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When Coaches Get Curious About Resistance: Something Shifts

By Martha Lasley
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Originally published in Facilitating with Heart.

Sometimes I get impatient when clients get stuck, but my impatience contributes to the problem. My business partner, Virginia Kellogg, has helped me understand the beauty of resistance. She says:

If we feel ourselves “grinding away” trying to push people through their resistance, we can simply stop and go into the experience of the resistance. Getting really curious about the resistance rather than trying to get people out of the resistance comes from tuning our listening to that energetic stance of “arms out in front, holding something at bay. There is no need to do anything about it, no need to direct them out of it, and no need to rescue them from their resistance.”

Instead of approaching resistance as something to fix, what happens when we honor the positive intent of the resistance? Resistance shows up as “bracing against” something, but if we push back against the resistance or ask them to push through it, we miss what they are protecting or embracing.

We can invite people to amplify their resistance by choosing a posture or a movement that embodies what they are bracing against. As they hold it, they become fully present and experience resistance in their bodies. At the core of their resistance is something they cherish. Honoring the positive intent of the resistance reveals something precious.

By going into the experience of their resistance, they build awareness and often a shift will happen when they get clear about their underlying needs and new choices. Beginning coaches often think their role is to be the cheerleader or the motivator. Ironically, people are more likely to transform themselves when we unconditionally accept them exactly the way they are.

The experience of being fully understood invites them into a space of self acceptance. When we create the space for clients to explore their emotional resistance, fresh awareness and new choices often follow, leaving them with a sense of control, ownership, and partnership.


Coaching is life-changing, world-changing work. The coaching programs at Leadership that Works go beyond theories and models and work with clients on a deeper level. You learn how to coach the whole person: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Whole person Transformation.

Leadership that Works

Transforming the world.
One heart at a time.

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