Yesterday, a client said to me, “Overcoming people’s resistance to this change is a big problem.” I agree. And here’s why it’s a big problem.

The more you push, the more you entrench resistance. 

When you push for what you think is right:

  • You don’t fully hear the ideas of those who resist. You might think you do. You may even ask questions like, “Any problems?” as if you’re fully listening. Yet you hear what resisters say with a “yes, but” frame of mind. Because you’re dug-in on the change you want, the way you want it.
  • You discount the validity of resisters’ ideas: “They just don’t get it.”  So you try a different tack to maneuver them: “I hear you, but this has to be done. I need you to set an example for others. “
  • You try to force without fully understanding the impact on resisters. That creates new problems they could’ve warned you about, if you’d fully heard their perspectives.
  • You tap into their fears instead of tapping into their motivations. Maybe what you want them to do makes complete sense, even to them. But when you push, it makes what you’re pushing scary to other people. Pushing can make other people think, “…What if I can’t succeed at this?”
If you try to “overcome resistance”, you will fail.
  • It doesn’t matter the clarity of your facts, or how well data and experience support the wisdom behind what you want resisters to do. Just citing more supporting evidence can create even more confusion or disagreement.
  • It doesn’t matter how much you describe the logic of why an action is in their best interest. Resistance is emotional, even when it appears to be logical. When someone says, “I don’t want to do it your way because the logic says it won’t work,” the emotion behind their resistance may be fear:  “… When it doesn’t work, I’ll lose status. Or look incompetent. Or be blamed.” No matter how sound you may think your logic is, someone who is afraid simply cannot hear your logic. That’s just neuroscience.
  • It doesn’t matter what the stakes are, when you try to “overcome resistance” you engage in mental combat. As the more powerful force (the boss), you can win a battle (“do it this way”). But the more you use power, the more you generate passive-aggressive resistance. Instead of a fight on your hands, wouldn’t you rather use that same energy (yours and theirs) to create greater productivity?
Seek to influence, not overcome.

The people you call resisters see you as the resister–to their ideas.

Demonstrate you’re open to being influenced by the people you’ve labeled “resisters”. Assume that when people object to what you want them to do, they are showing you the truth from their perspective. Their truth is, for them, more valid than yours. Find out more about their truths. Because you can’t influence resisters if you’re not open to being influenced by them.

Want to know exactly how to do this in your everyday work? Schedule a call.