How to Maximize Our Influence
As someone who regularly works with CEO’s and others in leadership positions (even parents), one question I get a lot is how to deal with people who are resistant to their message or what they are wanting them to do. Unfortunately, what often happens is that the leader becomes annoyed or frustrated with the resistant person, and starts to become more insistent. This only makes the other person even more resistant, and a cycle of insistence/resistance is created and exacerbated. If you have ever experienced this, I have some thoughts on why this cyclic problem is so common, and what you can do to minimize resistance in others.
First, it’s important to understand the science behind what is happening in both parties. For those of you who follow my “Life from the Top of the Mind” philosophy, you know that the reason that leaders become frustrated and more insistent is because their brain (specifically, their limbic system) is interpreting the other person as problematic or a threat in some way. Of course, the resistant person is also reacting from the lower brain, which means no one is really listening.
If being influential is our goal, then we must first come to the realization that becoming frustrated or annoyed is not serving us. It’s not that we are wrong, or have no right to be frustrated. It’s just that this reaction will limit our effectiveness.
What we want to do is interpret the resistance as good information about what is important to the person we are wanting to influence. This doesn’t necessarily mean that we agree with them, it just means that we have increased our awareness of what isn’t working, which puts us in a great position to address the problem in a way that the other person hears as valuable.
For example, if we are talking to someone who needs to improve their performance in some way, we first want to be clear how their getting better at their job will be good for them. Maybe they are wanting a raise and/or to be considered for promotion. Or, maybe they also are frustrated by their inability to do this aspect of their job well. If either of those is the case, we can partner with what’s important to them and move to offer some solution going forward.
Notice how this is different from us trying to make them feel bad about their mistakes or poor performance. The truth is that most people don’t like feeling bad and thus tend to deflect criticism by blaming someone or something else. They also tend to see us as someone they don’t like, and therefore, they tend to reject our advice or suggestions for change.
Therefore, in the future, I suggest you stay in the clear, confident, creative part of your brain when dealing with resistant people, so that you can use their concerns to break through their resistance. In doing so, you avoid your insistence making things worse, and instead increase the likelihood that they will hear what you are wanting them to know.
~ All the best, Dr. Bill