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Navigating Active and Passive Resistance to Change

active and passive resistance to change
August 22, 2023 10:15 am

In any work setting, it’s not uncommon to encounter different types of resistance from team members when introducing new ideas or initiatives. However, effective resistance management can pave the way for smoother transitions and successful outcomes. Let’s delve into two distinct approaches to managing resistance. By the end of this blog, you will be equipped with practical steps and techniques to navigate these situations constructively and empathetically.  

Approach A: The Selling / Push Approach

Approach A focuses on persuasion and rationalization. It may involve providing justifications, defending your (or the organization’s) position, or even questioning the credibility of those resistant to change. However, taking an empathetic approach can often yield better results. Let’s delve into Approach B, which emphasizes active listening and understanding.

Approach B: The Empathetic / Pull Approach

Approach B prioritizes active listening, empathy, and open communication. By acknowledging and addressing concerns, you create an environment where resistance can be expressed and understood. By using this approach, you can better deal with both active and passive resistance to change within the team. Here’s a four-step model to effectively manage resistance using a more inviting approach.

Step 1: Name the Resistance

Acknowledge that resistance exists and identify it. Recognizing and naming the resistance sets the stage for open dialogue and problem-solving.

Step 2: Vent Concerns

Allow individuals to express their concerns openly. Actively listen, asking questions to gain a deeper understanding. Avoid the urge to counter, defend, or sell your point of view. Instead, focus on paraphrasing their points to ensure you comprehend their perspective accurately.

Step 3: Transition with a Question

Transition the conversation by asking a question related to their concerns. This encourages further engagement and shows that you value their input. If the response is positive, proceed to step 4. If not, revisit step 1 to ensure all concerns are addressed.

Step 4: Seek Solutions

Now that you have established a foundation of trust and understanding, collaboratively seek solutions. Ask individuals under what conditions or with what reassurances they would consider moving forward. This approach empowers them to be part of the decision-making process, increasing their commitment and engagement.

Practical Techniques for Constructive Resistance Management

During the process, there are several techniques you can employ to maintain an open and positive atmosphere:

  1. Actively Listen: When faced with differing opinions, listen attentively without interrupting. Show genuine interest and use statements like “Tell me more,” “That’s interesting,” or “I’m not sure I understand” to encourage further discussion.
  2. Empathize: Even if you disagree with someone’s viewpoint, acknowledge, and respect their feelings. Let them know you understand by saying phrases like “I see what you mean” or “I don’t blame you for feeling that way.”
  3. Paraphrase to Clarify: Summarize their points to ensure you have a clear understanding. Use phrases like “Let me see if I’ve got it straight” or “What you’re saying is…” to demonstrate active listening and validate their perspective.
  4. Mirror Body Language and Intonation: Pay attention to your body language and tone of voice. Aligning your non-verbal cues with the speaker helps establish rapport and builds trust.

Addressing Escalated Resistance

In some cases, resistance may escalate, leading to disruptive behaviour. Here are four steps to handle such situations in a friendly and constructive manner:

  1. Move Closer: Physically move closer to the person displaying resistance to create a sense of connection and attentiveness.
  2. Refer to Norms: Remind the individual of agreed-upon norms or establish targeted norms to redirect the conversation back to productive and respectful communication.
  3. Redirect: Guide the discussion towards a more constructive path by gently redirecting the conversation to address the main concerns and seek resolutions.
  4. Allow Venting and Seek Solutions

When dealing with resistance, it’s crucial to avoid suppressing or ignoring it. Instead, create an environment that encourages open dialogue and collaboration. By implementing the four-step model, you can effectively address resistance, foster trust, and facilitate positive change within your team.

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