Thursday 30 October 2014

Influencing: Resistance is futile

Just to recap - the Borg are a race whose strap line is "resistance is futile". A warning as they assimilate every other race they come across. Obviously Captains Piccard and Janeway give them a run for their money in Star Trek Next Generation and Voyager (sorry perhaps more detail than you want - my Trekky preferences allowing me to get carried away). 

The thing is resistance is futile only when you're up against the Borg. In all other instances resistance can be very very effective and if you're at the receiving end of it very frustrating and can certainly prohibit you from achieving your goals.

So how do you breakdown resistance or stop it forming in the first place?

I know some people have preferences for eliciting and then dealing with resistance - they like the battle. The problem with it as a strategy of influence is - its only going to work if the other person has similar preferences for sparring. If they're adverse to it then they might just shut down and be closed to any influence from then on in. Making you pay the price later if you do start dialogue with them again.

I remember one example when working with another trainer. We had very different preferences with respect to sparring. If someone answered a question we had two different types of response:
  • Their response was "no that's not right" and then went on to identify all the things that were wrong in what they'd said. Then they provided the correct answer.
  • My response was "yes that's right" and then went on to expand their response to ensure they knew the correct answer.
On the whole if someone provides an answer and hears 'yes' they will keep their mind open to hear what you say next. Often if someone hears 'no' they don't always keep listening. No, especially said with a specific tone, can just mean the barriers go up and you've lost them. (That said I know the other trainer used this strategy to get debate going and in a training environment that's very helpful.)

Any influencing strategy must therefore on the whole aim at keep resistance down and communication open (unless as I said earlier you know they love to spar, or there are other reasons why resistance is helpful to you achieving your goal). Language used can help keep resistance at bay, so too can tone, so too looking for points of agreement before exploring points of difference (after all people like people who are like themselves). 

Yes points of difference do get a look in - they're just made to sound more like points of agreement and are not to be found at every turn. (Blog to follow).

Do you know whether you prefer to spar or not - what about your stakeholders - have you noticed how resistant they are - and is your strategy aligned with their preferences and aimed at reducing their resistance rather than simply breaking through it.

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out

As ever if you're achieving the outcome you want then you do have the right strategy irrespective of the advice above (assuming you've not impacted future support for your strategies in the process anyway). The aim with all my blogs is to inspire change. That is if you're not getting the response you want what changes might you want to consider to facilitate that? The more knowledge you have about the person you're wishing to influence the more accurate your strategy can be. Self awareness is also very useful - after all it might just be one of your 'preferences' that prohibits your influencing being effective. Happy to help + 44 7770 538159.

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