Should Resistance Be Overcome?

Christopher Witt —  March 12, 2013

Leaders of all sorts, change agents, and speakers all encounter resistance in one form or another, because they are all advocates of change. And change or the prospect of change frequently arouses resistance.

If resistance is inevitable, as it seems to be, the issue becomes what to do about it.

Most people seem to think that the best option is to overcome it. Search Google for “How to Overcome Resistance” and you’ll get 33,800,000 results. Which makes sense if you think resistance is negative. But is it?

Resistance is a type of opposition. It is a refusal to go along with something (an idea, a directive, a request). It is an effort to delay or to prevent change.

Resistance isn’t negative, per se. It is negative or positive, depending on the nature of the thing or action being proposed and resisted. (It would have been a good thing, for example, if more leaders at Enron had resisted the use of high-risk accounting practices, loopholes, special purpose entities, and misleading financial reporting.)

(Resistance can also be negative or positive, depending on how it is acted out. But that’s an issue for a future post.)

Maybe resistance isn’t an enemy to attack and conquer. Maybe it’s an early warning system that calls attention to the possibility of problems, threats, and risks that need to be faced and addressed.

Maybe resistance shouldn’t be overcome. Maybe it should be engaged in a way that creates greater understanding, commitment, and buy-in.

What do you think?

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Christopher Witt

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Chris Witt was born in Los Angeles, California. He currently lives in San Diego. He works as a speech and presentations consultant, an executive speech coach, and an orals coach.

2 responses to Should Resistance Be Overcome?

  1. Hi Chris,
    I agree with the thought that resistance shouldn’t be overcome. I think resistance can even be seen as a way of caring. It’s often someone wearing ‘the black thinking head’ of De Bono. People who resist can give very useful input and it’s worth looking into their thoughts.

    • Pauline, Thanks for you comment. You’re right: people who resist our ideas are often the ones who provide the best (and unthought-of) input…even when we aren’t looking for it.