Persuading Others Using Gentleness and Patience
Persuading others to see things our way isn’t always easy. No matter how enthusiastic we are about our ideas, motivating others to follow our lead can be like pushing a boulder up a hill. Sometimes, we’re tempted to force matters when we don’t have “buy in” to bring about the changes we want to see. We can expend a great deal of energy trying to convince others to go along with our plan and allow us to lead. Impatience, frustration, and ambition can make for difficult interactions with people who are not open to the changes we propose, don’t see things our way, and don’t wish to follow us or embrace our vision.
What can you do when others don’t share your passion or perspective, when resistance to your ideas is taking its toll on you? Often, it’s best to wait until the timing is right and circumstances change. Some of those you wish would change their minds may need more information, or more time to adjust to your ideas. They may need some reassurances. If you listen carefully, you may find they have helpful insights into potential problems you may be overlooking in your zeal to move forward at full speed. Especially when you are trying to enact change that involves a large group of people, or a group or institution that has many rules and traditions, you can find it hard to convince others to move as quickly as you would like them to. It’s good to remember there are advantages to operating slowly and thoughtfully, and that often, you are well served by slowing down rather than forcing change upon those who resist it.
Perhaps you can bring about a good-enough outcome by going with the flow and offering guidance to those reluctant to move forward rather than taking the helm to force your way through whitewater rapids. These “rapids” might include challenges such as new skills that people would have to attain, new knowledge they would need to acquire, and new resources that have to be brought into the organization. Your priorities may not be other people’s priorities. Forcing matters may simply make them feel unheard and disrespected. Patience and a gentler approach may be needed.
Maybe the change has to begin with you: You may need to learn something new, join others in developing new skills, or take a different tack. While change is hard, sometimes, it is you that is making it hard by trying to force change on others. So if you’re meeting resistance to what seem to you to be great ideas for changing a situation for the better, slow down. Ask yourself why you feel it’s so important to move ahead immediately and get others to change their minds. Is it possible that you’re letting your anxieties or fears get the better of you? What is the rush? How much progress would be enough for you to be able to release your frustration and be satisfied with the pace of change? Very often, you can be better off taking a gentler route, knowing you’ll get into calmer waters eventually.
You have the choice to force matters, let things happen at their own pace, or find a different way to address your need for change. Is there a set of circumstances that you wish to transform, or ideas you want to implement? Are you putting pressure on other people to make decisions, agree with you, or alter their behavior, and feeling upset by their resistance? Might you and the situation—and the other people involved—benefit from a different, softer, less aggressive approach? Might others be more motivated if you were to become less forceful in trying to convince them to go along with your plan?
Of course, if you wait too long or settle for minimal or no progress toward making change, you can find yourself waiting in vain for external forces to resolve a problem. When you are involved in the problem, you may need to be an active part of the solution. Yet perhaps the obstacle is that the specific changes you’re seeking are the wrong ones. Are you truly listening to those who are resisting your proposed changes?
Another possibility is that to bring about transformation, you need to work with different people. Everyone is capable of transforming their minds and hearts, but not everyone is willing to change according to your vision and timetable. Sometimes, one person who acts as a chronic naysayer may be holding others back from opening up to change.
When you feel you have become like Sisyphus, pushing a boulder up a hill again and again with no appreciation or help, remember the outcome of that ancient myth. Alone, Sisyphus was able to push the boulder up a mountain, but would then have to watch the stone roll back down again, every time. This is what can happen when you are too intently focused on trying to get your way. Maybe you need others to help you push that boulder up the mountain and keep it there!
So if you are hitting up against resistance and a lack of support for the changes you seek, step back for a moment to assess what obstacles you are facing. Access the wisdom of your unconscious mind, using shamanic or Jungian techniques (several of which I describe in my book Change Your Story, Change Your Life). Begin the process of working with these techniques by asking the questions, “What is standing in the way of transformation, and what can I do to improve the situation?” Be open to unexpected answers. In this way, it will be easier to discern whether to continue trying to make things happen, to approach the situation differently, or to wait for a situation to resolve on its own.
Carl Greer, PhD, PsyD is a practicing clinical psychologist, Jungian analyst, and shamanic practitioner. His shamanic work is drawn from a mix of North American and South American indigenous traditions and is influenced by Jungian analytic psychology. He is the author of Change Your Story, Change Your Life: Using Shamanic and Jungian Tools to Achieve Personal Transformation by Carl Greer © 2014, Findhorn Press.