There are many additional tools we can deploy when working with our clients who face resistance rather than movement, these can include:
We can ask our client to project forward a number of years to a time when they have reached their goal and gone past their resistance. We can ask them how it feels to reach their goal and how it felt to make that movement. We can deploy a number of techniques here, we can use visualisation or we can use some form of roll play.
We can ask them what challenges they faced on that future journey and how they overcame those challenges.
In essence we can help our clients project success, project themselves into a new situation and to start to feel that situation, to start to feel comfortable with that new place and to start to feel confident to identify the first step on that journey.
What if questions:
We can use the ‘what if’ question, this can take courage and we have to have ensured we have created a safe space for our client. The ‘what if’ question sounds like ‘What would happen if you take this movement?’ or ‘What would happen if you resist this movement?’ These can help the client compare and contrast two potential options, whilst this may not be the single question that allow the client to move it can certainly help move them along the path to taking action.
We can ask the client to recall a time when things have been tough and they have not felt like making movement and have resisted change and resisted taking action.
If we can find a time when they have faced a fear, or have overcome resistance we can ask them how that felt, what happened and how they felt when they moved into movement. We can ask our client what steps they took in the past and how they felt, we can ask if these steps would work now.
Often we find ourselves ‘bottling up’ feelings, fears and emotions. It is here that our fears can grow and expand, filling gaps in our minds. Asking our client if they have anyone to share with, a close friend, family member or spouse can give our client a chance to pause and take stock. We can then ask if they could imagine how that close friend would respond, what they would say and how our client would respond to that feeling.
Finding the underlying belief:
We can use a combination of the tools above to try and find if there is an underlying belief that is stopping or hindering the client from taking movement.
Often there is an automatic underlying belief that contributes to the resistance the client faces. Very often this belief has in the past suited the client and has served them well. Perhaps as a child the belief helped them overcome a situation, or perhaps it was inherited from their parents, maybe they developed it as a teenager. However the belief arose there was more than likely a time when it served them and was of benefit, or perceived to be of benefit. The two can be very different, but the fact the underlying belief can now hinder their attempts to take movement by offering resistance is the important issue for our client.
An underlying belief can be the key factor in resistance. It can generate fear, even if there is no concrete proof that the fear is valid (This is talking from an external non-coaching perspective, from within the coaching relationship it is of course a valid fear). As coaches we need to approach an underlying belief with care, curiosity and concern for our client. An underlying belief is often strongly held and may not be changed, removed or even slightly altered in the course of a single coaching session. Often we need to work with our clients over a period of weeks to identify, acknowledge the existence of and hopefully start to work to change the belief. We should not expect a ‘quick fix’ with an underlying belief. In fact we should not expect anything, expectation on the part of the coach can get in the way of the coaching process and it is important that as coaches we maintain a strong, curious, supportive and caring position from which we can create an environment where the client is able to develop self awareness and to take action.
Accepting resistance and lack of movement
Whilst as coaches we want to help our clients become self aware and to move into action we have to accept that this may not always be possible.
The client may acknowledge that saying no to resistance, developing self awareness, taking movement and action are all desirable it may just be that this specific time is not right for them to do any of that. However if the client can move to a position where they become aware of this then the coaching has clearly been of value to them. Knowing and understanding something that they were unaware of before, or getting a clearer picture of something that they only had a faint hit of before is success for the client. (Here we must acknowledge that ‘success’ is not something we should desire at the start of the coaching, as coaches our task should be to support the client not to impose visions of ‘success’ either the concept or our vision of ‘success’. However for this article the use of the word success indicates some form of developed awareness).
The path to from resistance to movement can be a long one and is certainly one that could offer a challenge the client. As coaches we need to be aware of and be able to deploy a range of tools to help our clients develop awareness, overcome resistance and make movement. This can be a slow process, we can often be faced with underlying beliefs that the client has held for many years. We need to be confident in our abilities, be able to deploy our intuition and to hold the space that will support our client on their journey. Whilst doing this we must be willing to acknowledge that this moment may not be the right time for the client to overcome that resistance and to take movement. However in acknowledging that we can often support the client as they gain that understanding and that understanding is often the first step on the road to eventually taking movement.