Asking the Right Questions to Overcome Resistance

Socrates put the case for using questioning rather than rapid-fire talking neatly: “Nature has given us two ears, two eyes, and but one tongue — to the end that we should hear and see more than we speak,” he said.

via Overcome Resistance With the Right Questions – The Conversation – Harvard Business Review.

Innovation is a catalyst for change and therefore it is critical that we determine the reasons why some people may resist change.

This Harvard Business Review blog article provides some great advice for ensuring you deal appropriately with overcoming resistance.

Personally, I have followed Socrates principle as much as I can, particularly through ensuring engagement of all stakeholders occurs as part of your role.  Many people get frustrated, annoyed or even worse rebel against having to engage a wide and diverse set of stakeholders when all they want to do is “get the job done”.  But the reality is, we work for “companies” not “onepanies”, and therefore that is each of our roles.  That is what we are paid to do, amongst of course the many other activities we have to do.

So, rather than complain about working with others, find ways of doing it better, smarter and more effectively.  Try using the questions in the HBR blog post:

  • Questions that help clarify what the other person means.
  • Questions that probe assumptions.
  • Questions that look into the rationale, reasons and evidence the other person’s using.
  • Questions examining viewpoints and perspectives.
  • Questions that probe implications and consequences.
  • Questions get to the root of the other person’s questions.

In addition, work with everyone and appreciate that although in the end you may be the final decision maker, other people may actually provide some additional ideas that will make your idea even better.  Or maybe, they will help you from making a huge mistake.

In any event, remember Socrates:

“Nature has given us two ears, two eyes, and but one tongue — to the end that we should hear and see more than we speak”


Scott North has extensive experience in enterprise risk management, internal audit, operational risk and compliance, risk strategy, scenario planning, technology risk, technology business analysis, systems design, financial accounting, and management accounting. Scott is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Chartered Accountants with a Masters Degree from the University of Melbourne in Business and Information Technology. Scott is also a Fellow of the University of Melbourne.

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