Book Excerpt: Incompatibility or Something Else?

Occasionally, obstacles that, at first glance, appear to exist as a result of personality differences or issues of compatibility may actually result from another cause altogether. Sometimes an adolescent may come across as rude in the prescreening or intake session such that the coach doesn’t really want to work with him or her. The client might bark at the coach or the parent; the client might refuse to answer questions or avoid making eye contact.

Before making snap judgments, coaches are encouraged to consider the possibility that the client may simply be acting defensively under the pressure of an uncomfortable intake session in which the client’s parents are present rather than displaying true personality. The early investigative work that is initiated by coaches and conducted in the parents’ presence is often very difficult for young people. Young clients may feel embarrassed, angry, or put on the spot by all of the attention, analysis, and seeming criticism. They may act flippantly or rudely as a sort of defense mechanism. Coaches can ease clients’ discomfort by acknowledging the difficult nature of the situation, for example, by stating, “I appreciate your decision to get started with coaching and want to acknowledge that it can certainly be difficult to be the focus of the conversation.”

When a client decides not to work with a coach, it’s possible that the coach will assume the decision was based on personality differences between client and coach. But coaches should also consider whether the issue goes beyond mere differences in personality and points to a coach’s unintentionally demeaning or condescending approach to the young person. This occasionally happens with well-meaning coaches: In their attempt to support the young person, they may inadvertently talk down to him or her. Additional training under the support of a mentor coach and more practice may help the coach learn how to adopt an attitude that’s more appropriate for working with young people. In some cases, a coach will discover that adolescents and young adults simply aren’t the right population for them, given the coach’s style, preferences, and approach.