Subtle signs others are resisting your help

by Michael Mata20 Oct 2016
It isn’t always easy to detect, but your colleagues, clients, and subordinates will sometimes secretly resist your help. While they might claim to want your assistance to appear collaborative, they actively engage in passive-aggressive behaviour to deflect your help.  

Consultant and author Peter Block (author of the book Flawless Consulting) defines resistance as “a predictable, natural, emotional reaction against the process of being helped and against the process of having to face up to difficult organizational problems.” 

While resistance is sometimes obvious, more often it is not. “Whether you analyze performance discrepancies, interview subject matter experts, consult with clients, propose learning solutions, or serve in some other capacity, your success depends on your ability to recognize subtle signs of resistance,” notes Don Levonius, a professional consultant and public speaker.

Levonius calls resistance a natural emotional response that is sometimes unintentional. Resistance isn’t always a sign the other person is being deceptive or subversive, as he may simply be trying to convince himself and others that he does not have a problem and does not need any help.

Listed here are some subtle signs that others may be resisting your help.

Avoiding responsibility
Suppose you’re analysing performance discrepancies among employees and you interview one of the managers to gain insight into the issue. During your conversation, the manager proceeds to blame everyone except himself for the issue: HR isn’t hiring the right candidates, employees are indifferent…the list goes on.

If you notice that the person you’re talking to does not see himself as part of the situation, that person is not only denying responsibility, but may be resisting your help.

Acting busy
Have you ever made an appointment with a colleague, client, or boss and have them either cancel at the last minute or not show up at all? Sometimes they blow it off by saying they were too busy to meet you. When you reschedule the meeting, the same scenario plays out. What are they really trying to communicate? They may not see your project as a priority or may not see themselves as part of the problem. Either way, they’re being resistant.

Apparent confusion
As a talent development professional, you focus much of your time and energy helping to close knowledge gaps. You’re an expert in adult learning theory, and know how to adapt your teaching approach to accommodate the needs and learning styles of different learners.

So when you use your entire arsenal of talent development skills to convey information, only to have the learner continually act baffled, you need to ask yourself if the learner is genuinely confused or is faking it in order to resist learning and applying new information.

They question the practicality of your proposal
You’ve conducted a thorough training needs analysis, have analysed data, and have spoken to the right people. You then propose a feasible learning solution to your senior. They review your solution and express skepticism, saying your idea will never work in the “real world”.

Even if you inform them that your proposal has worked elsewhere, they react by telling you that their company or division is “unique” and isn’t comparable to other organisations. In reality, their reluctance to receive your expertise is the real reason behind their resistance, not the soundness of your proposal.