Another Look at Resistance

In any conversation with clients, there are concerns that are rarely discussed. These doubts vary in intensity with their perceived risk and loss of control; they are personal to the individual and the situation—they are not the same for everyone.

Doubts and concerns get expressed through different behaviors. You see them as:

At the heart of these expressions are emotional harsh realities—the real doubts, concerns, or fears that the client has about the project or whatever you are discussing. These are expressions of refusal without actually saying “No.”

They are nature’s way of telling you something important is going on! They are signs of change and learning. They are not to be overcome, but to be understood and expressed. Don’t take them personally. That will only get in the way of your dealing with them effectively.

These doubts and concerns are not legitimate objections. Objections are generally logical.

The general techniques for addressing objections—making the business case; giving more proof; bartering; talking about features, benefits, and advantages—will not address the concerns . . . they usually make it worse! In these conversations, we are faced with two internal struggles: the client’s and ours.

The Client’s Internal Struggle:

The Client’s Hope: to keep the conversation comfortable by not talking about my concerns.

The Consultant’s Internal Struggle:

The Consultant’s Hope: to keep the conversation comfortable by not confronting your behaviors.

This struggle is self-defeating. To break the cycle, the consultant needs to choose to confront what’s going on and create a safe space for the client to talk. To do this, we can:

1. Take the client’s side by listening, being patient, and seeking understanding.

2. Recognize the behaviors and not taking them personally.

3. Suspend our judgment by not interpreting the behaviors.

4. Choose to change the conversation that follows.

5. Ask questions of curiosity about their concerns instead of giving advice.

6. Act with courage.

I’d love to hear about your Resistance stories. Drop me a note. Let me know how it’s going.

Charles L Fields was a highly acclaimed Senior Consultant at Designed Learning and a lover of life. He traveled the world by car, rail, plane, and ship, watched the sunrise on Croagh Patrick, and set on Victoria Peak, weathered a perfect storm in the Pacific, bartered for a darbuka in the Grand Bazaar, prayed at Lord Nelson’s Sarcophagus, ate lunch in the oldest restaurant in the world. His prolific and thought-provoking writing contributed to the design and re-design of many DL products, including Flawless Consulting, Empowerment, and Stewardship. Charlie shared his passion for this body of work in over 25 countries. His impact is a blessing.