Misconstrued Resistance (and negativity)

closeup of knotted rope

When your team pushes back against one of your ideas, do you hear negativity or constructive criticism?

Let me take you into the Bald in Business headquarters — my home. It’s the place where my wife, Sarah, and I often contrast as a team. Like any couple raising a family, we often share opposing views on decisions that will impact our children. I tend to lead with enthusiasm, while my wife can be a bit more thoughtful in her approach. I’m willing to spend money and she is more apt to stick to the budget.

What causes tension in any team dynamic is the fallacy of taking rejection of your ideas as misconstrued resistance. Trust me, I often think long and heard about an idea before approaching Sarah about it at home. So, when I get to the right moment to run it by her, it’s a developed idea that has been given life (which explains why I am more excited), and when she raises questions, I can hear resistance and sometimes even negativity. I might think, “maybe she is just resistant to change,” or “maybe she is just risk-averse?”

Rejection of ideas can easily be misconstrued.

I have written previously about “overcoming the resistance,” which is absolutely an issue in organizational life. People, by and large, fear change. So yes, leaders have to keep trudging on when their followers are resisting.

But that doesn’t mean that all push-back is “resistance.”

Sarah questioning the purchase of something luxurious, like a golf-simulator for the basement, would be legitimate push-back because a golf-simulator is not in our budget (although it should be!). Thus, she isn’t being resistant, or even negative, when questioning that. Even more, she is being a loving wife by helping me make sound financial decisions.

Resistance comes later, when the evidence has been weighed, and action has begun. It often is inaction, when action is demanded. Or, simply negativity around the change in general.

But, “push-back” is different.

“Push-back” means people are looking for clarity. Or, that they still have questions and concerns that need to be addressed. Or they simply want to learn more.

Misconstruing these questions as people being “resistant or negative” is intellectually lazy and comes across as bullheaded. Clarifying questions can help you, and the organization, improve. The leaders that lean into the “push-back” will undoubtedly end up making better decisions in the end.

… another reason why I’m thankful for my loving wife.