When you want to move someone toward specific goals, when you facilitate a journey of exploration and growth, or when you discuss a performance issue just to name three circumstances, it is important to not be afraid to share your opinion and to stir things up and provoke, as long as it’s based on a positive and mutually agreed upon goal and a strategy to get there. By plain mirroring the world, no coach, manager, co-worker, or psychologist moves conversations and people forward. If you avoid contradictions that lie within everyone, you are counterproductive in the face of change and growth. Respectful and thoughtful confrontation and provocation have its place in conversations and in facilitating learning and development. Confrontation and provocation, however, should never be perceived as rude, offensive, or provocative for the sake of provocation only. The real goal is to shift paradigms, to remove blind spots, to increase effectiveness, to add uncommon perspectives, and to get someone moving better or faster, or getting them to move at all! For crucial conversations to turn into valuable tools for learning and growth you sometimes need disturbing questions, upsetting perspectives, refreshingly new frame works, and responses that challenge beliefs and assumptions in addition to empathy.
With thanks to Dutch authority on provocative work Jaap Hollander, who inspired me in the provocative approach, and to Frank Farrell, a brilliant therapist who is considered the founder of this approach and who developed provocative therapy while working with severely disturbed clients in an inpatient ward, exploring previously unheard of beliefs and practices to promote true and resilient change in chronic and recalcitrant patients. One of Frank’s clients is said to have remarked: "He is the kindest, most understanding man I have ever met in my whole life, wrapped up in the biggest son of a bitch I have ever met."