Jmhuebner's Blog
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First Law of Motion

“Resistance is thought transformed into feeling. Change the thought that creates the resistance, and there is no more resistance.”       — Robert Conklin

Newton’s First Law of Motion – a body remains at rest unless acted upon by an external force.  And so it is with client resistance.  We were flowing along well, our client started our meeting declaring that she had an ‘aha moment’ since our contracting discussion – that she was resisting change, which is generally not in her nature.  Breakthrough #1 — and we are barely into the process.  I was feeling quite proud of our work.  Building on this, we were able to get enough information to develop a strong contract with actionable goals and timeline.

Then it happened.  On the day of our scheduled meeting, we received this email:

Alan and Joanne,

I’m so sorry but I need to cancel our meeting this afternoon. I’ll be at Challenge Discovery with the Emerging Nonprofit Leaders until 3 – and with the weather, and the presidential congestion, don’t know that I would make it back to the Boulders. Ack! 

Sorry for the last minute notice. I was really looking forward to our meeting and hope we can pick up next week.

All my best,

Luckily, Block tells us that resistance is an emotional process taking place within the client and that it is predictable when facing difficult problems – AND that it is a necessary part of the learning process. Resistance should be viewed as a sign we are on target.  So, should we grin and shout as Charlie Sheen would, “I’m WINNING!”?  It really doesn’t feel like that – it feels a blow to our process, our ability to ‘get along’ with the client.  Now we have to name it, to confront it, to potentially cause more discomfort in our client – and in me.

What type of resistance are we dealing with here?

Is the client asking for MORE DETAIL instead of deciding what to do….

Is the client using busyness and how little TIME there is to avoid meeting…

Is the client not ‘SURPRISED’ by the discussion…

Is the client CONFUSED and asking for clarity more than three times….

Is the client is passive and SILENT…

Is the client INTELLECTUALIZING why things are this way…

Is the client in AGREEMENT with everything you say….

Is the client sure everything is HEALTHY now…

Does the client just want SOLTUIONS not process….

There are actually a few faces of resistance at play here, I think, and I shouldn’t be surprised.  There is a lot at stake for our client, most of all her vulnerability in a changing work environment – one in which she has little control over the politics at play.  Should her willingness to name the issue as her resistance to change so early on have been a red flag of INTELLECTUALIZING?  Is she really strapped for TIME or is she avoiding discomfort?  Is her lack of response to request for data from her a sign that she really wants only SOLUTIONS even though she stated she knows this isn’t the quest here?  Is she avoiding responsibility for the problem or solution?

What about ME?  Am I resisting as well?   Am I also avoiding my responsibility?  Block says that “resistant clients are defending against the fact that they are going to have to make a difficult choice, take an unpopular action, and confront some reality that they have emotionally been trying to avoid.”

Perhaps Newton’s First Law of Motion may also apply to people:  a body remains at rest unless acted upon by an external force.  If there were no demand from consultants and no push back from the client, the problem would remain at rest and not evolve into discovery and a preferred future. Name it and be silent.  Alan and I are going to give this a try.

 “It’s the constant and determined effort that breaks down all resistance, sweeps away all obstacles.”        — Claude Bristol


One Response to “First Law of Motion”

  1. I dont know what else to say other than, Bravo! This is your best blog post yet! Everything was spot on and well thought out! Great use of Block for the client and consultant. I really realted to this post and enjoyed reading it. Thanks.

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