True Challenge
Article Written by Dr.L Michael Hall.
Can you use a real and true challenge in your communication? There is the skill of challenging and there are a large range of things that can challenge a person. There are also many things that you could call “challenging” which are not “challenging” as we use that term in coaching as a coaching skill. I mentioned the five dimensions of challenging in the last post. Now I want to identify one thing that is actually not challenging, although some coaches when frustrated by their clients, falsely calling it “challenging.”

Distinction: Challenging and Irritating

Some people confuse challenge with that of irritating or frustrating. While it is true that people sometimes become irritated or frustrated when challenged (asked to stretch, get out of their comfort zone, face a difficulty, etc.), these are symptoms of many other experiences as well. So be careful, merely irritating someone is not necessarily the same as challenging that person. So the mistake that many coaches make is telling a client who’s irritated, ”Its good for you because you are being challenged.” Consequently, it is more than likely that the coach failed to get or keep rapport, was sloppy or lazy in his communications, violated a trust, etc. In such an instance, labelling it as “challenging” is probably an excuse for incompetence.
This attempt at reframing is an attempt to put “irritating” in the category of “challenge” alongside of stretching to a new goal, encouraging one to face a difficulty and persist, and/or inspiring someone to believe in him or herself. Yet it is not the same. It does not fit that category.

The First True Challenge

For example, I have seen clients get irritated because a coach keeps repeating the question, “What do you want?”. Asking that opening question once, twice, or even three times can be effective. It can be a matter of persistence. But after that, it ceases to be effective. Then after that, your client will probably be wondering why you are not listening, why you don’t get it, and why you are constantly repeating yourself(!). And that’s not good. Hence, it is not persistence. Furthermore it is repeating what doesn’t work and not looking for an alternative approach, perhaps not even calibrating to what is not working. Therefore, in such cases, make a guess about what your client wants, and then check it out. Then if you do that, you will make yourself open and vulnerable. Here acknowledging offers you a powerful skill for getting on the same page with your client.
“I may not be really hearing you, what I think you want is… Is that accurate? If not, please correct me.”

True Challenge Is Staying In Sensory Awareness

If the client gets irritated by your inelegant questioning, then their resistance is more about your style or lack of skills. By all means, do not make it worse by jumping into name-calling. Do not say that they are a mismatcher. Maybe they are; maybe they are not. Sometimes a person mismatches because what you are offering them does not fit for them! In that case, their mismatching is an expression of their strength. Again, this is not a case of challenging. It is a case of the coach’s incompetence.

True Challenge and Real Challenging Encourages and Inspires

The purpose of true challenge in all of its many dimensions is to invite and encourage someone to step up and be more. It is to inspire a person to exert the necessary effort to turn his or her dreams into reality. A challenge may hold a person accountable for what he has promised. So challenge. Believe in the incredible potentials within your client and invite them to step up to become all that she can become. That’s real and authentic challenging.
Yet if your client becomes frustrated or irritated, check out your style, your level of rapport, your approach, etc. Also check out that you are not pushing too hard. Hence, if you push too hard or fast, your client may become overwhelmed and enter the anxiety zone rather than the flow zone.
Now are you ready for the true challenge with people? Learn the basic coaching skills with The Coaching Centre. The Coaching Centre – Australia is an Internationally and Nationally Recognised Coach Training Company located in Regional NSW. Professional Communication Essentials is on 15th – 17th September in Orange, NSW.
Grab your free article about coaching skills here:
[contact-form-7 id=”4897″ title=”Contact From Website”]