How to coach clients to overcome their resistance

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Though you may help clients set goals and make plans to achieve their dreams, as a life coach your role is to help them through obstacles when they hit roadblocks or we may call it resistance.

What do we mean by resistance? Resistance is what holds you back. Steven Pressfield author of “The War of Art” describes resistance as a negative force that keeps you from fulfilling your dreams.

It’s easy for clients (and everyone for that matter) to fall off the wagon with new habits, but they need more than just encouragement if they want them to stick. Coaching is what keeps individuals move forward—and that’s how we can make a difference.

Ask about their resistance.

We all have resistance. Ask your client what they’re feeling right now, and how they’re feeling about the process of change. You may want to take a moment to reflect on this before moving forward.

Ask how does resistance play out for them, and how do they feel about it.

Help the client identify the source of their resistance.

As the coach, you should be able to identify the source of your client’s resistance. This can be done by asking them questions like:

  • What do you think the problem is?
  • What have been the challenges to overcoming the resistance so far?

These questions will help get an understanding of where their blocks are coming from and how they might be able to overcome them.

Address specific issues head-on.

When you’re coaching clients, it’s important to address specific issues head-on. Here are some questions you can ask:

  • What specific issues are causing your resistance?
  • Can you give me examples of those specific issues?
  • How do these specific issues make them feel about themselves and the world around them?

Be empathetic.

The best coaches are empathetic. They understand what their client is going through, but they don’t let the client off the hook and occasionally challenge them.

Goals can sometimes be difficult to stick to because it’s in our nature to change our minds. This is why it’s important to be a supportive and empathetic coach –but it’s just as important not to let your client give up on themselves!

Help them feel in control.

You can help your clients feel in control by giving them options. For example, if your client tells you that they don’t have time for exercise, ask them what activities they enjoy doing with friends or family members and whether those activities might be good options for getting active.

If a client says she doesn’t have any money for a gym membership or workout clothes, you may offer suggestions for inexpensive alternatives such as using public parks.

You can also simply help clients feel in control by letting them know that you are there to help them: “It sounds like this situation has been challenging for you,” or “I’m here if there’s anything else I can do.” Finally, letting clients know that they will be okay with whatever decision they make is another way of helping them feel empowered over their choices: “I believe in you,” or “Trust yourself.”

Create a plan to overcome their resistance.

You can’t coach someone to overcome resistance until you understand what is holding them back.

  • What is holding them back?
  • How do we get past this?
  • How will I know when they are making progress?

Clients can form strong habits that keep them from changing, so you have to help them uncover those habits and work through them

As a coach, you have to help clients overcome resistance. They can form strong habits that keep them from changing, so you have to uncover those habits and work through them.

When someone resists your coaching advice, ask them about their resistance. Help them identify the source of their resistance by asking questions like: “What are some reasons why this may not be the right time for me?” or “What do I need from myself before I can commit to making changes?”

Then address specific issues head-on–for example, if someone says they don’t want to give up chocolate because they enjoy eating it too much and thinks they’ll fail if they do so without having any in reserve (e.g., at home), consider being direct by saying something like “It sounds like part of why giving up chocolate is hard for you is because there’s always something comforting about having some around.” You might also try being empathetic: “I know how hard it can be when we’re faced with giving up something we love.” But whatever approach works best for each individual client should be used consistently throughout all sessions together; otherwise it won’t stick!


We hope this article has given you some ideas on how to coach your clients through the process of overcoming resistance. Remember that the key is to be empathetic and understanding so that they feel safe enough to work through their issues with you. If you find yourself stuck in any way, don’t hesitate! We’re here for you.

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