“I’m Right, You’re Wrong”: Why We’re Resistant To Others’ Ideas, Part 1
Anything new or scary in life or career tends to instill in us a fear of looking foolish or unseasoned. Sound familiar? Our natural response is resistance to the change, which is an instinctive mechanism of sorts, but is also a roadblock to personal growth and life experience.
My May 7th article dipped a toe into the waters of resistance, with a special focus on resistance to ideas or challenges that come from within— for instance, a stretch outside one’s comfort zone. I personally recognize this when I have a thought and then the reflexive “response”, clearly pre-programmed from early in my life. That response comes with an iron-clad justification for my big, undisputable “NO” of resistance. Many of my potentially brilliant ideas were left on the cutting room floor, never given a ghost of a chance to become part of the footage in the epic movie that is my life. “I can’t, because…” or “I’ll never be able to…” or “It’s not that important” are examples of the reflex excuses I catch myself using when an idea makes me uncomfortable, evidenced by my palms becoming sweaty and my stomach twinging in nausea.
This type of attitude, which is the meniscus that restrains us all from stretching beyond our self-imposed comfort zones, arises within the self– when we devise certain “bright ideas” on our own, as well as when others suggest ideas and we feel resistant to the associated perspectives, challenges and solutions. Then there are the instances when others resist our brilliant ideas.
With all of this in mind, I invite you to be brave today and explore with me some examples of when you’ve resisted others’ ideas, often dismissing them as out-of-the-question without even realizing why. My challenge for you, in this article and the next one, is to acknowledge that it doesn’t hurt to consider all ideas. Take this exercise seriously, and there will be a reward: When you’re willing and able to give space to others’ ideas, you’ll be pulling from a greater range of possibilities than if you rode solo, thereby generating better-informed solutions. The ideas may have originated outside of your brain, but the resulting accomplishment will be all your own!
Why Is The Transformation So Difficult?
For starters, we all like to think we’re open-minded and receptive to the influence of others. But is it true? A rhetorical question, for sure. We are open-minded, as long as others agree with our point of view! This is, as executive coach and my greatest mentor Judith E Glaser used to point out, because many of us are “addicted to being right”. I, for instance, am resistant towards the ideas of people I don’t like or respect. I find countless reasons not to see things from their points of view, consider their realities, or have regard for the time and effort they may have contributed to an idea.
This attitude can give an unforeseen rise to a command-and-control style of leadership in the workplace. You know— where the shouters and table pounders get their way. That management style leaves everyone, especially the recipients of the interaction, with cortisol pumping through their very being, causing the brain to fog. When I’m in that threat-drenched haze, it becomes first priority to declare that “I’m right, you’re wrong”. The attitude is “us or them” and “winner take all”. And that mindset, although not my natural inclination, converts me to a primitive-thinking human (not my proudest moments, but I must own them).
It has also proven beneficial to acknowledge and embrace the realization that I’m resistant towards others’ ideas when entering an arena where they’re the expert, and I’m the amateur. I’ve even seen this in action with my own clients (As a coach, I’m consistently getting pushback from my clients….could you have predicted that?). There’s some great information about this phenomenon in Peter Block’s book Flawless Consulting.
In Part 2 of this article, I’ll explore another compelling side of resistance to others’ ideas by dissecting the psychology behind such resistance, including a reframing of the associated language. See you in a week!
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