Last week, I discussed our research into overcoming resistance, and the three steps to take for this. Here I set out some exercises that will help you improve your ability to overcome resistance.


Address Fears


Resistance usually comes from strong negative emotions, such as when people feel threatened by change or fearful of it. Acknowledging these negative emotions and helping people to name them is an effective way to overcome resistance. Get in the habit of asking about people’s fears and reluctances using this exercise: After noticing even the slightest resistance, ask a question to learn about the person’s concerns by saying, “Can you tell me what about this may not feel right to you?” For example, a colleague may show slight resistance in the form of an “I agree with you, but …” statement, and you could ask, “Can you tell me what about this doesn’t feel right to you?”


Highlight benefits of change


On the rational level, resistance may also come from misunderstanding the change or from a lack of awareness of its benefits. You can practice selling individuals on the benefits of change using this exercise: After identifying a procedure that you need to change, ask yourself, “How will people benefit from changing this workflow?” Write it down in one sentence. For example, the benefit of streamlining your quality assurance process would be that employees have fewer checklists to fill out, resulting in less required overtime. 


Find two areas of agreement


This micro-behavior requires making a conscious effort to periodically summarize areas of agreement during a discussion, which demonstrates to the other person that you are on his side, not his enemy. Practice this exercise: After starting a conversation, focus on finding two areas of agreement. Summarize each one as soon as you discover it by saying, “It seems to me that we agree on …, is that correct?” For example, you could agree that you are both committed to addressing the issue under discussion, and you both want to reach a mutually agreeable solution to the problem.


Identify and highlight shared goals


It is easier to overcome resistance if you can convince people that an action is linked with their goals. Use this exercise to practice identifying shared goals: After finishing a meeting, write down one goal that you share with the other people involved in the meeting. For example, your shared goal could be to have a smooth product launch, or to satisfy your customers.

By making these behaviors part of your daily routine, you will be on your way to overcoming resistance and avoiding the spread of negativity. This will enable you to effectively align teams with organizational strategy and allow you to achieve organizational goals.


For more information, or to order a copy of Dr Martin Lanik’s book ‘Leader Habits’, please contact

11 April 2018