Bonus Lesson – Resistance Is A Result
Just a couple of days ago, I completed my blog series on the Top Ten Interpersonal Communication Skills. Now I find that I have one lesson left over. So be it. Rather than resist it, I’m going to claim it and use it, offer it to you as a bonus post in the series!
Resistance Is A Result
Today’s post is about resistance. I’m not against resistance, nor do I resist the existence of resistance. Sometimes, resistance is necessary. In Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Borg leader told Captain Picard, “Resistance is futile.”
But as any trekker (and I’m a trekker, not a trekkie, because, well, I have a life!) knows, resistance wasn’t futile.
Picard defeated the Borg by vigorously resisting their attempts to take over his ship and the Federation. He resisted them with a flexible plan, the ability to quickly adapt to a changing situation and an inflexible enemy, and using the enemy’s own failings against them.
The problem is that once you decide that someone is resisting you, or an idea of yours, or a change process underway, your (or your organization’s) behavior is likely to reinforce their behavior so that it seems that they really are resistant.
But it may not be true, at least not until you or someone else shows up and guarantees it. For our purposes, if you meet resistance, it is useful to assume that you’ve put it there, to think of resistance as a form of feedback about how you’ve gone about your persuasive efforts.
Yes, some of the best ideas are met with resistance. But so are some of the worst ones. Important solutions fail to be implemented because of resistance. But that happens to ineffective solutions as well. When someone is resisting your persuasive communication attempts, you might gain an advantage by owning the phenomenon. Just as the Borg attempt at a takeover created intense resistance in the crew of the Enterprise and in Starfleet as a whole, your communication can have a similar effect on others.
There are, in fact, several ways to create sure-fire resistance in others. The first is insistence, the idea that persuasion is all about talking rather than listening, telling and selling instead of caring and sharing. When you find yourself insisting that someone understand something, or listen to you, or agree with your view, or you pour out information at them like a fire hose, there is a good chance that you are creating a negative reaction that will polarize your persuadees against what you have to say. Likewise, if you have resistance in yourself to the act of persuading others, your persuadees may feel your discomfort, take on your resistance and make it their own. If you’re not persuaded, people tend to agree with you.
I recall an incident when I was a med student. One of my peers was recommending a dietary change to a patient. His problem was that he didn’t like the item that he was recommending, and his face and voice revealed this to even the most casual observer. He wrinkled his nose and forehead, curled his lip, gasped and then said, “Have you ever tried nutritional yeast?” Taking her cue from him, the patient replied, “No, and I don’t want to!”
Another way to create resistance is by failing to take into account a person’s MAP of reality on the subject, or trying to bypass these things like they are of no real consequence. And perhaps the most insidious way to create resistance is by projecting on your persuadee that they are resisting what you have to say. The feedback of resistance is a signal that you need to set your agenda aside, because there’s something important that you’ve missed. Resistance is nature’s way of saying ‘Stop talking, start listening!’
I’m listening. Your feedback and comments are welcome!