How to deal with “this will not work for you”?

When you hear this objection, before you answer, before even you blink, think!

Force yourself to think or if your mind is blank, remain quiet. Take a few seconds to control the rush to answer we all get when others judge us. And then, rather than jumping on the defensive side and start giving explanations, make a simple question: “What makes you think so?” 

Whenever you face resistance to change or judgment, your strategy should be to discover the reasons behind it. It is the only way you can successfully address it. Is the objection truly sincere, and the warning is with good intention? It might be the case. Is it due to jealousy? Is it due to misinformation? Is it fear? Or is the person just projecting their own experience on you? 

By asking the question – “What makes you think so?” – instead of you having to justify yourself, you are putting the other person in the position of having to explain the judgement. You might get a direct answer, or you might get a vague and superficial one. In this case, you need more information to determine the root causes. You can combine two strategies to get more information: mirroring and labelling.

Mirroring is the repetition of keywords used by the person talking to you. Mirroring lets the other side know you’re paying attention to what they’re saying and treating their views with the consideration they believe they deserve. An example of mirroring might look something like this: 

Your ‘objector’: “You will have a difficult time if you do this. You will have a lot of  financial and personal stress.” 

You: “Financial and personal stress?” 

By asking such a question, you are showing interest. So, whoever objects will spontaneously explain more detail and give you the information you want. 

Mirroring can be an effective mean of suppressing the accusation or judgemental attitude of aggressive people. 

Labelling is used to give voice to the other side’s feelings. Suitable labels take the form of: 

  • “It seems like…” 
  • “It looks like…” 

You can say: “It seems like you are concerned about me making this change” or “It looks like you disagree with me making this change”. The person will respond with more information. At its core, labelling helps you let the other side know that you understand their feelings, help build relationships, and gather information. Likewise, labelling can help you overcome negative emotions.

Once you’ve discovered the root causes – the reasons why the other person thinks something will not work for you – then find ways to address them. One way to do so is by listing the benefits, why it would work for you or why you can make it work. Then you will probably have to listen to a list of drawbacks, but you already have the arguments to bounce them away. You’ve got those arguments prepared by mirroring and labelling earlier in the conversation.

Another helpful tactic to overcome “this will not work for you” and build the desire for change is to offer choices. Provide simple and straightforward options, along with the consequences of those choices. Ask what would they do if put in your shoes. This involvement will make your ‘objector’ a participant in your change and make them feel part of the solution or have an advocate’s role instead of only seeing the problem.  

Resistance is a natural reaction. Change can be uncomfortable for many around you. However, you have the power to mitigate that resistance with the right strategy. Take a few moments to think about your questions to find the root causes, and then prepare your arguments.