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Making progress, resolving resistance

Sarah Willcox

Image of empty pairs of shoes facing each other illustrating the Fairisle article Making progress resolving resistance

When dealing with business change we nearly always run into resistance at some point. But making progress and resolving  resistance is easier than we think.

Sometimes it’s hard to see things from a different perspective, especially if we feel strongly about a particular point. Too often, attempts to resolve resistance end up becoming an exercise in marshalling the arguments for your position.

Shift focus

At times like this, it’s helpful to shift focus completely away from what you’re disagreeing about and on to the simple fact that you are disagreeing. It’s almost as if there are two pairs of shoes to occupy. There are the shoes you’re in now (“ this is the right way of doing something”). And there are the shoes that someone else is in now (“I’m adamant that there is no other option but this one”). Neither of you like the style or colour of each others’ footwear.


You’re at an impasse and you aren’t going to get very far by listing the relative merits of a cuban heel or chisel toe. Could you instead connect with that maddening, enraged feeling that you have when ‘they’ just can’t seem to see the rightness of your position. Perhaps you’ll find it an uncomfortable experience.

Put aside for a moment the rights or wrongs of your argument. It’s possible the other person feels as frustrated by your inability to see things from their point of view as you are about theirs. In this respect, are their shoes actually fairly similar to yours?

Better understanding

And if you can both connect to that same experience, maybe in time you can find other things to agree on, too. Perhaps you could explore why their position is so important to them and get a better understanding that way. Maybe put yourself in their shoes.  Exploring our own resistance to what’s around us can be as instructive as identifying other people’s objections to change. 

Join in

Harnessing the energy from resistance was the subject of one our recent Fairisle Lab workshops.  To join future workshops on resistance and other change topics for free, join our subscriber community.