Posted on March 07, 2022

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I regretted it the moment I put my hand over someone’s mouth during a stand-up work meeting. All I remember is my compelling desire to make him stop talking so I could have the floor. It was a low point in my coaching career and created understandable resistance and possibly resentment in the person.

No matter how great our ideas or contribution may be, trying to force our views on someone generally won’t work. And the stronger this force—in an effort to convince, persuade, shame, lecture, or command change—the more entrenched resistance becomes.

Similar to resistance training in the gym, when our muscles are forced to lift weights, they get stronger. They may temporarily yield under the strain, but ultimately recover stronger than before. And while resistance in the gym builds strength and stamina, accidentally inducing resistance in our colleagues at work leads to entrenched views, opposition, and rigidity that can hinder all efforts towards positive change, not to mention the untold cost of fractured relationships.

In my situation, as soon as I understood the impact of my hand-over-mouth communication, I apologised. I was fortunate the person was gracious and gave me another chance. We aren’t always so lucky and that’s why I recommend taking steps to diffuse resistance as soon as it arises.

Taking a step back and asking supportive questions of the other person can help. Where there’s a difference of opinion, taking the time to understand it to see if there’s an opportunity to find common ground; or to simply find a place of peaceful, respectful, even joyful disagreement, can open a brand new productive and energetic working space. It also feels much better than doing rounds in the ring where each person is simply trying to land a punch when they can.

We all have our inglorious moments such as I did: that's called being human. But we can heighten our awareness and communication effectiveness so that resistance is decreased through a more supportive and inclusive approach.

*Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

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