INFORMATION CAUSES RESISTANCE
For some reason, we maintain a long-standing belief that if we offer the right people the right information at the right time, presented in the right way, those it’s intended to influence will be duly impressed and adopt it. But that’s erroneous. Just think how often we
and how often our brilliant delivery and logical (and probably accurate) argument is not only ignored but rebuffed. Certainly the ineffective behaviors continue regardless of the logic of the information we offer. Are they just stupid? Irrational? We’re ‘right’ of course: we’ve got the rational argument and data points; what we have to share is what Others need to hear.
But is this true?
It’s not. And we’re wrong. We’re actually creating resistance, losing business, destroying relationships, and impeding change. Here’s why. When we present rational data, or make arguments based on logic or wisdom or knowledge, and hope it will sway an opinion or get a new decision made to, say, change a behavior, we’re putting the cart before the horse. While the data itself may be important, we are merely using our own biases, needs, control issues, etc. as the motivation to offer it, not to mention our timing may be inappropriate.
We sometimes forget that system that holds the problem in place – the people, rules, relationships, goals, etc. that make up the status quo – has maintained itself in that same format through time and has developed a series of biases, habits, assumptions, etc. and hears new information as threatening it’s status quo: until it’s made ready to change so Systems Congruence is maintained, it will automatically resist anything from outside. You see, until there’s internal buy-in for change, and until the system that holds the problem in place recognizes it will not face chaos with change, people have no place to put the new information. The system is sacrosanct, regardless of the need or the efficacy of the solution/information.
We believe that part of our jobs as leaders, sales professionals, coaches, managers, or even parents is to be the arbiters of change, with information a main ingredient. And we tend to think that if we offer appropriate data – rational, proven, useful, well-delivered – as the reason for change, the Other will adopt it. But information in and of itself does not teach someone how to change: information promotes knowledge that may not be understood or pursued by that person at that time. Not to mention that people listen through subjective filters and can only hear/understand in direct relation to the same beliefs that caused the problem to begin with. Change requires a systems overhaul.
Let me explain. Everyone – people and teams, companies and families – possesses unique internal beliefs, values, histories, biases (systems) that are idiosyncratic and determine our behaviors. Indeed, these internal systems are so clearly defined and defended that we don’t even know how to listen when information is offered that’s outside our conventional thinking. And I cannot say this enough, so please disregard this repetition: Regardless of how important, necessary, or life-saving our information is, it will be resisted until/unless there is internal buy-in for it and an identified route through to change that maintains Systems Congruence.
OFFER INFORMATION ONLY WHEN SYSTEM READY FOR CHANGE
It is only when parts of the system seek a new level of excellence and can figure out how to change without disruption will any sort of change be considered, regardless of our initiatives as outsiders to influence the change. If the system had recognized the need to change and knew how to fix it congruently it would have fixed the problem already.
At the point the need for change is considered, even by a small part of the system, the system must get buy-in from everything and everyone that will touch the new solution and knows how to change its underlying rules in a way that insures minimal disruption. In other words, no buy-in/no agreed-upon safe route forward = no change considered = no information accepted: the information doesn’t fit anywhere, can’t be heard, can’t be understood. We end up pushing valid data into a closed system that doesn’t recognize the need for it.
Telling kids why they should clean their rooms, telling prospects why your solution is better, telling managers to use new software doesn’t create the hoped-for change, regardless of how cogent the information except where the kids, buyers, managers were already set up to/seeking change and know how to move forward congruently (i.e. the low hanging fruit).
Here are a couple of simple examples.
It’s not about the need or efficacy: change cannot happen until the system knows who or what:
As I say in my book on how buyer’s buy Dirty Little Secrets: the system is sacrosanct (Read this book to understand each stage of decision making and systems change.). We learned about homeostasis in 6th grade: anything that is seen to be pushing the system out of balance will create resistance (whether the system needs the change or not – remember: the system ‘is’, and gets up daily maintaining itself). Giving information too early, before a system can learn how to adopt change so any disruption is integrated, merely causes resistance as the system fights for balance.
And so, our brilliant, necessary, cogent information gets ignored, resisted, objected to, or misunderstood and we must handle the ubiquitous objections and resistance that we have created (and sadly miss real opportunities to facilitate change). Hence long sales cycles/lost sales and implementation problems, ignored advice, ill patients not complying with necessary behavior changes, and lost opportunities. So: help people/groups manage change first to set up the agreement, congruency, and buy-in; then offer information.
Conventional sales, marketing, training, coaching, parenting, and leadership models use sharing and gathering information as their core, and first, activity, assuming people will be willing to change by being offered rational, necessary, data. But facilitating change goes well beyond information.
I’ve developed a generic Change Facilitation model (called Buying Facilitation® in sales) which is a generic decision facilitation model that works with each step of systemic change, buy-in of all elements, people, rules, etc. that will touch the new solution, and eventually enables a system to develop it’s own route through to congruent change; information is offered once there is agreement for adoption – and by the time you offer it, there is already eagerness for change and an eagerness to adopt and listen to your information. If you’re a coach, negotiator, seller, purchasing agent, leader, doctor, or implementer add it into your current skills. Then when it’s time to offer information, your clients will be ready for it and eager to accept it.
Sharon Drew Morgen is the author most recently of What? Did you really say what I think I heard? Sharon Drew is also the author of the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and 7 other books on how decisions get made, how change happens in systems, and how buyers buy. She is the developer of Buying Facilitation® a facilitation tool for sellers, coaches, and managers to help others determine their best decisions and enable excellence. Her award winning blog sharondrewmorgen.com 1500 original articles with original thinking on systems, collaboration, buying, leadership, etc. She can be reached at email@example.com 512-771-1117