Lessons on Learning LO10172

Dale Emery (72704.1550@CompuServe.COM)
25 Sep 96 20:32:15 EDT

Replying to LO10148 --


You wrote, "I think that there is an active component to people's 'not
getting with the program' of change which has been labelled 'resistance'
in psychotherapy. If we use 'resistance' in a judgmental way, I think
that it is counterproductive. However, if we use it both as a prompt to
seek _why_ a person is resisting and to help them take ownership of their
actions, we can improve our (and the other person's) understanding of
their mental models and empower them to change."

I'm writing a book called, "A Curious View of Resistance." The central
theme is "when you encounter a response that seems like resistance, get
curious." So as you can see, I basically agree with you.

Where I differ is that I find it often harmful and always unnecessary to
interpret a person's response as resistance. The word "resistance" is an
interpretation, a model. Like all models, it is a distorted view of
whatever it is modeling. When I interpret someone's response as
resistance, that pulls me toward my model of resistance and away from
what's happening here and now.

I'm always able to be more flexible if I can skip that interpretation and
see the response as just a response. Even more helpful is to see the
response as information about what is important to the person. From that
stance, as you suggest, I can look for what information is there, and use
that as a guide to focus my curiosity.

The notion of resistance starts with the proposal we have made, and uses
that as the basis for interpreting others' actions. So by thinking of
someone's response as resistance, we're automatically using a frame of
reference they don't share. From the other person's point of view, they
are not resisting our proposal, they are holding onto something important
to them. I find it much more helpful to use "what is important to them"
as the basis for understanding their actions.

Resistance is the external word, the word we apply to what someone else is
doing. The internal word, the way it seems to the person responding, is



Dale H. Emery | 27 Tall Pine Road Consultant | Berwick, ME 03901 Relationship and Communication | (207) 698-1650 For Successful Organizations | 72704.1550@compuserve.com

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