In the Face of Adversity

The importance of resilience

Coaching Others To Be Resilient

Constructive responses from a coach can help the person learn.

If you are trying to help someone to develop their resilient skills, you want to focus on what they have done right in the past as well as what they have done wrong. You want the person to tell you about the positive as well as the negative. Talking about and sharing an event that has occurred in your life requires retelling the event. This can be helpful in helping people to relive and re-experience the positive event and the feelings associated with it. In some cases, you can learn even more about what the person did that produced the positive outcome.

When someone is talking about something positive in their life as their coach, an active and constructive response from you can help the person learn.

In contrast, if you find a problem with what is being described or focus on the downside of a positive event or appear disinterested you may not encounter the development of trust. Making active, constructive responses facilitate learning and growth. Passive or destructive response can weaken the relationship.

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The right kind of praise can motivate. The wrong kind can create self-defeating behavior. The right kind of praise as Carol Dweck, Ph.D., has found through her research is "process" praise. This involves praising the person for engagement, perseverance, the strategies they are using in approaching a difficult situation and improvement. It tells the person what they've done to be successful and what they need to do to be successful again in the future. It creates motivation, resilience, and leads to higher achievement. Praise for effort puts the person in "a growth mindset, e.g., "I am developing the skills and attitudes because I've worked hard" versus praise for intelligence and ability which tends to put the individual in a fixed mindset, e.g., "I'm a bright guy and that's why I was able to do so well."

In coaching someone in developing the resilience skills and attitudes that we have focused on in this column, focusing on the positive, e.g., what the person has done right in the past, and using "process" praise, focusing on perseverance and strategies versus ability can be an important part of the learning process. When coaching someone in resilience, you want to build their confidence, which is a resilience attitude, by keeping them focused on the process of achievement, e.g., their persistence, their engagement and their improvement in performance.

Ron Breazeale, Ph.D., is the author of Duct Tape Isn’t Enough: Survival Skills for the 21st Century as well as the novel Reaching Home.

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