To deal with resistance successfully, it helps to be aware of some of the factors influencing the level of resistance you and the group experience, and to understand the dynamic relationship among these factors. The Resistance Diagram illustrates these relationships.
The Facilitator's Resistance and the Group's Resistance.When someone in the role of facilitator has a high level of resistance to the use of interactive methods, this feeds the group's own natural resistance. Increased resistance from the group, in turn, increases the level of resistance in the facilitator. If this is happening to you, you need to break the cycle by recognizing your growing resistance for what it is. If you don't do this, you may find that the group's resistance will reinforce your own resistance until you abandon the effort to learn this new skill and accept the notion that interactive methods are silly, stupid, and a waste of time. See scenario 4 for an example of how resistance breeds resistance.
On the other hand, someone coming to the role of facilitator with a high level of commitment to working interactively is much better able to overcome the resistance in the group. The ability to deal with resistance while maintaining an attitude of confidence in what you are doing is probably the largest factor in determining the degree to which interactive methods will be successful in your group.
There are two other important factors that influence the level of resistance in the group and the facilitator:
The best antidote for inexperience in the short term is to be thoroughly familiar with the contents of this book, especially chapter 5. All the information and suggestions in that chapter will build your confidence, thereby decreasing your resistance. In particular, you will find it helpful to practice giving the instructions for the exercises in advance; if you are not worried about getting the information right, your comfort level will be dramatically increased, which will help put the group at ease.
In the long term, consistent use of the Interactive Meeting Format will dissolve the group's resistance both by honing your facilitation skills and by making the interactive approach familiar and comfortable to the group members. Using interaction sporadically or inconsistently actually serves to increase the group's resistance. Consistency is a major contributing factor to success.
Resistance in the group and in yourself never goes away. Working interactively is not easy, and ingrained habits usually lurk inside us waiting for opportune moments to reassert their control. If you are committed to an interactive approach, you need to be continually aware of the need to confront and disperse resistance.
While it's impossible to predict when and where resistance will rise to the surface, some of the exercises in this book are more likely than others to call up resistance from the group, and some of these are noted with the "Resistance" icon.
Getting a grip on resistance, no matter what its source, will make it possible for you to run groups that serve their intended purposes and are vibrant, engaging, and productive.