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Provocative coaching: 76 examples & techniques [Best tips]

Provocative coaching: 76 examples & techniques [Best tips]

In this article you will learn the best tips and examples about provocative coaching / provocative therapy and provocative interviewing. In this article we are going to look at tips and examples from masters like Anneke Dekkers, Karin de Galan, Peter Dalmeijer and Adélka Vendl, among others.

Disclaimer: here you will find my own examples and examples of well-known provocative authors: Anneke Dekkers, Karin de Galan, Peter Dalmeijer and Adélka Vendl. Please note that this is a summary and quoting article, supplemented with our own additions. Some of the statements in this article may seem harsh when there is no connection and warmth between two people. So don’t judge the lead authors on this article, but on their original work, such as: “Provocative Coaching” and “You seem like a pretty hopeless case.”

Contents of this page:

What is provocative coaching? The meaning of provocative coaching …

In provocative coaching you act with the belief: you sometimes have to hurt people to prevent more pain. Gentle healers make smelly wounds.

Provocation leads to motivation for change!

Provocative techniques can be used for dozens of purposes. For example, sometimes people have fallen in love / attached to their problem. They have invested in it and identified with it. Then provocative coaching is a suitable tool for this.

The emergence of provocative coaching (provocative conversation)

But let’s start at the beginning: the emergence of provocative therapy … Therapist Frank Farelly, died in 2013, attended the Rogerian school, where you mainly had to listen to the client.

He discovered that there are ways in which you can more effectively hit the deeper levels of the client. Farelly started from a new set of assumptions that would later become the principles of provocative coaching.

The 6 presuppositions (principles) of provocative coaching

Peter Dalmeijer has formulated six principles of provocative coaching:

  1. The vulnerability of clients is so often exaggerated. They can take quite a bit of toughness!
  2. It can be very effective to use “loving / therapeutic cruelty ,” “cheerful sadism,” “heavy-handed love,” and “healing humor.” To keep acting seriously and fragile with the client, Farrelly calls “misplaced kindness.”
  3. People need a challenge and then, in response, to change and grow.
  4. If you choose for it, you can change.
  5. However bad or long the situation has been there, clients have much greater opportunities to make a change than therapists assume.
  6. How the client behaves towards the therapist is a fairly accurate reflection of how he behaves in other relationships.

Why Does Provocative Therapy Work?

95% of clients returned to Farrelly after the first time. Their reasons were:

  • He knows what I’m doing to myself.
  • At least something is happening here. He is not afraid to get to the core.
  • He’s on to me and we can laugh about it too!
  • What he says is not that nice, but there is very good contact. At least he says what he thinks.

In addition, Dr. Milton Erickson often used provocative techniques – to be more precise, prescribing the symptom – because they are perfect to use as pattern interruption.  By affirming the negative behavior, you break the pattern that the client has been hearing from everyone for years and let the client fight back to the positive.

Finally, provocative interviewing uses the principle of reverse psychology . Because the client has fallen in love with his problem, it works so well to make the problem less ‘exciting’. You make the problem mandatory. You ‘spit in someone’s soup like that’. They can still eat it, but they won’t enjoy it.

Moreover, thanks to provocative coaching, you can place embedded commands, or indirect suggestions (subliminal influence) in your encouragement. A simple example of this is: “You don’t have to: make your dream come true, Debbie!”

Loving conditions to provoke

There are a number of important conditions to be aware of for provocative conversations.

We take the client seriously, not the problem!

The things you encounter in the list below are not only conditions for provocative coaching, they  are  also part of the essence of provocative coaching. So make sure that the following matters are in order first:

  • Love
  • Warmth
  • Humor
  • Rapport
  • Carefulness
  • Respect
  • Calibrate the client’s responses to the start. Perform a provocation, notice the non-verbal response, and ask what that response means.

Only when the above conditions are all there will:

  • Challenge
  • Provocation
  • Tease

So separate the following:

  • The intention
  • The target
  • Behavior
  • The technique

So: first sympathize before you start provocative conversations

provocative coaching examples

You follow the client and you make a report. “It is a loss, horrible that this happens, you will no doubt often be sad.” And after that, you absolutely rely on the power of the client. For 100%.

Below, let’s look at the tips and examples from, among others, Anneke Dekkers and Karin de Galan. You can find their book at the bottom of this article.

Provocative Technique 1: Devil’s Advocate – Prescribing the symptom / problem

Speak what you hear ‘the devil in the other’ say. Support the destructive behavior (and in the next section, you will learn to extol the benefits of that behavior as well).

This works so well because it is a hard pattern break. You make the symptom mandatory and you encourage the problem. You “spit in someone’s soup like that.” They can still eat it, but they won’t enjoy it.

Moreover: by confirming the negative, you break the pattern that the client has been hearing from everyone for years (‘You have to stop smoking, it is bad for you …’) and you let the client fight back to the positive. . This is something the client has never heard / thought / done / felt before.

So the therapist assumes the “Satan role” of taking sides with the client’s negative side. The therapist encourages the client to continue on this negative side. Convince the other person to do more of the behavior that is causing the problem:

  • Erickson got a client who wanted to lose weight, but she kept gaining weight. She hated losing weight. So Erickson demanded that she put on exactly 11 pounds that week. She does the opposite and is either losing weight, or gaining 11 pounds, so she has control over her weight. That is the premise.
  • A child was constantly banging doors. While the child was doing something else fun, Erickson said, “Would you please slam the door? Thank you.” The child did. “Do it again.” Thank you. Do it again. ” Thank you. Do it again. I insist.” “But I’m reading my picture book.” “I thought you liked it the way you did it.” “I really don’t like slamming doors!”
  • Just keep getting stuck. That’s fine, right?
  • I bet you can’t do {symptom}. Bet you can’t prove it to me?

Provocative Technique 2: Devil’s Advocate – Defending the problem / denying the problem

What do lawyers do? They are looking for arguments! You can do this by thinking up and naming all kinds of advantages of the problem  . Go well into this and fall completely in love with the problem case and the world view that goes with it. Reinforce this way of thinking and admire it.

  • ‘I would just stay that way. That’s fine, right? Why change? ‘
  • ‘Why would you, it is going well dude, it is nice to do nothing.’
  • ‘That is not a problem, but a quality! Which is good! How nice!’ Name the benefits. “But…” “Sounds fine too.”
  • “Well, frankly, I was hoping you had a more interesting problem that could really bite our teeth.”
  • ‘Why would you want to get rid of the problem? That’s right! Look at all these benefits! ‘
  • To someone who would like to overcome his / her rollercoaster fear: ‘Why would you also go on the rollercoaster? Someone has to hold the bags!
  • ‘And that’s a good thing, then you won’t be bothered by … {‘ disadvantages ‘of achieving the goal}’
  • Who is waiting for a better and healthy me? No, better maintain the status quo and not create too many expectations that we cannot meet anyway.
  • Why should you exercise? Now you have at least enough time to watch Netflix. And then you don’t have to pay for that gym subscription, which you don’t go to anyway. And you have less dirty laundry.
  • To lose weight? Not at all. Fat people are always experienced as fun and pleasant.
  • Don’t laugh like that. That’s how you screw it up. Soon you will be happy!
  • Ordinary people may be bothered by that … But you are so wonderful and genius that you cannot be bothered by the problem of the current situation at all.
  • As a devil’s advocate, I also have ‘amazement’ for the client: ‘Wow, I think that’s really great of you! Everyone has that social pressure to exercise and live healthier, but you manage to just stay close to yourself! ‘

Provocative technique 3: Questioning the goal / not having faith that it will work out

You break the pattern of well-intentioned encouragements that everyone keeps giving. You show that you have no belief that the goal can be achieved. You create much more fuel in order to achieve the goal. In addition, the negative side is exaggerated. This is perhaps the most literal form of provocation as we know it.

‘I’ve tried so much …’

  • Convince the client that the goal is impossible to achieve.
  • “Indeed, is that going to work at all … Do you have it even in you, Frank?”
  • That’s right. Indeed you cannot. Not even a little. Or not then? Or am I saying something strange? ‘
  • Also describe the disadvantages of the other person’s goal: ‘I don’t think you can do that at all. You will never succeed. Because … {name all kinds of reasons and all the disadvantages of the goal} ‘
  • ‘You just surrender to it. That is nature. You have no choice in that. Nature is stronger than us. That is normal.’
  • “I don’t rate you much higher.”
  • “It is not in you, you are not made of the right stuff.”
  • ‘Oh I recognize that, my dear brother had that too. I love him but he never succeeded. ‘
  • ‘Why should it work now? (Ask for proof) ‘
  • ‘Your own business, who would want that? My advice is: just stick with that insurance company. There are already millions of coaches in the Netherlands. Then you just continue to earn less in paid employment. Then you just do 3 jobs and 4 relationships. ‘
  • You’re too young for that, aren’t you? You need experience for that.
    Or: You are too old for that …

Provocative Technique 4: Stereotyping! For example via the four ‘Speak modes’

Farrelly has devised four speaking modes that you can use as a tool:

  1. The religious-moralizing mode: the punitive finger, bossy, commanding and authoritarian. Also sayings, quotes and slogans.
  2. The slang mode: with expletives, ambiguities and “popular phrases.”
  3. Physical mode: expressing a feeling, very nonverbal responsive, gesturing, strong facial expression and movements.
  4. Professional jargon: using therapist jargon or client jargon, so difficult words and serious language. This is reflected in weighty behavior.

You can also adopt other stereotypes, tell general truths, tell the most obvious things and have nice stereotypes.

Provocative technique 5: Absurd solutions and explanations

Give absurd advice. Show how, with an absurd solution , and develop that solution further. Also use: ‘Yes and …’ And show how that solution is worked out.

  • Anneke Dekkers / Karin de Galan: ‘So how do we get people to give exactly the right response to you? Exactly! A plate in front of your head, with an applause meter: ‘for this performance she deserves this.’
  • Anneke Dekkers / Karin de Galan: ‘We are going to market a device that {solution to the problem}. We are getting rich. We do the profits 50/50. ‘
  • Anneke Dekkers / Karin de Galan: ‘Okay, direct me. What am I gonna say? How much appreciation do I have to give you now? How will I give that? In what words? ‘
  • With breast cancer: ‘You have to display that other breast extra, turn it a little to the right!
  • And whose fault is that? Then blame someone else.

Or come up with an absurd explanation for the problem.

  • ‘You know, it just makes a lot of sense! It’s just because … ‘

Provocative Technique 6: Loving Reverse Psychology (This is even non-provocative)

The technique you are about to learn is a wonderful way of provocative coaching, while it is actually not at all provocative. However, it does cause the effect of provocative coaching.

Earlier in this article you learned that you use reverse psychology in provocative coaching. Now you may automatically assume that reverse psychology has a somewhat ‘provocative’ undertone, but it can also have a soft, relieving and affirmative undertone! The best way to explain this is with an example:

I once said to my salsa dance teacher, “It would be great if I passed Beginners 3.” To which my teacher replied: ‘Not really, right? You can already do everything from Beginners 2, plus it’s all about the fun. Even the steps of Beginners 1 are enough to have a nice evening. ‘

How warm, reassuring and … Not really provocative! This is a ‘provocative’ encouragement that addressed my perfectionism by reassuring me with warmth and confidence that it is already good, and that is a nice feeling.

It would only be a problem if you {serious or any other criterion at all, for example: if it bother you}.

You can also be very loving to the problem by not referring to it as a problem and not referring to it as a bad situation in which the other has been wronged, but as a logical situation. “Oh, it’s only logical that you’re so exhausted: You work hard.”

When someone invited me to pay more attention to meditation and prayer, he said, “You don’t have to make appointments with yourself to meditate and you don’t have to promise me anything at all.” Suddenly the pressure and resistance was gone, giving me the space to do it. Loving, inviting and effortless!

Provocative technique 7: Humor, ridicule and exaggeration (of the client’s negative self-image)

This technique is all about laughing and making fun of the problem together. Show how ridiculous the problem is, or how ridiculous it is to want to change reality.

So go along with the client’s train of thought and overdo it completely. Schater laughs too. In this technique, it is important that simple irony and sarcasm is not a provocative technique.

  • “I’ve done a great thing and I’m not getting any recognition.” ‘Is it also true the other way around? So that you get a lot of compliments for something small that you did? ‘
  • ‘Your anger is indeed very clear and visible. If children run into you on the street at night, they will be shocked! ‘
  • ’50 years? You look like 60 when I look at you like that. ‘
  • “I’m so glad I’m not you.”
  • “How do you keep getting all those people to listen to your lament over and over again?”
  • “I don’t think I have what it takes to be a pianist.” Have you ever looked at yourself in the mirror? Like a josti band! ‘
  • ‘Yes, let your lungs rot. Quite fun.’
  • “Wow, how is your wife doing with you ?!”
  • “All things considered, I can’t stand those soft eggs like you, but …”
  • “I’m just glad I’m not like that.”
  • Do you believe in reincarnation? I wish you better luck in the next life! ‘
  • “I live on the brink of madness.” “And you come for the final push?”
  • Exaggerate cultural stereotypes.
  • So you’ve been pretty depressed for a while? Well, you seem more like a plant to me. A plant that only breathes when it is watered. ‘
  • ‘You consider yourself old? Have you already purchased a walker? ‘
  • “That you can get a smile on your face at all and not be constantly depressed on the couch!”
  • ‘You just don’t have a backbone, limp bite. Macaroni and spaghetti. ‘ (Peter Dalmeijer)
  • ‘Seriously: it is actually very sad … without a chance!’
  • ‘You don’t become a coach with such a head and attitude. You’re going to drive people to suicide. ‘
  • ‘Uncertain? You’re just a shit. ‘
  • Give the other person a nickname.
  • “I’m so naive … I spent 1,000 euros for an online training that I don’t use.” ‘Naive? That is putting it lightly. I think you still believe bankers and politicians blindly. ‘
  • If you are coaching against limiting thoughts, confirm and generalize the limiting thought: “Yes, that’s right. You are indeed really bad at that, you don’t like it. Do you have any … skills at all?

Jack: Why wouldn’t you feel comfortable?
Ally: Because like almost every single person that I’ve come in contact with in the music industry has told me that my nose is too big and that I won’t make it.
Jack: Your nose is beautiful. Are you showing me your nose right now?
Ally: Yeah.
Jack: You don’t have to show it to me. I’ve been looking at it all night.
Ally: Oh, come on. No, you’re not.
Jack: Oh, I’m going to be thinking about your nose for a very long time.

After they get married, they see an Ally billboard in Los Angeles:

Jack: I notice it looks bigger out there. That whole thing is your nose. Actually, let’s just put a billboard of your nose there.

– La La Land

Provocative technique 8: Imitate / mimic

  • Mirror the client, for example if he / she wants too much. This gives a laughing mirror effect.
  • Also put on a crazy voice.
  • Exaggerate the behavior and non-verbal attitude.
  • ‘Do you see how you look as you say it? I also find it difficult to make a face like that, and you’ve been looking like that for years. ‘
  • Someone who cares a lot: sketching how to take care of everyone as a kind of superman.
  • Tell about “John” who has the exact same problem. Make the story absurd so that it mirrors how the client experiences the problem – thereby showing that you are “on the client’s side.”

Provocative technique 9: Wiggle twijce between exaggeration and denial

Just as the client comes along, you take the other side. To do this, use the previous sections about the techniques ‘exaggeration’ and ‘denial’.

Provocative technique 10: Going against the rules of conduct of a professional coach

  • Pause your conversation partner.
  • Follow irrelevant side paths so that it is no longer about the core of the problem.
  • Pretend you’re being distracted by everything.
  • Reason in circles: make sure the conversation is repeated over and over again.
  • Change emotional states quickly.
  • Respond to the word choice.
  • Pretend you are bored.
  • Making black and white: there really is no middle ground. For example, give three options.
    Are you:
    A: exceptionally good
    B: average
    C: Very bad?
  • Playing like you’re stupid: Lower your intelligence and pretend you don’t understand. For example, misinterpret the things the client says.
  • Touch the client.
  • Just talk about taboo topics very directly and without caution mention the problem such as depression, negative thoughts and fears.
  • Infantilize and play a very approving tone.
  • Moralize.

Provocative technique 11: Positive affirmation at the end

Because of the warm undertone and the confusion that has arisen, the client is in an excellent state in which he is suggestible for positive affirmations (hypnotic suggestions).

This was the article with tips and examples – Also buy the books of the authors (Tip)

This was the article about provocative coaching. Would you like more information, cases and examples about provocative conversations? Then purchase the books from the above authors.

To your success!

About The Author


Hello! Thanks for reading these articles. My intention is to make happiness as simple and clear as posssible. By the way, excuse my English. I am not a native English speaker since I live in Amsterdam. Much appreciated if you use the comments to make suggestions on my grammar. See ya in another blogpost!