But, I’m just trying to help! – Meeting Resistance to Collaborative Practice

But, I’m just trying to help! – Meeting Resistance to Collaborative Practice

Collaborative Professionals offer guidance, advocacy, and support to clients when their world is falling apart.  We offer an excellent product, delivered by highly skilled professionals with really good intentions.  We know the dark side of divorce and are motivated to steer families away from the destructive forces out there.  We want to help. 

Despite this, most of us have met resistance in offering this highly valuable service to clients. We hear colleagues saying, “I explain the CP process to all of my clients but very few of them choose it. And I want more cases!”

Pause for a moment (please) and consider this:
How do you respond when you meet resistance from a prospective client?

Do you offer more information/explanation - a brochure or a process road map?

Do you offer reassurance? “The team will be there for you!” “CP is great!” All the while listening to your conflicted internal voice, saying, “sell - but don’t sell.”

You may find that informing, explaining and reassuring doesn’t work, so you (respectfully) move on to the next question on your checklist, prepared for the “no thanks” but, “Hey. I tried.”

Here is the thing I am learning about resistance:  It is the expression of a feeling of threat. It is a defence mechanism. I resist your attempt to alleviate my sense of threat because your explaining and reassuring comes across to me as defensive, so I defend against that. And the pattern continues.

Pause again (please) and think of a time you have felt really stressed and worried, and someone tried to give you more information, persuade you, or reassure you that “it’ll be all right”? In the face of resistance, these strategies fail. What we need when we are feeling threatened (stressed, worried, defensive) is to be heard and understood.

I invite you to consider the research on curiosity.  It turns out that curiosity calms. It reduces stress and increases people’s sense of well-being. And the bonus is that curiosity has this positive benefit on the receiver and the giver of curiosity – so everyone wins!

Practice curiosity at home – risk free!  And then, when you meet resistance from a client:

  • put aside your CP “pitch” and intake checklist
  • focus on the person in front of you
  • notice the defensive behaviour that signals resistance
  • be curious about it
  • drop all assumptions about what might be behind the resistance

And ask about it:

What are you worried will happen if you choose a collaborative approach?

What is most upsetting for you as you imagine the next steps in this separation?

Listen to the response.  Stay open.  Don’t defend our amazing product.

Ask:  How can I be most helpful? What more do you need to know?

Try this.  Report back.  Please.

Jacinta Gallant is a respected Canadian collaborative lawyer, conflict trainer, mediator and innovator in her field. She is recognized internationally for her insightful and experiential approach to teaching and managing conflict, and has been welcomed as a trainer throughout Canada, the United States, Europe, Australia and Southeast Asia.

Find out more about Jacinta Gallant at www.jacintagallant.ca

5 Responses

  1. Great article. I think you are right on target and this could make a big difference. Thanks!

  2. What an important article! Hopefully, it will stop many practitioners in their tracks and have them reassess how they approach their CL practices in general – and their clients in particular. After all, whose agenda is it anyway?

  3. Great reminder and well said. Thanks.
    Bruce Fredenburg, LMFT, Therapist * Divorce Coach * Child Specialist * Co-parenting Specialist * Family Reunification Therapist * Mediator

  4. Excellent article! When we meet our clients where THEY are at, they do feel heard and understood. At the end of the day, all anyone wants from others is to be understood.
    I very much like your suggestions to let go of our own agenda and assume a curious posture of the other person!

  5. So appreciate your sharing the simple questions that we can use when we embrace curiosity. It immediately shifts the energy back from my side of the table or screen to what is happening for the human with whom I am in relation. The results, and the resulting connection, are so worth the letting go . . . . .

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