There’s little more frustrating than having what seems to be a fabulous idea, energetically sharing with others that stroke of brilliance, and then being met with a wall of resistance. Once that bubble is burst, it’s easy to head to the defensive, vilify nay-sayers, hit the mute button on those who push back. We’ve all danced that well-trod jig. It’s a dance that keeps us in place, as nothing much changes.


Given that familiar pattern, what does it take to change the steps?

  1. Genuine curiosity: asking questions of those pushing back, and listening for what’s at stake for them. The ultimate antidote to resistance? Feeling heard and considered.
  2. An ability to name the loss under the resistance, and to express deep empathy for that loss. When people push back, it’s not because they don’t see the possibilities inherent in your plan. It’s because they do see those possibilities and in turn what they will lose along the way. And these perceived losses are significant: competence, autonomy, ownership, tradition, identity.
  3. A willingness to be wrong, to take in others’ perspectives, to change your own mind if you aim to change others.
  4. An understanding of your allies and how to activate those allies. This includes considering: who is best positioned to have this conversation and to connect with this person or faction?
  5. A sense of purpose that extends beyond your own agenda.


To understand and predict resistance, consider this formula: LP=R. When the perceived loss is greater than the potential purpose, resistance results.  Thus to break through resistance, we have at our disposal two levers: reducing the sense of loss that is fueling that resistance or amping up the connection to a larger shared purpose.  Better still: work both levers as you consider and engage partners in a novel set of dance steps.