Resistance has the power to derail the best of plans, but acknowledging it with empathy and compassion might just engage the leverage you need to achieve your goals.

Like most things in life, resistance has a spectrum. On one end, it shows up as avoidance or maybe a little passive aggressive.  One the opposite end, it can be downright sabotaging and defiant. Regardless of the spectrum, there is one thing I know for sure: If you are not experiencing resistance, the change you seek is probably not too meaningful.

Why do we resist change? I mean, if it is going to be good for me, or beneficial for the group I belong to, why don’t I instinctively get behind it, stay motivated, and behave in ways that will ensure its success? Studies have found there are common reasons why humans tend to resist even the greatest changes.  In fact, resistance is predictable and its reasons are universal.  Here’s what’s cool about that… Once you understand the common reasons for resistance, you are armed with the power to head it off and move through it more quickly and with less pain.

Five common reasons we resist change:

  1. A fear of the unknown. After all, can we be sure this change will have the positive impact on us we are hoping for? What if it doesn’t?
  2. Lack of trust. Could be mistrust of the individuals initiating the change, why change is necessary, or the real intended outcome of the change.
  3. It seems too hard. Big goals can be intimidating! Some would rather not try at all than fail. Others may not believe the change is actually possible.
  4. Bad timing. Too much change, too quickly, can be overwhelming and a recipe for disaster.
  5. Predisposition about change. Many prefer the comfort of what is familiar – even when it is harmful or holding them back.

Resistance is normal, but it does not have to be damaging or insurmountable. However, in order to minimize the chance of worst-case resistance derailing you, you do need to plan ahead and prepare for it.

Think through these simple questions to increase your likelihood of success: Warning! Each may require collaboration.

  1. What steps and stages will this change include? Think end-to-end.
  2. Who will be impacted by the change and how might it affect them? Objectively and subjectively.
  3. What training, skill development, or resources will be needed to successfully implement this change?
  4. What are the likely reasons for resistance and how might it show up? Knowing me and those involved.
  5. How can I stay objective about the change implementation and acknowledge the resistance?

Once you have some clarity around those five things, you are in a good position to develop a strong and continuing communication plan. Remember to include opportunities for feedback from those involved and impacted, Q & A, and fine tuning of your change plan.  You build self-trust, and group-trust, through empathy and compassion combined with frequent and authentic communication. Well-placed trust offers the most direct path through resistance.

You know I like to keep it real, so be assured that any lasting and positive change will meet resistance. Being prepared for it will help your resolve be stronger than the resistance!  Finally, remember a little resistance – like I always say about conflict – when met with empathy and curiosity, might just uncover your greatest opportunities!

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