Leadership Lesson: What Resistance Teaches You

The biggest challenge for a caring leader is coaching others out of resistance. The other person, (the one you lead) has some sort of reoccurring problem that no matter what advice, help or insights you share is rejected over and over again. Yet this person continues to come to you with the problem—recanting various versions of why things won’t work, what everyone else is doing wrong and why they have no choices in the matter.  (BTW: this pattern often appears in friendships as well.)  It’s easy to get hooked into one more black hole of listening to the same excuses, and various versions of the drama story.  And therein lies the paradox: The biggest challenge with helping someone else out of their own resistance is your resistance to THEIR resistance! This is your leadership lesson: What resistance teaches you.

 Signs that you are caught in the resistance loop:

  • You are always the cheerleader, hero or helper and they are always the one with the problem
  • You offer help, advice, and potential solutions which are rejected
  • You have heard their story at least half a dozen times and nothing changes
  • You feel resentment or pity
  • You are more committed to their success than they are
  • You get worked up trying to convince them of their options

Two things you must know

  1. They may need psycho-therapy or help that you are not qualified to give.
  2. The lesson of releasing resistance belongs to you, and they are your teacher.

The most helpful reminder is to understand that there are four reasons for relationship drama, and if you are in a ping-pong situation with someone who won’t accept your help yet continues to draw you in, then you have relationship drama. Those four reasons are:

1. Failure to speak your highest truth
2. Failure to set an appropriate boundary
3. Thinking you are responsible for their well-being, success, and happiness
4. Thinking they are responsible for your well-being, success, and happiness.

What to Do

  • You have to stop playing ping-pong in the conversation.
  • Stop wasting time giving advice or offering hope that is rejected
  • Stop seeing yourself as having their answer

Then you have to have an honest conversation that goes something like this:

“Kim, I value our relationship. What I’m going to say is from the intention to keep our relationship on solid ground. I find myself wanting to help you fix your problems. We’ve talked about the same issue now at least a half a dozen times, and there hasn’t been any new choices taken and no resolution. I realize that you do have choices whether you see them or not. I also realize that I’m wanting your success so much that I’m investing too much time and energy offering ideas that aren’t useful to you.  So from now on I’m going to ask that we change direction when I feel compelled to tell you how to fix things.”

Now that you aren’t doing Kim’s emotional work, Kim will have to find another potential rescuer, or Kim will be compelled to look in the mirror and finally take responsibility.

Your willingness to release your resistance to someone else’s resistance not only saves you time and energy, it puts the responsibility for Kim’s success where it belongs: With Kim.

The next time you find yourself being worked up over someone else’s problem remind yourself that the real lesson belongs to you, and the teacher is resistance.