How to deal with emotional resistance to change

By Mike Aux-Tinee…

One of the things we often overlook when we want to make changes in our life is how those around us feel about the changes. We get so caught up in all of that thinking/rational stuff that dominates the conversation, that we completely ignore the emotional element.  

Emotions can cloud a persons judgement. They influence intelligent people to do some pretty down right un-intelligent things, even when it is in their own best interests to make the change.

I have found the frontal assault on emotions just does not work. It is impossible to convince someone to give up something they have an emotional attachment to when you yell, scream and make demands. In fact, if there was ever a way to ensure you do not get your way, use any of those tactics and watch the other person resist. And if they do give in, they will resent you.

To be successful, I needed to be creative, less threatening and appeal to the rational side by demonstrating the benefits of the proposed changes and then I was able to sway the emotional side.

It does sound like I am trying to trick or deceive the person into my way of thinking. That is not the point, I am trying to find a way to convey my ideas to gain acceptance or at the very least, give me the chance to explain myself before I get the door slammed in my face (metaphorically speaking of course).

Success can be achieved, but you need to remember that each person is unique with a different background, experiences and opinions. There is no universal  approach or technique that will work 100% of the time and on every person.

If you are committed to making a change, nothing can be left off the table. You need to keep trying and find a way that works. Otherwise, the problem will become worse until it gets out of control and the solutions become very drastic.

Here are some of the methods that I have experienced success with when I want to make a change and need to convince someone to go along:

Use pencil and paper: I have talked about this method before. If you are trying to make financial changes to your life, this method could be highly effective. My first attempts to explain what I wanted to do and the changes I wanted to make were met with fierce resistance. She thought, we were going to stop going out to dinner and live on rice cakes and water. That we would not go to the movies anymore and that the lights were going to be unplugged and we only read by candle light.

I tried so many times to explain what I wanted to do, but every time I would run face first into a brick wall. I came across this method by complete accident. I was sitting at the table, trying to figure out where I was off in the check book. So, I got a piece of paper and wrote out the monthly expenses. I listed everything we were spending money on and then I took what we were bringing in and just did simple math; addition and subtraction. She walked by and I showed her the list.

It surprised her how much we were spending and on what every month. She said she liked seeing the numbers on paper. AAAHA! I just discovered how she liked to be presented information! From then on, I would put the numbers down on paper for her to see and then offer up suggestions on how and where to make budget cuts.

While I was doing this, I would be talking about how over the course of twelve months, how much we would save if we cut $25 dollars off our grocery bill each week, if I could cut my spending allowance back 100 dollars, or if we ate dinner more at home versus going out.

Of course, no one cares about saving five dollars, but when you take five dollars a day, times five days and then times that by 50 weeks, that comes to a WHOPPING $1250.00 dollars a year saved! (just a little side note, this is how much people are spending going out to lunch every year).

This got and kept her attention, especially when I was able to demonstrate what an additional 25-50 dollars a month could do to that number. Since then, she has been on board with the program. Using this method we have paid off her car, my car, our credit cards and then come March 2012 my school loans.

Be the change: The secret behind this one is that we are naturally followers. For example, when you see someone having fun, you immediately feel left out and want to join in and have fun too. This idea is using that want and desire to gain compliance.

One of the ways I use this method is when I want to clean/de-clutter something, like the closet. Now, first off, there is nothing fun about cleaning out the closet. I can think of so many other ways I would rather spend my weekend afternoon. But, the goal here is to show someone the benefits of what you are doing by being the example.

Back to cleaning out the closet. I start by pulling out my clothes and not hers. I leave her things alone. When you start to go after someone else’s things, they get defensive and it gets ugly very quickly.

She sees that I am busy doing something and initially ignores me. But after a while, she hears the radio on and comes in to see what I am up to. In between those two times, I have laid out my things into several piles; things I know I want to get rid of, things that I am not sure about and the keeper pile. When she comes back in, I tell her what I am doing and ask her opinion about the items in the not sure about pile.

Doing this gets the other person to offer their opinion on your things, not theirs. They may sit down and help you go through the items, sort them into piles and even help you put them into a bag. Then I show her the closet and the extra space I created. This is the point where she might start to look at her things, thinking about what she might want to give away to charity and that starts the ball rolling.

The point here is to get the other person thinking. They have already seen what you have done and the space you created. If they want to jump in right then and start looking through their things, bonus. If not, at least you have the other person thinking and that is also a bonus.  

Once you get someone thinking about the change and the possibilities, they are more agreeable to the idea than if you start nagging about them cleaning out the closet and getting rid of things.

Use someone else’s words: We all love to talk. Just find the topic the other person is interested in and they end up talking your ear off. Some times, the other person is tired of listening to you ramble on and on. Once you start talking and the topic does not change, they are very likely to tune you out or off. Does not matter if during this conversation you told them you just won the lottery, they might hear you, but were not listening.

One of the greatest things I have discovered is the power of someone else’s words to help me get my point across. There are so many people out there talking, writing and sharing their thoughts on everything under the sun. You can use them and their message to support and strengthen your position.

I read a lot and have come across some very helpful and interesting sites where people are talking about their happiness. One of them is by Gretchen Rubin and her Happiness Project site.

I came across so many articles where she was talking about happiness, ways to improve your happiness and so on. I would pass along the article or the link to the website and talk up the article, which ensured it was more likely to be read. Once I knew the other person had read the article, I would ask what they thought about it and that gets the conversation rolling.

One very important thing to remember, you need to find someone who can be easily related to. This gives them and you credibility when you forward something or want to talk about a very cool article they just wrote.

Again, the point is to get the ball rolling. It is not an easy process and may take a little more time than you would like or thought it would take. Getting another voice involved helps support what you are saying. You can point to that person as an example of success. Very often, the other person thinks you are strange for wanting to do these things and when you show them, there are other people out there, doing the same things, your ideas have a greater chance of being accepted.

What I have talked about in this post is to be used for the greater good. Not to manipulate someone into doing something they would not normally do. See, cutting spending and saving money is a good thing and it is something a lot of people do not thing about. It is for their greater short-medium-long term good that you want to do that.

If you use these methods to only benefit yourself, be careful, you could lose more than you think or planned for.

Peace Dudes!


2 thoughts on “How to deal with emotional resistance to change

    • thank you for your comments and I am glad my post was able to help you. It’s not easy to make changes to our lives and it’s even harder when those around us are having a difficult time with the changes we would like to make. I hope you take a look around at my other posts.

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