Let's just call them resistant, rather than uncoachable, shall we?
If you search articles about coaching the “uncoachable”, you will notice many say “These clients aren’t worth the effort.” “Try to avoid those clients, and if you have them, accept that they are not ready for coaching; end the relationship.”
According to John Mattone, a globally respected leadership coach authority, it generally benefits no one to consider a client “uncoachable.” John goes on to explain “Most of all, successfully coaching the resistant requires understanding the cause of the client’s reticence so that it can be addressed.” Others advise, “The coach must help the client uncover their own intrinsic motivation to change.” But none of them really tell us HOW to do that. The advice is: walk away, refer the client to therapy, or “it just takes time to build trust.” Unfortunately, that doesn’t help you in your next session; it leaves you frustrated and most likely down one paying client.
The Real Problem
Have you considered the possibility that the client’s resistance is the work they need to tackle? The client isn’t resistant to coaching per se, the resistance is the problem revealing itself to you.
According to cognitive neuroscientists, people are conscious of only about 5 percent of cognitive activity, so most decisions, actions, emotions, and behavior depends on the 95 percent of brain activity that goes beyond conscious awareness. The late Dr. Robert Zajonc, social psychologist at the University of Michigan, explained “In many cases when people explain why they’ve made a decision, they are simply rationalizing, attributing what sounds like a reasonable basis for what is really a murky, unknowable process.”
Piotr Winkielman, a researcher and professor of psychology at UC San Diego, states, “The affective system responsible for preferences is separate from the cognitive system responsible for inferences; because early affective processes are automatic and therefore inaccessible to higher-order interventions; and because early affective responses are not represented as conscious feelings.” That’s why your client doesn’t know what’s stopping them, they just reactively resist.
A technique called Regenerating Images in Memory (RIM)® developed by Dr. Deborah Sandella, RN, PhD, makes this murky and unknowable process known. The early affective processes are quickly brought into conscious awareness so that higher-order interventions rewrite the automatic responses and preferences. Using this technique, clients can safely, consciously, and quickly tap into true sub-conscious motivations for behavior, understand the origin, and resolve any that are no longer serving the client. RIM does not require the coach to be the expert. It is a non-threatening, emotionally safe, client-directed process that navigates directly the root cause of resistance, making the “uncoachable” not only coachable but on a direct path to change. It is important to note that this process is not as complex as it may seem at first, and can be done within the boundaries of coaching. RIM does not require therapy skills and is careful in its training to draw clear lines separating mental health issues from coaching work.
RIM utilizes the client’s imagination, body sensations and images to bring the sub-conscious into awareness. “Language is limited,” Gerald Zaltman, an emeritus professor from the Harvard Business School says, "and it can't be confused with the thought itself. Images, however, can capture unconscious feelings, often discovering a core; a deep metaphor simultaneously embedded in a unique setting."
Dr. Sandella explains how RIM utilizes those images for healing and creating behavior change. “The latest neuro-science findings support the efficacy of RIM® by explaining that the brain and nervous system is “plastic” or changeable. Since the brain registers an imagined experience similar to a real experience, we can re-generate emotional memory to create neuro-pathways for new endings to old stories. All the while, factual memory remains stable. During the RIM® process clients integrate a new felt body-experience that translates to automatic or reflexive behavioral, physical, and psychological changes.” This transforms the uncoachable client’s subconscious resistance into drive and motivation so your coaching can gain traction.
Rebecca MacLean www.macleanlifecoaching.com and Michael Kline www.intus.life are Master Certified RIM Facilitators, who love hosting retreats, teaching, supporting coaches and playing in the world of personal and professional growth.