“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.”
It is common to observe in physical dynamics, that when two bodies push against each other they generate more resistance; the more one pushes, the more the other creates more energy to resist and vice versa. This is equivalent to the popular Mexican saying ‘To one fool, another fool.’ We have seen this throughout all our lives. In fact, we get trapped in this dynamic.
When one person begins a dialogue with an affirmation and receives from another a disclamation to their argument, it is likely that the motivation of the first person will be to try convincing the other of their point of view. It is also likely that the second person will get even more attached on contradicting. This is known as the resistance problem or what you resist… persists. It is, perhaps, one of the simplest principles and at the same time, the most powerful I have observed at my work with people and organizations.
The day I became conscious of this phenomenon, of its impact in my life and the amount of energy it demands, I realized life could be much lighter. It is about ceasing to resist. We could imagine this idea of resisting as if two people were leaning one against the other, pushing each other. This is how arguments start: “It’s not that way.” “I don’t agree.” “It is the other way around.” “You are wrong.” “You are not listening.” “I am going to convince you.” They are arguments that, if we could observe them crossing space between two people, we would see them crashing against one another, trying to win and conquer the vital space of the other. Conversations ensnare and it is impossible to move forward. In fact, the way out is typically one having to overthrow the other. The “loser” crumbles and their arguments and principles fall to the ground leaving the other person victorious. This is a good scenario when we try to prove to be right. But without a doubt, it is one of the highest energetic and emotional costs that we have discovered in human interactions. And even worse, beyond the energetically and emotional demand, the result is poor; because destroying arguments and proving to be right is, as simple as, not integrating the perspective of others. We all have a boss, an associate, a friend, or a partner with whom our arguments collide. The stance of the other person tends to be: “Convince me that your point of view if better than mine.” In the best case we listen to their premise, but we normally don’t. We wait for the moment to do a comeback with a load of facts in our favor. Sometimes we move aside, letting the arguments move through; other times we confront and resist them until things end up in a bad way. Thus, what you resist… persists.
Let us imagine you start a conversation sharing your perspective and another person cuts you off by saying: “No, it is not that way, you are wrong.” What emotions come up for you? What is your impulse? Maybe it would be to say: “No, you are the one who’s wrong, because…” If this is what would happen, you are resisting the verbal, emotional and intellectual energy of the other person, trying to stop them and attack them with your own energy and arguments. Here is where the phenomenon of what you resist… persists shows up: your attention centers on winning the battle, rather than consciously communicating, and thus not receiving its positive outcome. Now, imagine the same situation in which you present your argument and the other person cuts you off saying: “No, it’s not that way, I am sorry you are wrong.” And instead of following your impulse of trying to convince them, you answer: “What I hear you saying is that from your perspective I am wrong. Tell me why, why do you think I am wrong?” This creates an important shift in the energy of the body and in the conversation. Instead of facing and pushing against each other, you take the energy of the other person and return it in a constructive way without losing your balance. This is what Fred Kofman refers as Verbal Aikido in his book Conscious Business. If we were in a combat, this would mean the skill to fight without falling, without resisting and without losing our balance. To tell the other person: “I understand that from your perspective I am mistaken, I would like to know why,” is to take their energy and give it back without losing balance. We have all seen in movies or in real life someone acting in this way— someone who receives an onslaught with serenity and without losing balance. It is so inspiring! It is the opposite of: “No, you are the one who is wrong!”
What you resist… persists. Think on those things in your life you are resisting right now. The mosquito at night, the dog that is barking far away, the coworker you don’t want to have close by, and the boss that clings to their own arguments and whom you are trying to convince. Think on the people close to you whom you are resisting in this moment. Imagine, instead of resisting them, saying: “I understand you see it this way and I would like to know way? Tell me more.” “And I would also want to express what I see, and see if we can reach common ground.” These are small shifts that allow you, without losing your balance or without spending too much energy, to develop a conversation even with those who find it difficult to look beyond their own arguments. Remember, the world does not change, but if you do, everything changes. That which you are resisting will not cease to exist, but if you stop resisting it, the energy in I, in We, and even on It will change. In this way, you regain your freedom without losing your balance. Some examples to come next week.