How To Get Others To Be Less Resistant To Change
By Dr. Nicole Lipkin – Organizational Psychologist & Speaker on Leadership and Mental Agility
If you’ve ever tried breaking an old habit, you know how hard it can be. When a habit is ingrained in our brain it creates neural pathways that are comfortable for synapses to travel through.
Creating new habits and ways of doing things, stepping out of our comfort zone, pausing to consider alternate points of view – these all require creating new neural pathways. It means expending mental energy, energy our brains would rather not deplete.
The brain wants – and strives – to maintain equilibrium at all costs. It’s a carryover from primitive days.
But if you thought changing your own mental processes and habits was hard, try changing someone else’s. You at least have control with your own actions. As hard as it can be to make the choice to change your own habitual thinking, you have the ability within you to make the choice to do so.
You do not, however, have the ability to force another to make that same choice. If you have the power of influence and persuasion perhaps you have a greater chance, but for most of us we are at the mercy of everyone else’s habitual mental thought processes.
Whether you are a leader of a team or organization, or you work under or with someone, arming yourself with the knowledge about how our brains work and what it might take to get another to consider your point of view is extremely valuable.
The first point to remember is organizations don’t change, people change. You have to go back to human nature and human psychology when trying to get other people to move in a new direction.
This means you first need to understand the common mental biases at play within all of us before attempting to get other people to be less resistant to a new idea or concept. Without further ado…
The 3 Most Common Psychological Biases That Make Us Resistant To Change
- Sunk / Cost bias: The theory that the more time/money/energy we put into something the more time/money/energy we’ll continue to put into it, whether it’s a bad decision, a hire, or a relationship.
- Loss Aversion: We feel pain from loss twice as much as the pleasure we experience from gain. Thus, we’re more comfortable sticking with the status quo as we’re trying to minimize discomfort at all costs, even at the risk of gaining something greater.
- Status Quo Bias: We prefer not to rock the boat, to keep things the way they are. The brain doesn’t want to exert energy. It wants the shortest path from A to B. Keeping things consistent, the way they are and always have been is easier and less taxing for the brain.
Simply being aware of these biases will help you understand another’s resistance to change that would clearly benefit them.
With awareness of the biases you can more skillfully help others adapt to change by gently challenging their natural biases that may keep them stuck in doing it the old way.
Position It In The Other Person’s Best Interest
We’re selfish. We’re primarily interested in things that are going to impact us directly. Before making your proposition, be clear on how it will benefit them, not you. If you need another to shift their point of view, try to understand why they might be resistant.
For instance, if they’re responsible for the fiscal health of the company, that will be the filter through which they view any new proposition. Understanding their point of view puts you in a better position. It’s giving you the language to tap into that person’s resistance.
If you understand they’re worried about finances then you need to position your proposition in their best interest, i.e. how is this going to impact the finances? How is this going to impact the business?
Propose new ideas / Concepts/ Agendas In The Morning
Every decision we make from the moment we wake up – from what to wear to what to eat – depletes our energy reserve. As we go about our day, our energy is depleted further with every subsequent decision.
We thus have the most mental energy in the mornings. That is when we are the most receptive to new ideas and concepts. The afternoons will find most of us full from lunch and thinking about going home. Our ingrained habits are strongest when we’re depleted.
Encourage Open Dialog
To be less resistant to change requires talking it through. Be willing to spend time discussing the pros and cons of the change you are proposing. This creates psychological safety. When people feel comfortable and safe to openly speak their mind and express their opinions and thoughts, they will have the space of mind to hear another’s perspective.
Manage Your Own Reactions
You can’t control your facial expressions as well as you think. We pick up on each others’ expressions in a heartbeat, if even subconsciously. That’s enough to create internal resistance to your proposition.
The more you indulge your immediate emotional reaction the less control you’ll have over them, which can snowball and lead to worse outcomes. Realizing we all have different perspectives makes each of our perspectives subjective, as difficult as it may be for us to accept when we feel right about something.
Control Your Patience
While you might be able to pivot quickly, someone else might not. This doesn’t mean something is wrong with them; it might just mean something else is up or getting in the way. You might not have the full story of what’s going on in their mind.
Be patient with their process. Impatience will only work against you. Take a step back from your frustration with other people’s resistance so you can start learning how to communicate, how to do that dance, how to groove better with people. That’s at the root of managing other people’s resistance.
This shouldn’t be about winning. It’s about tempering the natural “I’m right” competitive nature. Insisting we are right is what heightens emotion and diminishes the chance for seeing eye to eye.
Make the decision to cultivate a growth mindset, to be more open, to hear things differently, look at other perspectives, be comfortable with not always knowing the way. As cliche as it is, if you want others to change, then you have to first be the change you want to see in the world.
Model the behavior you wish to see in others. If you are open, receptive, self-aware, and willing to change course when a convincing argument is presented to you, then others are more likely to follow in your footsteps.