Discouraging Generalizations

I've noticed a pattern in the way people sometimes explain the resistance they are experiencing. Here are some examples:

  • "People don't like change."
  • "The managers around here just want to control everything."
  • "Walter is only interested in protecting his budget."
  • "The developers don't care about anything but their paychecks."

Each statement attributes the resistance to some general characteristic of the people who are resisting.

I've noticed that when people explain resistance in this way, by attributing it to some persistent characteristic of people in general, or of some group of people, or even of a specific person, they become discouraged and stuck. Actually, my guess is that they become discouraged first, then generalize as a way to "explain" their stuckness.

If it's true that people resist change, then there is no hope for my ideas that would ask people to change. I'm stuck. What a discouraging thought!

Fortunately, it isn't true. People are much richer than this discouraging thought suggests. I believe that each of us welcomes some changes and resists others. And each of us might resist a specific change at one time and welcome it at another.

If I'm feeling stuck, and attributing my stuckness some general characteristic of other people, I lose contact with what is happening here and now. I lose contact with the very information that would be most valuable to me.

The way to become unstuck is to let go of my generalizations, to make contact with what is happening here and now. People resist change? No. This person is responding in this way to this change at this time. If I am to find possibilities for moving forward, the possibilities are in the specifics of this situation.

Experiment: What generalizations do you make to explain why other people are resisting your ideas?

Experiment: What leads you to think of a response as resistance?

Experiment: Notice that "resistance" is a generalization. The next time you experience resistance, turn your attention to the person's specific response. Describe as accurately as you can what the person said or did. What ideas do these details suggest about possibilities for moving forward?

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