12 Signs You May Be Running Into Resistance

“What a meeting! Talk about a waste of time. Lots of talk, but not much progress. It’s going to be hard to meet the deadlines” Did you ever leave a meeting feeling like that…that it was an unfruitful experience? I’ve had a few, more than I’d like to remember.

I remember one with Tony, a sales director who wanted me to customize a workshop for her department. As I began to talk about how I would approach the work, Tony started asking a series of questions about my experience in sales and marketing. Before I knew it we were laughing and trading stories about our college days. Then rather abruptly, the meeting ended when she had to rush to another meeting. I left wondering what had happened and confused about what to do next.

Over the years I have learned that people often have concerns and are uncomfortable talking about them. They would avoid discussing their concerns by unconsciously slipping into some annoying behaviors. Here are twelve common ones that you may have seen.

  1. You’ve been talking about the methods you want to use and they say,“That reminds me, did you see the game last night? It was a thriller!” Now you spend several minutes talking about the game and the sport. (Change the topic)
  2. Early in the conversation says, “I am under a lot of pressure from my boss and my customers and I need new, fresh ideas. What do you suggest?”(Wants an immediate solution)
  3. During the conversation stresses frequently,“I don’t want to be the scapegoat for previous bad decisions made by others”. The real problem is my boss, my direct reports, my customers, etc.” “If we could just change this system, form, procedure, policy, then everything would work.” (Blaming)
  4. During the conversation, begins to “interview” you, “What methods will you be using?” “What experience have you had with groups like mine?” ”Where has this worked before?” “How long have you been doing this?” “Where did you get your education…go to University?”(Asks questions about approach, experience, etc.)
  5. Shaking their head for emphasis, says, “Sure, no problem.”; “I’ll take care of it.”; “Glad to do it.” “We’ll get right on that.” And then nothing happens (Agreeing but not doing)
  6. What does the boss want?” “Exactly what is the purpose of this project?” “Tell me again what you’re trying to do.”(Confusion)
  7. That’s not a problem here.” “I’ve never seen that here.” “What makes you think that’s an issue?”(Denial)
  8. Looks away; shuffles papers; makes or takes phone calls; checks emails or texts.(Distracted)
  9. Points a finger and with a raised voice says, “You people always come in here pushing your agenda! You never seem to be interested in my problems! You always insist that I follow your plans and initiatives!”(Yelling)
  10. Says very little, nods head rather than speaks.(Silence)
  11. Early in the conversation says, “I‘ve looked at this situation and I believe the best course of action is to train the IT staff. So I want you to lay out a training plan for my staff”(Wants to implement their solution)
  12. “It’s possible.” “Maybe.” “Who knows?” “Sometimes.”(Short answers)


Any of these sound familiar? They can be deceiving…it may feel like you’re making progress, but you’re not. The real issues are being avoided.

What to do? In a few words, “change the conversation,” to find out what’s really going on.

  • First, STOP blaming them for what you’re seeing. Extend compassion.
  • Then, remember this is NOT ABOUT YOU. It is about them and their emotional reaction.
  • Next STOP what you’re doing and make it safe for them to talk about doubts and concerns.
  • Last, LISTEN, really listen, to their concerns and HELP THEM work through them.

A word of caution here – after hearing their doubts, you may agree with them…take their side.

Sounds easy on paper! The hard part is recognizing the signs. Too often we miss them and just continue talking, explaining, or bargaining assuming that it is a logical conversation. Sorry, it usually doesn’t work that well and it may damage the relationship.

Give it a try. Drop me a note at clfields@snet.net and let me know how it’s going.

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