Coaching with humor

(based on the work of Frank Farrelly master of Provocative Therapy)

Sue and FrankThis was the basis of an article written by  Marcella Bremer who attended one of my programmes.

Do you know how to make things better by making them worse? It is analogous to the way to make a donkey move forward is to pull his tail. The approach of “Provocative Coaching” was developed by Frank Farrelly when he realized that friends often uplift and nudge you – while coaches, therapists and consultants seem to take a solemn, serious approach to issues or problems – but they’re not necessarily effective in helping people (and organisations) solve them.

Farrelly recognized that laughter and humor are key ingredients in the success stories of many leaders, parents and partners. His work taught many in the helping professions to identify the right time to switch style and to work in a way that appears to fly in the face of everything they have learned.

“Coaching with humor is all about bringing change in thinking, perspective and state by stimulating the person to react and defend what is positive about their position rather than focusing on what is negative. The aim is to provoke a healing, resourceful response.”

I experience how I’ve become accustomed to my own ways of working with people: taking things seriously, making sure to create enough safety for them to speak up, taking care not to hurt them – nudging them towards insights and new behaviors… I hear the same from others – while we practice provocative coaching, we experience our own assumptions, prejudice and reserve at going beyond what is “normal”. “You can’t laugh with your client, can you?!” Well, you can – if you do it with love, skill, good timing and the purpose to help them see their issue more clearly.

Humor is a quick way to build rapport” You provoke the client to help them become aware of how they think and act – but it is important to do it with love. Love is the ultimate rapport, or connection. You can be tough and very clear – as long as you do it with love. In this context ove means understanding, respect, non-judgmental attention, complete honesty and clarity (which can be painful) plus a willingness and efforts to serve your client the best you can.

The goal is not to make people uncomfortable (though that’s likely to happen during a change process), or humiliate, or offend them. The goal is to provoke a healing response. The goal of working with a client, whether it’s a personal coaching session or an organizational team facing change, is learning.

Content is verbal and already known. So, don’t get drawn into the story the client tells you and herself. Better look at how they are and who they are. The information you need to help them get unstuck is in the process. Look for nonverbal cues. That means, you don’t always listen to what the client says! That’s okay, as long as your attention is with them completely. You may not listen but notice their nonverbal communication, and notice their patterns of telling their story, their patterns of behaving. The key is to interrupt their patterns – to distract them – to take them out of their current state of mind – to help them see the situation with fresh eyes. To wake up and learn. And it is so much more. Join Sue on this programme and find out not only how to transform others lives but to transform your own.

The outcomes

You will learn how to use this powerful and freeing style on not only others but yourself.

In particular you will learn how to:-

  • Use humour to create a change of state and learning
  • How to handle provocative styles when you are on the receiving end (and this is in some ways more significant than being able to deliver it but for sure you need to be able to handle it first.
  • How to use stories and metaphors with embedded learning so that you by pass any conscious resistance
  • Interrupt old patterns and limiting stories in a way that opens the doors to change
  • Adopt the style of a provocative coach which is freeing and powerful
  • Detect patterns and mirror them back in ways that provide life changing feedback for your client’s
  • Exaggerate language patterns in ways that raise awareness and therefore the space for choice and learning
  • Find ways to be amused and encourage your client’s to be amused along with you and subsequently change their perspective on issues that they may have perceived as problems
  • Recognise when (and when not) to use this provocative style

And much much more

The venue and dates and price

The venue is La Meyfrenie a beautiful estate (and we will be using one of the restored barns there .This is on the outskirts of Verteillac in the Dordogne.




Dates June 27/28 (Wednesday/Thursday) and the wonderful local market is the following day on the Friday morning.  And why not stay on for the Clean Language workshop on June 30 and July 1?!!


There is our superb local accommodation that many of you have stayed at before at Pauliac (book directly and say you are training with me). And there is very simple style accommodation at the venue itself. And there are many other places to stay but this is a popular time for tourists so wise to book as early as you can.

The price

£400 plus VAT (unless based overseas and then you are VAT exempt). This includes subsistence during the day.

Travel to the venue

Nearest airports are Bergerac (Ryanair  …
And Bordeaux ..
Nearest train station Angouleme
And driving via Caen or similar it is a 7 hour drive from the port.

We can probably arrange a taxi pick up if you need it and much more economical if you can arrange to share.

"The truly intelligent person is the one who can pretend to be a fool in front of a fool who pretends to be intelligent."