Resistant to Receptive

How to modify your communication style in order to guide change (and get stubborn people more open to listening to what you have to say).

Have you ever been placed on a team project and had that one person who was unwilling to budge on how they viewed the project should be completed? Or what about had that employee who was having difficulty in their role and seemed like they had a wall up whenever you attempted to talk with them about how to improve their performance?

Now, we know there’s always going to be some folks who will just always stay the same. With that said, there are others who may change from being resistant to receptive, depending on your approach.

Think about the conversations you’ve had where you felt resistance and push back. Now think about how you approached the sensitive topics or big ticket items that seemed to really make the other person shut down. Did you present your case and ask for feedback after? Did you go in without doing your research first and fumble? Was the idea or task you presented the only way to accomplish your combined goal, or were there other ways? There’s no wrong answer here; just getting you to think.

Of these situations, what were the outcomes? Did the project get more rocky with the team? Maybe the employee’s performance got worse? What could have been done differently in those early and mid-point conversations throughout that could have led to a different outcome?

Sometimes, changing how we think or how we communicate can help remedy a situation, even when someone else truly is the closed off or down-right defiant one. It doesn’t matter who is wrong, just that your approach is right for that situation on that very day at that very time. Every conversation you have, every person you communicate with, and every situation is unique. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to communication.

If you’re talking to someone who believes what you’re saying is wrong (even if you know it’s not), ask them to elaborate. This will give you an opportunity to explore their thought process and better understand why or how they are coming to their conclusion. Maybe you discover that they are recalling outdated practices and you need to get them up to speed on the current. Or maybe you discover they don’t understand the topic or situation enough to really draw a conclusion, and this will be your opportunity to help them gain clarity. As we’ve said many times before, often times people just want to be heard. Allowing them to share their why (why do they think/feel what they do) is paramount in gaining trust and opening the door for progress.

Think about this next: Maybe you’re the one who didn’t fully understand something and you needed the clarity. If that’s the case, would you be willing to listen to what the other person had to say?

Or, think about this: Maybe how you’re presenting your information is too closed-off. Maybe you needed to shift your approach to “I”m telling you what to do” to something more like “Let’s work together to get this accomplished” or “Let me help you get this accomplished; here’s what I think may help.”

In addition, be sure to be mindful of your communication style. Be aware of any verbal or physical cues that you may be giving off and if you notice they are making the situation worse, then adjust your own behavior. If you realize you’re anxious to get your point across (because you know you’re right), and you may be cutting the other person off, slow down and let them finish; you’ll get your turn eventually to clear things up. Allowing them to speak is important. Be respectful, and be open to hearing what they have to say. You may learn that they’ve been resistant for good reason – maybe they know better than you do in certain areas. That doesn’t mean they don’t need your help, rather, it means they need you to hear them out in order for you to better understand how to properly help them.

When it comes down to it, it is possible to change someone from being reistant to receptive, just by chaning our approach to how we communicate with them.

Listening, being quick to adapt and change during a conversation, respecting their opinion, and finding common ground to work with will help you move forward together.


For help with communication coaching or workplace or personal mediation, contact Eagle Mountain HR today.

We’ll help you move forward.


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