Another Look at Resistance

by | Jan 14, 2020

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:

  • direct statements;

  • indirect expressions;

  • wrong questions; or

  • wanting proof, a promise, or power before committing to a course of action.

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:

  •  “Often when we’re talking, I will have concerns about what we’re discussing.

  • For me to tell you my doubts, I need to know that it’s safe for me to talk.

  • Deep inside, I worry that if I tell you my doubts, you’ll judge me, condemn me, expose meand this puts me at risk. 

  • When I am at risk, I feel vulnerable and can get hurt.

  • If I think I’ll get hurt, I‘ll act to protect myself.

  • I protect myself by trying to control the conversation and limiting your choices and actions.”

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

The Consultant’s Internal Struggle:

  • “Often when we’re talking, your behaviors suggest that you may have concerns about what we’re discussing.

  • For me to let you talk about your doubts, I need to know that it’s safe for me to ask.

  • Deep inside, I worry that if I confront your doubts, you’ll become angry with me, yell at me, threaten meand this puts me at risk. 

  • When I am at risk, I feel vulnerable and can get hurt.

  • If I think I’ll get hurt, I‘ll act to protect myself.

  • I protect myself by offering a more compelling business case, bartering, going along, or withdrawing.”

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

Charles L. Fields

Senior Consultant

Charles L Fields, Senior Consultant at Designed Learning, has traveled the world by car, rail, plane, and ship; watched the sun rise 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; eaten lunch in the oldest restaurant in the world; and presented Flawless Consulting and Empowerment workshops in over 25 countries. Contact him at cfields@designedlearning.com.

VIEW ALL POSTS BY: Charles Fields

Interested in Flawless Consulting for your business?

Through our Flawless Consulting workshops and Influence Coaching, we have given people like you, the tools they need to confidently communicate their ideas, listen well and strive toward building collaborative relationships with their clients and colleagues.