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Not touching something with a 10 foot pole is almost a constant problem for this kind of player. A past, brutal GM is probably to blame for this player's timidity. The one time they do take a risk, they're met with danger (as is bound to happen). "I told you so," they justify themself.

How can or should a GM coax them out of their shell?

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    \$\begingroup\$ We need more information on what's going wrong here. You've said they touch everything with a ten foot pole (have you told them they don't need to? how did they respond?) and given us one vaguely defined incident where they said a thing. There's not really any serious problem there. Are you dealing with standing orders, detecting magic/evil constantly, checking for traps every step, other things? Or just "they poke things with a pole and won't quit it"? \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jan 4 '17 at 20:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also please don't leave this system-agnostic. Problems like these frequently arise because of the system, and you seem to be dealing with D&D. If you want a serious solution, you should be providing the game and the edition. OD&D will have certain answers, D&D 3e and 4e and 5e will have other answers. You're doing yourself a disfavour by withholding the system and potentially making this not meaningfully solvable. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jan 4 '17 at 20:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener Very true. Additionally noting the system your player came from, if different than the one you're currently playing, could be helpful to get more useful and insightful answers to this specific problem. \$\endgroup\$ – Randomorph Jan 4 '17 at 20:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener Thank you for the links. These'll sate me for now. Sorry for the lack of detail: asked for a friend; this is more hypothetical. \$\endgroup\$ – NiteCyper Jan 4 '17 at 21:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NiteCyper We don't often handle hypotheticals well (we specialise in problems people are actually facing), but if you do want to ask hypotheticals, it would be helpful to make it clear that's what they are. In the past we've had individuals pretending hypothetical problems were real and it lead to a lot of wasted time for everyone (querent included) since we were asking about details as if the situation had really happened. Thanks for clarifying though, I do hope (& expect) those links will prove helpful! \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jan 4 '17 at 21:19