Reality Check: Change–Like It or Not, Part 2

According to Rick Maurer, resistance to change occurs on several levels. Last column, I indicated that one level is intellectual—“I don’t understand it.” That resistance can be addressed by providing information and engaging in logical discussions.

The second level of resistance is emotional—“I don’t like it” and it may stem from fear. Logical discussion isn’t going to help; you really need to address the fear. (More on that later.)

Maurer’s third resistance level is a more personal resistance, which can be expressed as “I don’t trust you.”

People distrust each other for plenty of reasons. Maybe I don’t trust you personally because of something that happened in the past between us. Perhaps I don’t trust you because your values are different from mine. Perhaps you’re management and I’m union. Or perhaps you’re from here, and I’m from there.

Maybe I don’t trust you because you belong to what I perceive to be an untrustworthy group, such as politicians, lawyers, or writers of columns. My boss at an early workplace said that the most frightening thing a small business owner can hear is, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” Now that’s distrust, eh?

Regardless of the reason, if distrust is the issue, then countering with logical arguments won’t help and could backfire! If I don’t trust you, I may perceive that you’re attempting to manipulate me—you’ll say anything to get me to agree and then boom! Too late! I’m trapped.

If you are promoting a change and are meeting resistance, what can you do?

First, identify which level of resistance you are facing and tailor your response accordingly.

If the resistance is due to lack of understanding, then provide information. Provide opportunities for discussion. Help people understand the need for and benefits of the change. Speak in a language that your audience understands.

If the resistance is due to fear, however, more information isn’t going to help. Maurer recommends that you emphasize WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) from the perspective of the fearful. Help them see the benefits, not only the feared potential losses. Make it easy for people to get involved and engaged. And be honest—with many changes, some people gain, others lose. Don’t pretend there’s nothing to fear if, in fact, there is.

Finally, if the resistance comes from a lack of trust, ask yourself honestly “Am I trustworthy?” Consider whether your resistors have a reason to perceive you as untrustworthy. Has something in the past shown you to be untrustworthy? Have you played a part in a damaged relationship?

At the very minimum, take responsibility for whatever you may have contributed to the lack of trust.

Work on building trust and being trustworthy. It may not be fair (but it’s true) that it takes longer to build trust than it does to destroy it. Start building relationships with those who resist. Allow yourself to be influenced; other people have good ideas, too.

Resistance doesn’t necessarily indicate obstinacy. What you may perceive as irrational resistance may be perceived by others as a matter of survival.

It might seem that the fastest way to get something done is to gloss over the difficulties and think that people won’t notice. However, that only damages trust in the long run.

What’s your immediate reaction to change? Like it? Or resist it?

This entry was posted in Making a Change and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.