A client may become resistant if the coach is pushing them too much. Often, the coach wants the change more than the client does. Coaches will notice this when they feel like they are doing more work in the session than the client or if they find themselves becoming frustrated that the client has not made enough progress. When faced with this the coach needs to relax and let the client determine their course of action and the pace in which they will act. Coaches need to remember that progress for one person may look very different from another.
Another reason for resistance is when a coach is moving too fast. Change is very scary for some, and if they are pushed they will resist. The harder they are pushed the more they will resist. A coach facing this situation needs to back up to a point where the client was comfortable. Start from this point and take very small steps forward. Slow to the point where you feel that the client is pushing the coach forward, not the other way around. Basically revert to taking “baby steps”. Do not make the assumption that clients need to move at a specific pace. For some, very small steps forward is huge progress. Not everyone needs to make massive changes to make progress toward their goals.
Lack of feeling empathy may be a cause for resistance during the change process. Clients rarely change because of logic; they change due to an emotionally compelling reason. If the coach does not show they truly understand the client, the client will shut down and stop forward progress. If a client is faced with lack of empathy they will not feel the safety they need to progress forward. Faced with this situation, the coach needs to work on developing empathy for the client. Try to truly understand where the client is coming from, what they are going through, and what they are feeling. When questioning a client, use at least one empathetic response for every few questions asked. After coaching a long-term client, coaches tend to decrease empathic responses. Lack of empathy over time will develop into lack of rapport. If there is no rapport the client will not trust the coaching process and will not move forward.
A client may become resistant due to influences outside the coaching process. The changes the client is attempting to make may not be supported by their friends and/or family members. These individuals may attempt to sabotage their efforts because they want them to remain the same. Another possibility here is that the client may be seeking treatment because they are being coerced by another. They might be trying to appease another without any intention of changing. Here the coach must spend time exploring the support the client is receiving from outside sources and also look at the motivation for change.
If you are facing a client who is being resistant, it is necessary to avoid giving advice. The more advice that is given provides the client with more to resist against. A sure sign you are dealing with this type of resistance is the “yes, but” response. A technique in this situation is to “reverse the paradox. The more obvious possible solutions become the more naïve, inexperienced and uncertain your displayed attitude toward these solutions should be. The principal here is that your client cannot be resistant if there is nothing to resist” (Mitchell, 2006). The coach should maintain an attitude of uncertainty and surprise when the client is approaching a solution in this situation.
Even though many coaches may dislike when they are faced with resistance, it should not be viewed in a negative manner. The pessimistic view of resistance should be reframed into a perspective that the coaching process is working, and that change is beginning to take place. By using appropriate techniques, resistance can be worked through and the client will then be on their way to achieving their goals.
Coaches need to recognize that there are many different reasons for resistance in their clients. It is first important to recognize the reason for the resistance and then determine the appropriate technique which will allow resolution. There is no one sure fire method for dealing with resistance in a client. Once a coach becomes skilled in identifying the type of resistance, the resolution will be easier attained.
Learning to manage resistance is as important for the client’s sake as for the coach. Resistance is a common obstacle faced by every coach. If a coach is unable to manage resistance they will become unhappy. This will be picked up by the clients and they will react. This is the beginning of a downward spiral. Coaches enter the profession because they want to help people. If they feel they are not being helpful frustration will set in. Over time the frustration will develop into burnout. Once coaches learn that resistance is actually positive and it is within their control as coaches they will be able to decrease the amount of stress they face and their career will become more rewarding.
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