The Value of a Positive Challenge

The one-on-one, nonjudgmental nature of the coaching relationship gives a coach a unique opportunity to challenge a student to consider new perspectives and actions. If a student trusts the coach enough to feel comfortable with vulnerability, they are more likely to think carefully about a challenging question and perhaps take a productive risk. 


Author David Livermore, expert in cultural intelligence, offers Four Questions for Navigating Difficult Conversations that he has constructed to use cultural intelligence to address polarization. This set of questions can also be used in a coaching situation to connect with a student and, on that foundation of connection, launch a challenge. Following are the questions, with coaching-related notes:

  • Would you be open to considering a different perspective? When a student doubles down on their own view of a situation, it may be effective to gauge their willingness to listen before offering ideas.  

  • Have I accurately understood your perspective? Making sure that you understand the student's position helps them feel heard and understood, which can help them feel more open to discussion. 

  • How would you solve this problem? Throwing the ball into the student's court is at the heart of coaching. Asking them to generate one or more solutions honors their self-knowledge and values their perspectives.

  • Where are you willing to compromise? At this point in the conversation the student, feeling heard and respected, may be more able to see and make smaller compromises that serve valuable wins.


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