Resistance to Change
In my work guiding change, I have noticed a tendency for people in organizations to describe the difficulties of making change as “resistance to change.”
When it is put this way, resistance is a vague force that needs to be fought or pushed back. We may feel resentful or angry about “resistors,” as though they are simply unreasonable. A leader who is driving change may feel like the CEO who once said, only half joking, “be reasonable; see it my way!”
Seen in these ways, resistance—or even the whole change initiative—becomes a battle among opposing forces. When people are bracing for a fight, they gird themselves with the armor of defensive reasoning and try to wear “opponents” down with strong-armed (and usually reason-based) persuasion.
Unfortunately, this way of framing resistance does not help build support and commitment.
What if we were to see resistance as valuable information? As author Rick Maurer puts it, “resistance protects us from harm....From the vantage point of the person resisting, caution is absolutely the right course of action.”
Framing resistance as valuable information transforms our challenge. Instead of opposing resistance, use it as an invitation for discovery.
- • What is this resistance about?
- • What is the perceived harm?
- • What are you asking people to give up or let go of?
- • How are people feeling, and what does this suggest about your message and actions? (Reasoned arguments will not reach or change these feelings.)
- • As a leader, do you have people’s trust?
There are hard questions—and the answers may contain treasures.