Meeting Frank Farrelly
When I first met Frank Farrelly over a decade ago I was totally mystified by his approach to working with clients. I found it quite fascinating partly due to the fact that it broke all the standard coaching conventions I had come across and was like “broadband” compared with many other approaches I had witnessed to date. His Provocative Therapy and Provocative coaching approaches were unlike anything I have come across. My background in NLP was invaluable in decoding a lot of what Frank was doing, but Frank was doing everything I had seen Richard Bandler do but far more conversationally and in a more accelerated manner!
In standard coaching and NLP, the opening question posed to clients is traditionally “What do you want?” or NLP practitioners usually can’t resist asking “What specifically do you want?” There’s nothing of course wrong with these questions and its perfectly possible to get very good responses. That said the interactions can often be like a plodding tennis match where there’s a very predictable backwards and forwards set of exchanges between coach and client. Both parties often unwittingly settle into a stereotypical way of working where the coach does their best to motivate and enthuse the client into some useful change that they believe is helpful. I say “change that they believe is helpful” because often the coach has decided ahead of time what’s “right” for the client, a common mistake often made by therapists…
Opening Questions in Provocative Coaching and Provocative Therapy
In provocative style approaches the opening question is
“What’s the problem?” This focusses the attention on the issue and why it is a problem for the client. The coach adopts a series of stances that encourage the client to maintain the exact same behaviour. This places the client in a situation where they now defend why it’s a problem for them and creates a dynamic where they begin to affirm the need for change. This “affirmation process” is central to why this process works so much faster than conventional coaching. From the outside these interactions can be seen as extremely surreal, but my experience of over 7000 hours of using this style of approach is that it’s significantly more effective and long-lasting than traditional coaching.
In provocative approaches, the coach makes use of a great deal of human expression that would be used in normal conversation. Rather than adopting an imagined superior position to motivate the client, the coach instead talks to the client like a regular human being! This means that the coach needs to has to really pay attention to the client’s responses, working in the here and now and rather than default to a “colour by numbers” approach where both client and coach revert to what is often little more than role playing.
In recent years I have seen endless approaches announced as “new” and “revolutionary” These include “The Three Ps” “Clean Language” among other approaches…
I am personally wary of any approach that
1. Has no room for humour of any sort and where coaches/therapists assume a lofty position!
2. Is full of jargon terms!
3. Where the practitioners/Trainers default to simply using techniques with no actual consideration for the client’s actual responses!
I was talking to Andrew T Austin today about how many “trainers” seem to have ascended to guru status pronouncing mostly daft comments from their imagined cosmological realms! Provocative style communication is not about being comedic, being aggressive or other such nonsense, but rather learning how to interact with the client “as if talking to an old friend” with great care and precision.