A Coaching Power Tool Created by Inês Paler
(Life Coach, SWITZERLAND)
Resistance: from Latin resistere , it means to hold back.
Resilience: from Latin resilens , it means to rebound, recoil, elasticity.
“The only constant is change” . And yet change can take so many forms: 1 the subtle, almost imperceptible change, or the one happening at every single moment; the dramatic one that will turn something upside down in a split second; and that change that, while very impactful, is more gradual. Some change we can control, others we cannot; some we can initiate; others we cannot; some feel permanent, others seem reversible and malleable. And here we are, each day, living change.
Reframing Perspectives is a Power Tool that stands out for its capacity to live change in a way that suits us best, that allows us to take the most out of change. By giving us the possibility to wear different glasses, we can look at the world and the situation in a different way and take on new perspectives – it gives us options, it gives us kindness towards ourselves and a renewed sense of empowerment and accountability. Indeed, being able to take a moment instead of impulsively or passively reacting will enable us to look at situation from different angles, using different hats of thinking and possibilities. With this, we are in a better position to evaluate and choose what is the best way for us to respond.
An underlying power is required, though: the possibility to adapt, to accept and embrace change. For that, Resistance vs Resilience will be a powerful and fundamental tool to live change in a way that works for us.
Change affects our equilibrium, the way things are, feel or are perceived in a give moment. This can be uncomfortable, even when that change is positive and brings us closer to a desired new equilibrium. We are biased for inaction – as Newton’s first law declares: “An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction”. The exception, of course, is when it’s affected by an unbalanced force, an agent of change. In practice, it requires energy, sometimes learning new things, breaking habits, facing the unknown, dealing with loss, rebuilding relationships… all of that takes risk, energy, time.
There’s a sense of being vulnerable when we don’t resist. And, yet, by resisting we are less flexible and adaptable, which can cause us to miss out, to break our spirits.
Now, resistance can take many shapes and in being able to recognize it we are better equipped to be aware of it and to deal with that resistance, when so we chose to.
Types of Resistance:
This type of resistance is generally perceived as based in facts. The change doesn’t seem to fit within reason and logical aspects. For example, the client might feel there’s not enough time, space, money or other resource to adapt to change.
Dealing with this can be fun and creative, if the client is open for that. Finding solutions to address and solve these requirements puts the client back in the driving seat, with autonomy and power to be an active agent in this process.
As a coach, an important thing to notice is that, often times, what seems like a rational resistance is actually a disguise for other types of resistance. It’s important to build the trust between client and coach to be able to dig deeper and understand what are the real reasons to avoid change.
With this type of resistance, the client is facing emotions and feelings that prevent them from embracing change. Fear of the unknown, lack of trust and/or confidence, resistance to change in general, anger… so many things can be influence and affecting how the client is resisting the situation. In this case, it is key to work together to understand the attitudes, the beliefs and perceptions that are triggering this resistance.
It takes courage, self awareness and open mind (and heart!) for the client to explore and face what’s really happening within them. Only after this, can the client fully discover the best way to approach the situation.
Last but not least, social resistance is based on expectations we believe others have of us, the pressure to stand out or fit in, the higher or lower need to feel loved, that we belong, that we add value to the community… Fear of conflict of values, hierarchies, the need for power and status, respect… so many aspects in our relation to others can have a tremendous impact on how we experience change.
This complex set of relations needs to be addressed for the client to fully understand their resistance, what the trade offs are, and the possible solutions in terms of how to experience the change in the most positive way for their lives.
Resistance can be then expressed in different ways, and you can find a close comparison with the stress response with Fight, Flight or Freeze reactions . Similarly, 2 resistance can be expressed as a rebellious behaviour (fight), a dismissal and avoidance (flight) or doubt, confusion and denial (freeze).
Of course, life is complex and the situations we come across are seldom fitting any one category or label we might try to tag them with. Hence, the above categorization aims only at providing some guidance and framework to help exploring the situation. Having said that, it is important to be aware that the resistance the client is facing might be based on aspects that are both rational, emotional and/or social.
Dealing with it:
Change ends up putting us in a stream of water, with its currents, waves and swirls – it is up to us to resist it, to fight and try to stand still or to embrace its energy, its flow and move with it, often steering ourselves in the direction we want.
For this, the recommendation is resilience: the ability to understand the stream, how we feel about it and then adapt ourselves, our movement and our sails to go where we want to go.
Thinking of the bamboo is much like thinking of resilience. It bends and swings with the wind, responding to it but keeping its roots on the ground, firm and strong. While the wind blows, strong or smoothly, eventually it will pass and fade away but the bamboo remains, tall as ever, growing quickly despite it all, without fighting its surroundings.
So can our clients be, swinging and adapting to change while remaining true and connected to their foundation of values and purpose.
An important aspect in being resilient is the capacity to adapt, to reshape things. It’s important in the relationship to the client to explore ways to feel empowered to adapt and reshape themselves, the change or how they perceive it – if, of course, this is what the client wants.
Looking at the guidance provided by Psychology Today , there are a 3 few ways to assist becoming more resilient, inc.:
- “Making connections”, in order to build a good support system through family members, friends, different associations and communities. Here, our module on “Values and Life Purpose” can be very helpful in exploring what would make most sense for the client.
- “Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems” and “Keep things in perspective”. Our power tool on Reframing perspectives can prove invaluable in this point, enabling the client to better deal with change.
- “Accept that change is a part of life”. Mindfulness, Visualization, and other tools can be very helpful in this initiative that can be a life journey for many, as demonstrated by those who dedicate their lives to being monks and buddhas while chasing this realization.
- “Move towards your goals” and “Take Decisive Actions”. A key benefit of a coaching relationship, we can support our clients identifying and making progress towards what they really want to achieve, using our various Coach Skills4.
- “Look for opportunities of self-discovery”. As we deal with change, within and around us, our bodies, minds and souls respond to it. This response hold unique information about who and how we are at the moment. With this awareness, we can learn more about ourselves and the world we live in.
- “Nurture a positive view of yourself”. And “Maintain a hopeful outlook”. Intent, Gratitude, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy are some of the tools coaches can use to support the client achieving a more positive attitude towards themselves, others and their context, if so they wish and need. These should support getting confidence, lowering stress and fear and trust instincts to move forwards in their life purpose.
- To support all of the above “Take care of yourself” is the last suggestion from Psychology today. This will allow the client to feel better about themselves and be stronger when dealing with everything else. No one can give and care for others in a sustainable manner if they
And what great news this is, that as a coach we can have a positive impact in supporting our clients through all of this suggestions! While coaches are not psychologists, these suggestions can provide a framework by which coaches can use a wide variety of tools (as described above) to assist the client living life and changes with resilience and adaptation in a manner that is aligned with their values and purpose.
In short, resilience is a strong alternative to resistance, in dealing with change and obstacles in life. To better visualize it, let’s look at their main characteristics
J is a physical therapist that has been in the body and movement profession all of his life. His mission and life purpose is to help others heal and his medium for that is the body, through physical education, training and recovery.
Since early ages, J has had hearing problems but thanks to technology, he can interact with others and the world around him seamlessly and it might take a long time before someone else notices that there’s sometimes a small device he wears.
However, recently J noticed that things were getting worse. Particularly, when there were stressful moments or when he was in conflict between his values and his behaviours. For example, he joined a trip that was highly expensive to attend a training that was not particularly different from what he could get in Europe but it was required to take in the USA. Given his values around frugality and being close to his family, J felt at odds and stressed. His hearing immediately worsened.
Episodes like this one continued to happen and J kept struggling through them and taking them as one-off or cyclical issues. But it didn’t get better, it didn’t go away.
J believed that his life and personality were deeply rooted in the fact that he could hear properly. It would be, in his perspective, impossible to continue to work, maintain his relationships and be the person he was if he couldn’t listen or talk the same way with others.
This lead to a strong resistance to what was happening, in the form of avoidance, denial, rumination and worry – he was in a state of dread.
There was also anger. “How unfair is it, when you dedicate your life to others, that you become injured and restrained from helping others?” There was a strong belief that life should be fair(er) and a perspective that he was being wronged, a victim that didn’t deserve it. Given the frustration, he was suppressing his feelings and situation but then simmering and quarreling with others, particularly those closest to him.
And this anger only fueled matters worse, as his hearing kept sending strong signals it was not getting better.
After a particularly bad day, when J was getting annoyed at the background noise, not being able to listen properly and realizing on people’s faces that he was shouting because he couldn’t tell the volume of his voice, he broke down and gave up all the resistance. He sat down and accepted all that he was truly feeling: anger, sadness, fear, disappointment.
J took the time and courage to experience all those feelings and understand where they were coming from. He approached his family and shared all of his concerns. He read and asked for guidance in coaching, in literature, in friends, in himself.
And so he decided it was time to embrace his situation, and drop some of his believes. Fair or not, hard or not, it was time to do two things:
- Face the conflicts in his life and either change perspective or change behaviour. As a result, he started asking himself before each big decision: how do I truly feel about this? How can I act in a way that moves me forward without compromising my values? It would be wonderful to tell you that since this happened, J’s hearing improved. But it hasn’t - not yet, anyways. He has however, been happier and more relaxed, which also helped dealing with the hearing loss.
- Face the hearing loss and the possibility that he will become completely deaf. With a tremendous amount of courage and self awareness, J is now preparing for this possibility. He put together an action plan that will allow him to continue his life purpose and his relationships even without the ability to listen. For example, he is now learning the sign language and learning to read lips, together with his partner. He is also, preparing a business strategy to provide his healing services to those who can’t hear or talk.
There are still bad days, when J is tired and sad. But he is now determined to make it work, to be ready for change and embrace what comes in a positive manner.