Roll With Resistance
"Roll with Resistance" is one of the key principles of motivational interviewing - an approach to helping people change habitual behaviour which is causing problems for them or others.
You may be familiar with a situation where someone who seems to be resistant to making changes denies that they have a problem or refuses to do anything about it.
Indeed if you think about it, you may be able to think of situations where you yourself have done the same. If you are feeling attacked or criticised, denying there is an issue even if you know there is, is one of the most natural defensive responses.
"Rolling with Resistance" is a key technique which recognises that simply attacking or confronting someone directly does not always work - it may drive people deeper into their shell or lead them to be highly defensive or confrontational themself.
What Does "Rolling with Resistance" Involve?
"Rolling with Resistance" involves a number of different possible approaches. They share some common features:
- Avoid a direct head-on argument with the person whose behaviour you would like to see change ("Avoid Argumentation" is another key principle of motivational interviewing theory)
- Show that you have heard what the other person has said (that key listening skill is a way of getting alongside them even if you don't agree and may help to defuse or prevent some of their instinctive defensiveness)
- Encourage the other person to come up with possible solutions or alternative behaviours themself rather than forcing suggestions on them. This can help them to feel empowered rather than attacked.
Sample Ideas for How to 'Roll with Resistance'
Ways of rolling with resistance that you could try are:
- Just listen reflectively - Respond to what the person is saying by paraphrasing, summarising or reflecting it back to them in a way which shows that you have heard what they are saying, even if you don't agree with it. Do this in a non judgmental way - the aim is simply to let them know that you have heard what they are saying, not to express a view on it.
If they are in part aware themselves that what they are saying is exaggerated or unreasonable then simply hearing what they are saying relayed back to them without being attacked may of itself prompt them to comment on it or tone it down. Remember that they may be expecting you to criticise them, so a simple restatement of their views may disarm them and encourage them to acknowledge elememts of their views that are unreasonable.
- Develop discrepancy - Developing discrepancy is another key principle of motivational interviewing. In the context of rolling with resistance, you can do it after you have reflected back to them what they are saying by asking in a non-confrontational way how their views, comments fit in with wider goals or objectives that they have previously expressed, if there is an obvious discrepancy between them, e.g. if someone goes out drinking every night and that is impacting on their home relationships which they have said they want to improve, you might show that you realise that going out every night is an important social commitment (if that is what they have said about it) and then ask them how does it fit in with their aim of trying to develop more harmonious home relationships? They can then see the dilemma and decide on their own solutions for addressing it.
- Ask the person what an alternative viewpoint might be - Once you have reflected back to the person what they are saying and what their viewpoint is, instead of directly challenging it yourself, you can ask them what they think someone might say who disagreed with them and what they think of that. Then you just reflect back to them what they say about that. This way you are encouraging them to think about the other ways of viewing the situation without passing judgment or forcing views on them. Again this may prompt a less defensive reaction from them.
Finally Remember.... If you try any of the above ideas and they don't immediately seem to work, you don't have to push them. Wait at least a day or two. Sometimes acting in this way may have helped the other person to become more aware of the issues or more inclined to change but in the heat of the moment they may not let you know that, so give them a chance to calm down and reflect on the interchange for a day or two, before you conclude that your approach hasn't helped. You may be surprised by their reaction if you wait a little...
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