Adamance, stubbornness, or in other words – ‘Resistance’. To deal with something, we first need to understand it. To understand it, we need to look beyond our judgment of it. The minute we call or see someone’s behaviour as adamant or stubborn, we immediately lose the ability to influence them. Why? Think about it – the minute you call someone stubborn, what’s the belief you have about them in your mind? That they won’t listen, right? When you operate with that belief, it influences how you say and what you say. The impact hence isn’t going to be any better as well. The important thing to know here is adamance, or resistance is not built overnight. No one suddenly wakes up and decides to be stubborn. So what makes them develop that resistance? Two possible reasons:
1. Someone in their immediate environment has tried too often to influence them. With the best of intentions, our family (most often) tries to tell us what to do and what not to do. They want to see us happy, so they try telling too much, based on their experience. They insist that you follow what they say. Two things happen as a result – Either one becomes overly compliant, and waits to be told what needs to be done always; or, develops resistance. Just because you said it, they decide to not do it or do the opposite of it. Not giving people a choice quite frequently can build a rebellion-based resistance in them.
2. They were given too much of choice. On the other hand, if one has received too much of freedom and choice always, they become resistant to outside influence too. Since they’ve always had it their way, listening to others is an alien concept to them. They think it is unnecessary since the formative years were filled with others listening to them all the time. Not just others listening to them, they were often told whatever they said or did was right. Or people were too concerned if they ever got upset, so they let them have it their way all the time. Too much of an ego boost in formative years can lead to developing an ego-based resistance in people.
These are the possible background stories. Resistance can be developed in later years too. This usually happens as a result of a person feeling cheated or being taken for granted. In self-defense, they develop resistance. They decide to be closed for external influence to safeguard their own interest.
So, how do we deal with resistance?
1. Firstly, as I mentioned earlier, don’t judge them as stubborn or adamant because you lose your ability to influence the minute you do that. Observe it and understand it. It is only a part of their behaviour. It is not a definition of the person. There’s more to the person apart from this one behaviour. When you look beyond their resistance is when you’ll find the best ways to influence them.
2. Secondly, stop insisting. Usually, what happens is, the minute we see someone resistance, we persist even more. We try to convince them. In trying to convince them, we unconsciously build even more resistance in them. How you may ask? Imagine a situation where you are asking a child to try a new kind of food. The kid says a simple ’No’ initially. We don’t stop there. We insist more saying ‘please’, ‘you must’. Then the child says a louder no. We continue, ‘you have to’, ‘you must’, ‘if you don’t…’, now the child starts screaming a no or even worse, starts crying. If you insist further, the child may eat and vomit or hit you or some unconscious reaction like that. And to add fuel to this whole thing, we tell them, “Don’t be stubborn”. So we introduce a new definition for themselves to live by! Whose fault is it now that they grow up to be stubborn?
It is no different when we come to adults too. The more we insist, the more they resist. They may resist without any reason or for a particular reason. Without understanding where their resistance is coming from, if we mindlessly insist, we might be viewed as an overbearing personality. Even if they comply, they do so because they have no choice left. Or, they may outrightly reject what you are saying.
3. Now comes the third part, the importance piece – give them a choice. Tell them what’s important to you about them doing something or trying something (mind you, without emotional blackmail please). Just the benefits of it and what it means to you. And then, the cherry on the cake – let people know that you trust that they make the best decisions and you leave the choice to them. It is important for people to feel their freedom of choice is respected and you are not here on an agenda to convince them or push things down their throat. This usually makes people want to listen to you. Because you are being so respectful, you open a two-way street of mutual understanding and they mostly oblige too. Or, at least, they won’t develop any strong resistance towards you. They’ll be more open to considering what you are saying sooner or later.
The most important thing is – don’t ever tell or show in any way that your rapport with them is based on whether or not they comply with you. Doing so damages relations in the long run. And when you do that, you make way for them to repeat a similar behaviour towards you too in some other context. People listening to you or not listening to you should not determine your mood and your rapport towards them. Offer – if they take it – good for them. If they don’t – perhaps this isn’t the time for them. Everyone makes the best choice available at the time they make it. This is one of the beliefs of excellence in NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming). If someone makes a different choice from what you suggested, maybe there’s learning in it for them. Also, just because it worked for you, doesn’t mean it has to work for everyone else.
‘I love you if you listen to me’ – Or, ‘I’ll be happy only if you listen to me’, is never a great strategy. It can be viewed as manipulative. The relationship becomes slightly toxic when we do that. Expecting others to listen to us at the cost of their own freedom and happiness isn’t a win-win.
The best form of influence is when you are being a compelling example. Be such an inspiring example that people feel like listening. If you think you are an example, and start insisting that people follow you, they’ll want to resist you just because of that! Follow what you want, without making it a compulsion for others to follow too. Even if it is the best habit in the world! Resistance is built the most because of compulsions. The lesser we do that, the more people are likely to learn and imbibe. And above all, trust! Trust that when the time is right, they will come around to it too. There’s a learning curve for everyone in anything they do.
The funny part – when we call others stubborn, we often fail to see what is it that we did in the first place, which made them be stubborn. We don’t call someone stubborn just because they said a simple ‘no’ right? We call someone stubborn when they repeatedly said no. And if someone repeatedly refused, that means we repeatedly insisted too. Which means we were stubborn first??? How about that! And all along we were thinking they were stubborn! 🙂