3 Steps For Changing Resistance Productively

Photo by Matheo JBT on Unsplash

It can feel very uncomfortable when resistance rises inside of you.

Sometimes it feels like it shouldn’t be there. If only the world were different. Sometimes it feels depressing, like an old “friend” we would rather not hear from. Sometimes it feels exhausting, like an endless unresolved conflict that just wears you out.

You cannot get rid of the discomfort entirely but you can make it your friend rather than your enemy.

Understanding Resistance

Resistance is as old as the human race.  We humans have a long history of conflict and often less than gracious ways of handling them.

Resistance arises when we believe that we must act against our will or against our best interests.  It can occur because:

  • we are outnumbered in a conflict situation.
  • someone has or assumes power over us. This can happen in families or any other situation.
  • we are expected to act contrary to our own values to maintain our place in a social group or relationship.
  • who we are is at odds with who others want us to be.
  • of a disagreement.
  • of a different purpose or agenda.

Resistance Can Be Good, Or Not…

Resistance can be positive and constructive or it can be dangerous. It

  • can be positive when we notice our resistance to getting sleep, realize the implications and change our nighttime habits.
  • can be positive when we defer decision making until we have the information we need.
  • can be positive when we decide to resist jumping to conclusions about someone based on superficial considerations.
  • can be dangerous as in when we ignore our current environmental issues which have been made worse by resisting necessary changes.
  • can be dangerous when the air pressure in our tire is low and we let it get worse, thereby ruining the tire.
  • can be dangerous when we wait until the last minute to do something making it more difficult to get the job done naturally.

Our Love/Hate Relationship With Resistance

Resistance takes the wind out of our sails, and thwarts our plans.

Resistance hurts our hearts.

This is the rub. We need each other to survive. We need institutions to manage the cultures we have created to make human life possible. And major change in human society takes a lot of time and energy. Change is not a small matter. If we had no resistance, we would all be going in different directions and that would not work too well.  If we only have resistance, then we cannot change and adapt when necessary.

Resistance And Double Standards

Unfortunately, resistance is often a sign that our interdependency is not working which is why it matters so much.

Double standards about resistance are where perceptions of hypocrisy come from. They are also the basis for the desire to “level the playing field”. So what can we do about it? What might be some practical ways to tame resistance in our life?

Why You Should Accept Resistance

The first step in handling resistance is to be accept it.  When we accept resistance we are accepting people as they are which is something that we all need.  Furthermore we never really know all of the reasons why resistance exists in another person. Sometimes resistance is there for a good reason and that reason may be worth looking for. If someone was in an accident and broke a leg we would understand why they are not going jogging or dancing.  Sometimes that broken leg that needs mending is on the inside, and the healing process takes time.

Another way to look at it, is that anything we want to do, including any change needs to be sustained. So if someone is resistant, that may have some fear or lack of confidence, but it could easily be a reality problem like lack of time or skills.  Not all resistance is harmful. Skills, time, resources and readiness are all factors in resistance.

The most important reason to accept resistance is that acceptance frees us to step into our creative problem-solving, so it frees us.

How To Start Changing Resistance

The kindest way to tackle resistance for yourself and others it to first treat everything as a process. That way when you bump into resistance you can just think of it as part of the process.

Then you can keep yourself out of the us-vs-them thinking that makes resistance worse.

When you treat life and its problems as a process that we all share, then you keep the walls down, your creativity up and minimize the chances of increasing fear in others.  The great thing about treating everything including change as a process, is that it gives the people involved a chance to acclimate themselves to something new on their own terms.

Serious change deserves a compassionate approach.  Often people have to grieve the loss of old ways of living even if they see change as beneficial. Showing others respect usually helps melt resistance.

The more people know that a change includes them and supports their well-being the easier cooperation can occur.  Of course there are limits to how much existence can be allowed to hold others back.

The Steps For Changing Resistance

  1. research
  2. planning
  3. execution

Steps For Changing Resistance: Research

  1.  Identify the type of resistance you are dealing with:
    1. individual
    2. group
    3. institutional
    4. societal
  2. Identify the real barriers creating the resistance:
    1. time
    2. money
    3. skills
    4. resources
    5. identity
    6. mental or emotional
    7. physical

Once you have a handle on where the resistance is coming from, you can then figure out how to deal with it.

Steps For Changing Resistance: Planning

Changing resistance is possible with creativity on your own directly with someone else. Other forms of resistance require teamwork and even large scale group action. The more informed, complete and realistic you are in your assessment of what is needed to create progress, the better your chances of success.

When the challenge of effecting change is poorly understood, then it is very easy to become disappointed and angry, make mistakes caused by poor preparation that can cause serious setbacks and undermine future change efforts, and do unnecessary harm to others.

You have a number of strategy choices in handling resistance:

  1. listen to whether or not the resistance is a reflection of real issues that need to be addressed and deal with them
  2. engage with other to collaborate in creating a change
  3. create the conditions that make change possible
  4. decide to postpone change
  5. decide to live with current conditions
  6. leave the situation if change is not possible.

Once you have enough information about what you are dealing with you can then come up with a plan for tackling the problem.  With information and a strategy you will be more effective in creating what you want and should conditions change you will have an easier time adapting your plans.

Steps For Changing Resistance: Execution

Having information and a plan makes execution much easier.  It also can enable you to relax more since you will feel more confident in what you are doing. As a result, you can be friendlier and more approachable throughout the process of change.  Even if the change were not to work out, creating a positive change environment around you is a great skill to have and one that can serve you well when future change is necessary.

Final Thoughts

We live in a world that is so fast-paced and so demanding that often change is poorly handled which can give rise to resistance and resentment.

Very few people take the time to consider how to handle resistance.  Resistance gets in the way so often, it impedes progress so often that mastering it can boost productivity immensely.

Having thought about the problem and attempting to bring insight to your handling of resistance can make you much more effective and productive in your work relationships, reduce your workplace and home anxieties and hostilities and make life much more pleasant.

About Maria Hill

Maria Hill is the founder of Sensitive Evolution. She is the author of The Emerging Sensitive: A Guide For Finding Your Place In The World. In addition, she has created the immersive Emerging Sensitive Program using cultural and personal development frameworks to help sensitive people master their sensitivity and turn it into the asset it can be. She also offers The Magic Of Joy program for quantum healing and the Emerging Sensitive Community focused on living in the world as a sensitive person and navigating the challenging cultural shifts of our times. She is a longtime meditator, reiki master, student of alternative health and Ayurveda. Maria is a Certified Theta Healer and certified in Spiral Dynamics. She is an abstract painter whose portfolio can be found at Infinite Shape and also very interested in animal and human rights and the environment.


  1. Carolyn on July 25, 2016 at 3:18 pm


    Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to go deeper in understanding the many levels of being an HSP. Reading this article has helped me to connect with my own sensitivity in a manner i had previously denied being my truth .. I appreciate the work you’re doing.

    • Maria Hill on July 25, 2016 at 3:23 pm

      Thanks, Carolyn. I am glad to help and happy that you find the articles useful and that it helps you engage with your sensitivity in a new and hopefully rewarding way.

      All the best,