bringing drama and emotion

How To Overcome Resistance And Inspire Change The Human Way

If you had to choose a country that would resist gay marriage, Ireland would be a safe choice. At least in the western Europe. 

Yet somehow, in 2015 a national referendum legalizing gay marriage miraculously passed.

As Seth Godin writes in This Is Marketing, it was a heartfelt video made by Brighid and Paddy White about having a gay son and what the referendum meant to them that helped break through the resistance and inspire this change (in addition to other factors).

Incidentally, the Whites are Roman Catholics in their 80’s. They’re also human.

There are different ways to approach resistance to change. As illustrated in the gay marriage referendum, a good and human story is one.

However, before you can overcome resistance and drive change forward, you’ve got to understand and communicate the reasons behind it.

Is it skepticism due to change fatigue? “Oh, not another one!”

Or fear due to expected or unknown consequences? “They won’t need my skill set after this merger!”

Perhaps it’s a fear of losing one’s voice during the transition?

Whatever the reason/s behind the resistance, the best way to deal with it is to understand where it’s coming from. If you really want to lead people through it, that is.

To begin, you need to be aware of the A. Emotions, B. Needs & C. Drivers of the people you’d like to inspire.

Here are a few practical examples:

A. Emotions:

If you want their active support, you’ve got to know how to inspire them. To inspire people, you’ve got to get the narrative right. 

What’s the story behind the change? 

Where did it come from and what’s the purpose? 

What are the intended benefits and how is it going to work – the WHAT, WHY and HOW.

To activate the emotions, there’s no better way than a good story.

Do you think the referendum would have passed without the White’s story?

B. Needs:

Coming back to the fear of losing one’s voice, the need to be heard is human. Under any circumstances, change or no change. 

Therefore, they need to know that during the transition and potential chaos, there will be mechanisms for their voice to be heard.

For a change to be successful and really “stick”, it needs a sound ‘communication strategy’ – one that is flexible and is built to be adapted to new and emerging needs and concerns. 

For example, make a part of the weekly team meeting about the change and have a platform to voice needs and concerns.

Warning: If you listen to these needs and concerns, you need to act on them. Otherwise, they’ll quickly see their voice and your concern as meaningless.

C. Drivers:

If you want them to embrace and, in the best case, help you drive the change, they’ve got to be aware of its benefits. For you to know what benefits to communicate, you’ve got to know what drives and motivates them. 

For example, if you know a few reports want more responsibility or authority, tell them there’s likely to be a leadership vacuum during the transition – “a fantastic opportunity to step in and take a leadership role”.

Take Action Today

Here are 3 actionable strategies to help you overcome resistance and inspire change:

  1. Get clear on the WHAT, WHY & HOW and inspire them with the story.

  2. Create ways for them to voice new needs and concerns (e.g. weekly meeting).

  3. Highlight the potential benefits at every chance.

If you’d like to improve the way you approach change, book Free Strategy Call.

  • Hi Tim, great article. Writing as a very proud Irish woman, it was a hairy time before the referendum here in Ireland in 2015. However, as a nation of talkers, it was amazing to see and hear people tell their stories and journeys from a genuine place of love and see the change this brought about. I was amazed and proud of the older generation who listened and weren’t afraid of this change. They had seen enough in their lifetime to know something had to give. And THEN the droves of young people living abroad who came back on the day just to vote. They certainly were not afraid of change.
    It was a great and important day in Irish and the worlds history. Here we were a small country making a huge difference and all through listening to each other and having empathy and compassion for each other.
    Thanks for reminding me and how we can make these changes in other areas of life.

  • Buenos días Tim,

    a marvelous article on this topic – thanks for your work and sharing those insights. I like the idea and model of the awareness pyramid and it is igniting my imagination when I apply it to an organization combining it with diverse maturity models and aspects.

    The history of an organization or an individual within the organization – something like a collective memory – should anything but not be underestimated. Especially the why and the consequences are major CSFs.

    Excited of what you are providing further on this concept – awesome, thanks!

    Keep breakthroughing
    Andreas

  • Buenos días Tim,

    a marvelous article on this topic – thanks for your work and sharing those insights. I like the idea and model of the awareness pyramid and it is igniting my imagination when I apply it to an organization combining it with diverse maturity models and aspects.

    The history of an organization or an individual within the organization – something like a collective memory – should anything but not be underestimated. Especially the why and the consequences are major CSFs.

    Excited of what you are providing further on this concept – awesome, thanks!

    Keep breakthroughing
    Andreas

  • Hi Tim, I totally agree that a good and human story can help as a stimulus for change. As humans if we can be empathetic to another’s viewpoint and circumstance almost anything can be resolved.

    I do think there may also have been an element of the Catholic Church losing some of their hold due to scandal and that diminished power made way for new, more liberal thinking.

    Ultimately recognising that we are all fallible but that working together towards a brighter future and putting our differences aside can result in phenomenal progress.

    • Thanks, Amanda. Yes, makes sense that the Church’s normally loud voice was quieter as a result of recent scandal/s. Happy 2020 to you!