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A - Z Coaching and Mentoring - This week's extract outlines ‘Resistance’ – the ways it can present itself along with ways in which resistance to coaching can be overcome.

Don't forget if you have a special request for a definition of a coaching term or principle, just let us know! Perfect for anyone studying for an ILM Coaching & Mentoring qualification, or as a refresher for experienced coaches.


Resistance is more likely to present itself where coaching has been suggested or imposed, rather than where someone has requested a coach and is therefore more likely to fully engaged in the ethos and process. Some factors that create resistance include:

  • Limiting beliefs
  • Fear
  • Old habits and patterns
  • Ignorance

Resistance from a client during coaching may present itself in the following ways: 

  • Getting stuck or presenting barriers
  • Ambivalence, sulkiness or reluctance to take action 
  • Opposition to conscious thought about the goal or problem 
  • Becoming angry or defensive 
  • Seeking clarity, suggestions or advice 
  • Diverting the conversation with unnecessary detail or over-long stories 
  • Asking the coach questions to divert the focus of attention from themselves 
  • Reluctance to engage with feelings or emotion
  • Failing to complete agreed actions 
  • Repeated re-scheduling or cancellation of appointments

Some argue that resistance is a sign that the coach has failed to establish rapport with the client, so this could be a potential area for improvement. Here are some other ways in which resistance to coaching can be overcome, both with individuals and across organisations: 

  • Explain what coaching is and what it isn’t - a better understanding of the process 
  • Present the benefits, including measurable return on investment and research findings 
  • Use coaching for high performers as well as for addressing problems 
  • Create a clear induction or contracting process 
  • Clarify confidentiality 
  • Help a client to notice their resistance and as the coach remain non-judgemental 
  • Ask Socratic questions

Taken from the A-Z Coaching Handbook by Clare Smale where you will find a comprehensive A-Z, plus a full list of references.


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