Become curious about resistance

Talk to the HandHaving trouble convincing team mates to adopt your suggestions? Feeling that your ideas are meeting resistance more so than collaboration? Maybe it’s time to take another look at what you can learn from resistance.

Dale H. Emery explores “resistance” in this rich article, Resistance as a Resource. (via Mishkin)

…the key to resolving resistance — is to become curious. Before trying to convince someone, learn at least one more thing about the person’s point of view. A great way to learn is to explore people’s responses — especially the responses that strike you as resistance. Every response carries valuable information, clues about the person, about the environment around you, about your request, or about yourself. Treat each response as a precious resource.

Emery provides an in-depth examination of 4 factors that may lead to resistance when one person makes a request of others:

  • expectations about the request
  • communication about the request
  • the relationship with the person making the request
  • influences from the environment

One take-away: Resistance is a natural reaction that should be anticipated when working with others. By learning what is behind the resistance, we can ferret out weaknesses in our own strategy and make adjustments. The result will lead to overcoming resistance and improving the plan overall.

Be curious; take a look at the article here.

Related post:
Asking the right questions to facilitate teamwork

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3 Responses to Become curious about resistance

  1. ann michael says:

    Blaine –

    It’s so easy for change managers to look at resistance as only being present “in the other guy” or an unreasonable response to a reasonable course of action. There is always value in understanding resistance. Sometimes it’s an indication of deeper problems or things that we may not have known, other times it represents a communication issue, and still other times there really is a deep seated issue with a team member or group. Ironically, the last point is usually the exception but it’s where most change managers start their thinking process!

    Thanks for a great post!

  2. Good points, Ann. After someone does the initial heavy lifting of putting a plan together to the point of presenting to others, I agree that it is easy for them to see resistance as the other person’s hang up. A better mindset for everyone is to view ideas and initial planning as the beginning of a process that will vary and evolve, based on the feedback of other stakeholders. Unless an emergency action plan must be executed immediately, most strategies will benefit from revision, and resistance is a great signal that adjustments are needed.

    This places an obligation on all of us to resist plans and strategies that do not seem to have a realistic chance of success. I love to be supportive and that is the default position. However, supporting a bad idea or poor plan undermines the effort of others because it strips them of the honest feedback so valuable for tweaking strategy.

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