to questions - to a level that passes exams and does homework: academics worldwide are concerned. People are still working out what it can do and how to use it - it’s only a few months old, after all.

Can Chat GPT coach?

So the question is: can an AI bot actually coach? Can a chatbot really help people attain positive change in their lives?

The short answer is - kinda.

It’ll be some time still before any academic papers are released on the topic, but between my own testing, and academic research on older forms of AI, there’s reasonable evidence that bots can help people with simple practical changes.

Potentially, in some cases, they can help almost to the same level as humans can. I had to train the bot to take a coaching approach. And it’s slightly frustrating in its misinterpretations of what I’m looking for. I had to try a few different ways of phrasing things and often got less useful output. But it worked reasonably well at a practical level.

I tested it on simple practical areas - worries about giving a big presentation; having a difficult conversation with a colleague and also with a matter of more emotional importance to me (parental divorce).

  • Having to write answers to its questions is a useful exercise - it forces you to articulate and be clear. It's not as enjoyable or creative as a human conversation, but it’s potentially better than journaling as you’re being challenged with external questions.
  • It did a reasonable job of building up a sequence of questions to go deeper into the area. These were very textbook questions and generally very practical; they lacked the inspiration and creativity of a human coach. But they were still useful.
  • The practical conversations were significantly more useful than the emotional ones. The questions it asked for the emotional one were useful to force me to answer but any human coach would have been far better.

How can I use Chat GPT to coach me?

  • Chat GPT lives here.
    • Register - it’s free to use.
    • As it’s so popular, it sometimes crashes. There’s a paid version that you won’t need - it just gives you reliable access. For testing, you can probably just wait and try again in a while.
    • UK mornings tend to be the best time to use it, as the US is online from 2 pm onwards so it gets busy and crashes more often.
  • Tell it how to coach
    • It won’t know what you mean by ‘coach me to…’. Its default is to answer with lengthy sensible advice - or lists of questions. So you’ll need to tell it how to coach - often clarifying a few times after bad responses.
    • For example: 'Coach me on xxx', asking a single question. Await my response to one question, and then ask another question that goes deeper into my previous response.
    • If you’ve never been coached, you will probably struggle to get the bot to coach you as it’ll be hard to spot when it’s doing non-coachy things. But if you know what you’re looking for and have the patience to tell it what you want from it and how to go about it, it can be helpful.
  • Get going
    • From my tests, and from the research that exists in this field, it’s quite good for practical, clearly articulated needs - weight loss, interview preparation, etc. For more complex subjects - existential dread, ‘life is OK but there’s something missing’, life crossroads, patterns of behaviour that you’re only dimly aware of - its very practical slant of questioning might be of some use, but it’s unlikely to be transformational.

When should I use a human coach instead?

If you’re pretty self-motivated, clear on what you want, and just want to think something through with someone pressing you for more detail - a bot can be helpful.

For most other situations - a human coach will be better. They will generally pick up on important things in your body language, tone of voice, and things you’re not saying, and will have creative and empathetic questions that are more likely to help you make the changes you want.

The human coach will challenge you, pick up on what you’re not saying and doing, and will customise the work to your needs. And frankly, you’re unlikely to internalise a bot’s responses in the way you will a human coach’s.

So what next?

Humans still win.

  • Self-coaching helps a little.
  • Bot coaching helps a bit more - quite a bit, for practical things!
  • Human coaching is still the best - especially for more complex personal matters.

Do feel free to test out the bot anyway - anything that helps you get clarity is helpful. But when you’re ready for the next step - or irritated at the bot’s responses(!) - get in touch with me or book a discovery call

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London, SE16
Written by Lir Cowman, MBA, ACC ICF
London, SE16

Pragmatic, calm and positive. Deeply interested in and curious about my clients. Helping people transform is what drew me towards coaching - a single hour can change your life. As one client, who just did a single deep dive session, said: "I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders.....

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