At our Facilitating Through Conflict workshop last week, the class really embraced my suggested approach when dealing with resistance. We see resistance when new processes are suggested, old ways of thinking are being challenged, or staff are being challenged to innovate or take risks. Regardless of why people resist, being able to identify resistance and deal with it effectively can improve group productivity and engagement. So what is resistance?
Despite everything that meeting facilitators do to prevent resistance – like setting meeting norms – we all find ourselves occasionally confronted by resistance. How do you know when you’re faced with resistance in a meeting? It can look like any of these participant behaviours:
When resistance pops up during a meeting, it can feel like a personal failure to the facilitator, like we haven’t done our jobs getting meeting participants onboard. These feelings can result in the facilitator trying to sell the agenda item or idea to the person in resistance. Let’s look at a resistance meeting scenario and two possible facilitator responses.
Resistance Scenario: You’re developing an action plan to complete an initiative the whole team agreed to last meeting. You get to a specific action and a team member asks: I don’t see why any of us needs to communicate with stakeholders. Shouldn’t this be the sponsor’s role?
Inappropriate Response (Pushing): Last week you all agreed that, given your team’s full empowerment to implement the initiative, we should develop this action plan. We’ve done some great work here today, so let’s regroup and focus on our task at hand.
Appropriate Response (Pulling):
So why do we call these two responses to resistance “pushing” and “pulling”? When we try to defend or sell an agenda item or idea, we’re pushing against the resistance, causing further tension instead of resolving the issue. When we pull participants through their resistance, we help them solve their own issue in a way they’ve chosen themselves.
How Pulling Helps the Participant in Resistance
How Pulling Helps the Facilitator
So the next time you’re faced with resistance, try pulling the resistor through the resistance instead of pushing back. Let us know how it goes. Share your stories or questions by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Do you have a unique meeting challenge not covered by one of our blog posts? We’re always looking for different dilemmas to discuss in our articles!