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wooing resisters 600 px

When talking about leading change in workshops, we spend some time talking about how to woo the resisters. There are always people who will be opposed to doing things in a different way.

As early into the change as possible, we want to ask for the input of resisters. Often, they have some valid concerns and can point out potential obstacles and challenges that an organization will face during a change. Sometimes, we can incorporate their observations into the change process. Sometimes, the change is set in stone, and all we can do is listen to their objections. It’s important to let the resister know what can and cannot be done.

When talking to resisters, we often hear a lot of complaints. They are very ready to share what is wrong. We want to find out what an ideal situation would look like to them by helping them to find the dream behind the complaint.

When we complain, we are telling others how reality is not meeting our personal expectations. We have a picture in our heads of how we want things to be that we don’t articulate and often can’t see clearly. As leaders, we want to help resisters clearly define the best situation for them.

We can start by asking them, “What needs are not being met?” We can also ask, “For what are you longing?” We want to get to the Essence-level feeling that the resisters are experiencing. Remember, every situation has a fact and a feeling part.

Then we want to get them to describe the ideal outcome for the current change. We can ask things like:

  • What would the ideal scenario look like?
  • What could be better?
  • Can you think of a metaphor that applies to this situation?
  • What is it like here in this ideal situation?

It’s important that we keep focusing on the dream, not the complaint. We are helping the resisters create a solution instead of dwelling on the problem. Once the resisters have clearly defined the situation that they want, it’s important to do a reality check. How much of the dream can be achieved in the current reality? Organizations have requirements, and team morale is always a consideration. We want to ask the resisters what they believe is reasonable and then share our answer to the same question. Finally, we want to ask the resisters, “What are you willing to contribute or commit to in order to make this happen?”

If a resister is in full resistance mode and unable to see anything positive about the situation, we can help. We can ask the resister to rate the current reality on a scale of 1-10. Let’s say that they rate the current situation at a 3. We would then ask, “What keeps it from being a 1?” We are asking them to tell us a few of the positive things that are going on right now.

Then we ask them to define one small change that would nudge their feeling about the situation up one number. Resisters don’t say “1” very often when asked to rate a situation, but if they do, ask them for one small change that would bring it up to a 2.

When facing a change, we all have a high dream and a low dream for the outcome. We hope for the best and fear the worst at the same time. Asking everyone to define their high and low dreams can help the group get through a change more easily. Once each person has defined his or her high and low dream, they go on to tell the group what would support the low dream and what would support the high dream. At the end of the discussion, the group has a simple list of do’s and don’ts that will help them help each other through the change.

When facing a change, the most important thing that a leader can do is listen. By meeting everyone’s personal needs to be listened to, understood, and respected, we are helping them to accept the change by ensuring they feel that their feelings, dreams, and expectations are not being ignored. We all want to be seen and feel that we have some bit of influence over the situations we find ourselves in.

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