Working positively with difficult conversations and resistance
“People don’t resist change … they resist BEING changed!”
Richard Beckhard (and others!)
This bite-sized learning module is all about how we lead and facilitate others when we are in some form of confrontative process. This might be because we need to give some challenging messages or feedback, or perhaps when we are working with different forms of ambivalence or resistance to change. Working with these processes with positive intentions and constructive process not only helps others to work through their difficulties, but also brings the potential of their wisdom into play, to upgrade our own plans and understanding.
It draws on a well-researched blend of the latest neuroscience and psychology, with applied ideas from top academics, and our own pragmatic practice.
Dialogue and generativity (draft)
The gift of skilful listening
The art of the question
Mastering a broad range of interventions
Challenge, support and the ‘drama triangle’
Difficult conversations and feedback
Coaching conversations using the ‘iceberg’ model (draft)
Working positively with resistance
This programme offers
Work through it in your own way - binge or nibble?
Some people like to 'binge learn', meaning that they allocate a whole day, and sink into a thorough immersion in a whole module. Others prefer to take 2 hours per week, and work through a single lesson at a time.
Our courses are ideally suited to both - you are in control and you can work in the way you want, at the time you want.
Whatever your preference is, you are advised to book time in your diary, to ensure you get into a learning habit.
Different types of media to suit all needs
Each lesson will mix videos to watch, with material to read and explore.
Plus there are downloadable handouts, worksheets, templates and checklists to print and take away, and keep for future reference.
A little more about the 'lessons' included in this course ...
Want to find out more about the content in each of the packages?
Keep scrolling, you will find a summary of each element below.
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More detail on each of the lessons
Dialogue and generativity
This lesson explores the nature of dialogic interaction - the process through which joint meaning emerges, collaboration is at its best, and adaptation is most vibrant.
We will look at how patterns unfold between us and others - leading to more or less accountability, more or less adult-adult (or parent-child) dynamics, leading to safe, resilient cultures (or conversely, cultures dominated by wilful blindness and failure to speak up.
With practical processes to enable you to develop your skills and exercises to extend your self awareness and confidence.
The gift of skilful listening
We live in a constantly changing web of interactions and connections with others, and with both human and non-human factors and experiences that force us into adaptations, innovations and work-arounds. Some of these are welcome and exciting, others challenging.
When troubled - especially when we feel highly anxious or "under attack" - the choice to "lean" TOWARDS the source of irritation is a tough one - and yet, at the heart of sustainable and safe leadership, is the skill of listening with deep attention to what IS, rather than what we would "like" it to be.
This comprehensive lesson takes you on a journey from the most taken-for-granted levels of listening, through to the sophisticated capacity to adapt based on our engagement with others and the wider world, and with the joys and stressors of our lives. With exercises you can carry out yourself, or invite others to join you with, it will help you develop your craft of deep listening.
The art of the question
This lesson explores the range and nature of great questions - which promote learning with accountability, and support productive team or individual adaptation.
It will help you understand the different types of questions, their purposes and impacts.
It offers you a compendium of useful coaching, leadership and facilitation questions to help you develop your "art".
Mastering a broad range of interventions
When we are coaching - in any context - we are using a broad range of "moves" within a conversation.
At our worst, we are simply suiting ourselves and our comfortable practices - at our BEST we are constantly adjusting and noticing what is needed to support the progression of the other, the learner.
This lesson explores how we come to make those judgements, and offers a model of a broad range of different "push" and "pull" interventions a coach, leader, facilitator can use, to assist in the development process. It also enables you to self-assess against this model, and request feedback from others.
Challenge and support and 'drama triangle'
One of the ways that groups demonstrate trust to each other, is the degree to which they enable and allow each other to offer and receive support and challenge.
- Support lifts us up - our confidence and capabilities are built and acknowledged and our contribution is enhanced.
- Challenge exposes our development opportunities - it catches us BEFORE we fall, by others spotting and generously sharing gaps in our thinking, it holds the mirror up to how we are blocking our own progress, or feeding our own pains.
But without trust, it can become distorted and dysfunctional - and this is where the 'drama triangle' of rescuing (instead of supporting) and persecuting (instead of challenging) takes over, reducing others (and ourselves) into a victim-like state which is turned either on ourselves ("I am hopeless and can't do anything about this") or on others ("this is nothing to do with me, it is his/her fault and they must change"). No learning or change comes from this dysfunction, whatever the intention behind it.
Rooting-around, trying to find the FAULT and CAUSE of this dynamic is pointless and helps no-one, no matter how tempting it might be. This is because the very act of trying to allocate blame lifts us out of a deeper inquiry into how we are contributing to MAINTAINING the dynamic, even at a cost to ourselves. It is only through asking ourselves about our own contribution that we can step into adult responsibility for making new and different 'gestures' into the dynamic.
This lesson explores the best and worst practices of these dynamics, giving you a language to understand what might be happening. ALL groups fall into this dysfunction some of the time (families, clubs, communities, teams and organisations) - but you don't have to stay there. If there is sufficient will and courage to experiment, new habits can be formed.
Difficult conversations and feedback
Most of us are conflict-averse. When we face the prospect of offering a challenging point of view, holding the mirror up to problematic behaviour, or confronting people with the consequences of their choices, we risk all sorts of fractures to our ongoing relationships, peace of mind, and own comfort zone.
In their book Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton and Sheila Heen of the Harvard Negotiation Project, tell us "Delivering a difficult message is like throwing a hand grenade. Coated with sugar, thrown hard or soft, a hand grenade is still going to do damage. Try as you may, there’s no way to throw a hand grenade with tact or to outrun the consequences. And keeping it to yourself is no better. Choosing not to deliver a difficult message is like hanging on to a hand grenade once you’ve pulled the pin."
This lesson offers an overview about confrontation, challenge and difficult conversations, with a model to improve the quality and sensitivity (and ultimately, positive potential) of your feedback processes. It also offers a downloadable preparation tool, to guide you through your own thinking.
Coaching conversations using the 'iceberg' model
When we are working with someone to help them explore their choices, behaviours and ways of working (both with positive and negative consequences for themselves and others) we need to understand that ALL behaviours are, at some level, useful strategies responding to a need for that person.
By approaching these conversations with compassion, respect and curiosity, we can help the person to let go of defensiveness and take up a 'growth mindset' relationship with their choices. This involves a deeper inquiry than merely attempting to impose new behaviours.
This lesson utilises the idea of the psychological 'iceberg' as a model to underpin a coaching conversational 'journey' that you can enable with others (or use to underpin workshop design with a group, or to self-coach), that enables people to think again about the assumptions and theories-in-use that might be holding them back.
Working positively with resistance, ambivalence, grief and anxiety
When confronted with a changing world - either because change is introduced deliberately, or because we are facing other external, potentially existential threats, dangers and losses forcing unwelcome adaptation, we have at best a legitimately ambivalent response, and will often be distressed, hostile or anxious.
Empathetic, compassionate and deeply humane cultures have been shown again and again, to be more adaptive and resilient than those founded on self-interest or imposition of rational solutions without the human touch.
This lesson explores a number of different ways we can experience these things, often labelled "resistance" – including:
- Resistance and denial, grief, shock, anger and loss.
- Resistance and ambivalence set up by competing drivers and commitments – in effect two opposing "right" assumptions which block movement and change.
- Resistance as wisdom – generative and legitimate information which, if engaged with, improves what we are trying to do.
Whether you are a leader, a coach or a facilitator/consultant - this invaluable understanding helps you to develop approaches that are rich with empathy, yet challenging in all the right ways - bringing the wisdom within the resistance to light, and resulting in mutual learning, growth and adaptation.
Frequently asked questions
How long can I access a programme or course?
Your programme, course or module will be accessible to you for 1 year from the time you start it.
However in each lesson there are also PDFs, tools, products and exercises, that we think you will want to keep – you can download them, or print them.
What if I fall behind and out of step with the programme timing?
All significant learning commitments require some dedication. This means making conscious choices, and carving out the time to acquire, experiment with, and reflect on what you are exploring. Sometimes, this is going to clash with other priorities and occasionally it might feel a little overwhelming – even for the most dedicated learner. If you know that a busy period is coming up, plan for catch-up time in the weeks that follow.
Some of our longer programmes involve following a specific timetable with a group – with new modules ‘starting’ at a given time. This may tie in with Peer Support Group meetings, and/or with workshops or webinars. If this is the case for your programme, an important aspect is that you are not alone – but in a community of learners. The timings of ‘live’ experiences or group meetings are rarely changed once the programme starts, as this would impact negatively on your colleagues and co-learners. Keeping up with others, so that you share your learning and benefit from their experience, is important.
Get into the learning habit, and if you have concerns about whether you will be able to do this, and if you fall behind at any time, just reach out to us and we will try to help.
Can I bundle one course or programme with another and save money?
Some of our courses are already bundled, in particular the shorter courses shown in our ‘bitesize’ section. If the course you are interested in IS available in a value-for-money bundle, proceed with your purchase, and before closing the ‘sale’, you will be notified of this choices at your ‘Cart’.
If the other courses you are interested in are not bundled right now, just contact us, as we can put a custom bundle together for you.
Can I commission custom courses for my organisation?
Many of our programmes and short (bite-size) courses have been originally developed especially for a client – and, where appropriate, then adapted for a broader audience and turned into an ‘open’ programme. It is our clients around the world that ‘pull’ new content and commission what we go on to build, to meet their needs at any given time.
If you would like to either curate a custom programme from our existing stock, or you have an area of new content that you would like us to look at, just contact us and we can help.
What if I'm not satisfied with my purchase?
Our courses and materials are getting great feedback from users – but of course it might not suit exactly what you are looking for.
We are always happy to refund you if you start a course and find it isn’t what you wanted. Please contact us straight after completing the first lesson in the course if you would like us to refund your payment or switch you to a more suitable product.
Please note that we are unable to refund a course that has been more than 50% completed.