Mark Blasini


Managing resistance


For any change you want to make, you can always anticipate there will be some kind of resistance. Indeed, the more transformative or sweeping the change, often the greater the possibility for resistance.

Accordingly, there are four main types of resistance that needs to be anticipated and managed when you're trying to implement change:

  1. Resistance to the person proposing change. The less people know or trust you, the greater their resistance to you as the proposer.
  2. Resistance to the idea of the change. The less clear the benefits of the idea are, the harder people will be able to imagine the change, and thus go along with it.
  3. Resistance to the effort required to implement or maintain change. The more perceived toil or difficulty in making the idea happen, the more resistance you'll receive.
  4. Resistance to the control of the change. The less control people have over the change, the more resistance they'll have to it.

I mention these four types of resistances as if they apply to persuading other people, but these four types easily pop up even when you're trying to implement change for yourself (e.g. a new diet or budget or habit). If you see yourself as unreliable or not as smart, if you can't see the clear benefits of an idea, if the effort to make the change is seen as too hard, or if you do not feel you have something to contribute to the process, you'll find yourself unwilling or unable to maintain motivation, despite how healthy or necessary the change is.

As an effective strategist, then, you must know how to anticipate and manage these resistances.

Thus, to manage the resistance to you as a proposer, you must develop a relationship with those whose support you need for the change. You must build familiarity, trust, and rapport, and demonstrate that you are capable and intelligent.

To manage resistance towards your idea, you must provide compelling benefits, and demonstrate your idea in a clear way. Provide contrasts with how things are and paint a picture of the future.

To manage resistance towards the effort required to implement your idea, you must work at simplifying the steps and making them as easy as possible. Think hard about the process and what people have to go through to make the change happen.

And to manage resistance towards the control, you must provide a large amount of freedom for the people who will affect the change. Ask for their insight, give them responsibilities, engage their creativity in the process.

The task is not easy, but then again, nothing worth doing ever really is.