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In our series of articles about managing difficult conversations we’ve explored the aggressive challenger and this time we look at the conscious and unconscious clandestine resistor.

The conscious clandestine resists by appearing open with you, exploring issues and identifying actions. This resistor will often score very highly when you check commitment agreed actions. They will not, however, carry out the actions in full and usually appear vague when probed for more detail. They want to please when with you but find it difficult to carry through actions. Often these resistors appear to make immense progress in coaching sessions but little between sessions. They are aware that they are resisting change, but tell you what you want to hear.

This kind of behaviour is difficult to spot and may only present itself after a pattern of not carrying out agreed actions.

Do not try to distinguish between unconscious and conscious clandestine individuals.
Wait – there will be beliefs underlying the behaviour that over time will manifest

The unconscious clandestine appears to go along with the process of coaching, however, usually appears unmotivated by the process. They may find it difficult to access their creativity in the ideas phase of STRIDE. Such resistors may agree actions, but tone of voice might suggest a lack of commitment or interest. They appear to make little progress in coaching sessions and carry out few of the agreed actions. They are not aware that they are resisting change.

To some extent everyone belongs to this category.
We all have beliefs – and behaviours that stem from them – of which we are not consciously aware. Coaching can help us to learn more about these beliefs and in some cases adapt them.
We should not be judged for what we do not know about and we must always remember that coaching is a process that respects this.

With this kind of resistance it’s important to try to understand the reason behind it. All behaviour (according to Jung) has a positive purpose. In other words there is a need lying behind the behaviour. Seeking to discover the person’s needs is very helpful in this situation.

A helpful process:
• Ask what they need
• Repeat back the needs they state
• Ask them why that is important to them ( to get at the values behind the need)
• Present your situation and repeat theirs and ask how we can both get what we both need or close to that.

For more support with challenging conversations, consider attending our Level 2 Advanced Coaching Course. Email us at for details of the next available course.