While Jason had embraced the idea of an adventure in Japan, his family was resisting it. Jason knew he had to resolve this quickly, as his company expected an answer on Monday and he was afraid it would not bode well for his career if he said no. Jason realized that he let his excitement take over his better judgment and that he needed to backtrack with his family. He asked everyone to clean up for dinner; telling them that they would be going to their favorite restaurant in an hour.
Over dinner, Jason apologized to his family for being so self-absorbed that he didn’t consider their feelings and concerns. He asked that they hear him out and then they would have a chance to share their thoughts. He gave them an overview of the benefits of the expat package and why he thought it would be a great adventure for the family. He then asked each member of the family to share their thoughts. He acknowledged their feelings/concerns and suggested that everyone, including himself, think about it over night. The family would then speak again over breakfast with clear minds. After the kids were asleep, Jason and Susan continued the discussion. Jason realized that he, too, still had some questions and concerns. After Susan fell asleep, Jason analyzed the concerns, noting potential solutions and information that still needed to be collected. He reviewed this with the family in the morning and they all agreed to keep an open mind while they researched the opportunity. Their resistance began to soften in this neutral environment and they began to embrace the possibility of going to Japan.
By working with a cross cultural consultant, Bill was able to find potential solutions to nearly all of the family’s concerns. Bill’s family would help support Susan’s parents. The company offered two home leave trips per year, so the family could return home for Christmas and the whole summer to reconnect with family and friends. Bill would return to the home office regularly, connecting with family and professional/personal contacts, as well as bringing back American items that could not be sourced in Japan. Tokyo offered excellent international schools and social/professional clubs with many activities for the family. The family had deserted resistance and began to embrace the idea of moving to Tokyo with growing excitement. The one sticking point was Susan’s career.
- By resisting the opportunity to move to Tokyo, what emotions did Jason’s family members experience and what were the root causes of these feelings?
- As a coach, what tools would you use to help Susan determine whether or not to agree to move to Tokyo?
- Regardless of the family’s decision, what could they learn from this experience?
Many clients are facing some sort of unwelcome change or would like to make a change. These may be one in the same at the root. Regardless, the coach can add a great deal of value to the client by helping to build self awareness in this area. Working with a client to shift from a place of resisting to a place of embracing can relieve stress, clear the mind and increase progress.
How can a coach tell if a client is resisting change?
There will be clients who will be self aware and admit to resisting change – know what they need to work on to move forward and just want the coach to offer support along the way. At the other end of the spectrum, a client may be completely unaware or even in denial. These clients may seem stuck. They may not be taking action (i.e., completing their fieldwork) or it may be more subtle – in the form of playing the victim, acting stressed or fearful, blaming others.
Once resistance is detected, how can the coach help shift the client?
From a coaching perspective, power questions play a key role in the shift. A client who is told that s/he is resisting may become even more so. A client who is allowed to discover his/her own resistance is likely to shift to embracing the change much more authentically and quickly. The coach can ask key questions in the following areas to help the client determine the best way to shift to a position on embracing the change.
Build an overview of the situation – observing the difference between fact and opinion/emotion. Acknowledge and assure the client when appropriate.
Identify what is actually being resisted:
By digging down to the root of the resistance, the coach can assist the client in simplifying the situation – making it more manageable. At a base level, an underlying belief may be the root cause of the resistance. Byron Katie’s The Work offers a tool to assist coaches in helping a client assess an underlying belief.
- Is it true?
- Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
- How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
- What would you be without the thought?
Once the client begins to question the underlying belief, options will begin to develop – moving the client from resisting to embracing and owning. Moving from fear to freedom.
It is important to work to develop steps to ensure that the shift remains. The steps can range from an action plan to deal with the change to even just putting supports in place to help the client remember the mental shift. The latter is especially important in extreme cases when all the client is able to do is change his/her own attitude.
- * What can you do if you detect that your client is resisting coaching itself?
- * What are some power questions you could ask your client if you suspect s/he is unable to embrace a situation?
Katie, Byron and Mitchell, Stephen. (2003). Loving What Is: The Four Questions That Can Change Your Life. USA: Three Rivers Press.
Tolle, Eckhart. (1999). The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment. USA: New World Library.