How to Deal With Resistance to Change Within Law Firms

resistanceMost resistance to change gets communicated subtly. We need to pick up the clues. The resistance is often not in the words they are using but more in the manner through which they are communicating.

How naive I was when I first attended a Board meeting to persuade the members to adopt a strategy on new ways to address client relationships. I got a 100% ‘yes’ to my proposal but there was little enthusiasm and the Board just weren’t expressing their concerns.

Here’s a list of some of the most common different forms that resistance can take and ways of addressing it. We need to be tactful and not feel attacked by the resistance, hence the neutral, non-judging language to draw the other person out. Also the more credibility, rapport and trust you have invested in the relationship, the easier this conversation will be.

Resistance takes this form Addressing the resistance
Person avoids responsibility for the problem or solution ‘’It seems that you don’t see yourself as part of solution. What role do you think you could play….’
Flooding you with detail ‘I’m getting more detail than I need at this stage. How would you describe it in a short sentence?’
One word answers ‘You’re giving me short answers. Could you say more?’
Changing the subject ‘The subject keeps shifting. Could we stay focused on the issue of X?’
Compliance ’You seem willing to do anything I suggest. I can’t tell what your real feelings are on this’
Silence ‘You’re very quiet. I don’t know how to read your silence’
Pressing for premature solutions ‘It’s too early for solutions. I’m still trying to find out X’
Attack ‘You’re really questioning a lot of what I do. You seem annoyed about something?’

After you make your comment, try staying silent to draw the other person to reveal what’s really going on for them.

Remember that if you’re not getting at least nine out of ten enthusiasm to your idea there’s likely to be some tacit resistance. It’s better to flush this out at the outset.

This technique has been adapted from Peter Block’s Flawless Consulting.

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