It is natural for franchise support representatives to feel that if you present our ideas clearly and logically and with the best interests of Franchisees at heart, they will accept your expertise and follow your suggestions to build their business. Therefore it comes as a surprise when you find out that some Franchisees will always resist change, no matter how reasonable the recommendation.
Resistance is Futile?
At first it is natural to label the resisting person as stubborn and even irrational, and to respond by reiterating your suggestions or vehemently justifying your recommendations. But in examining the nature of resistance, it is important to understand that resistance is:
- a reaction to an emotional state deep within the person;
- not necessarily an evaluation of the suggestion on a logical, rational level;
- a predictable and natural emotional reaction which serves to protect the individual against stressful situations;
- often a necessary phase of the learning process.
It is only natural that the Support Representative would wish that resistance on the part of the Franchisee would simply disappear, for on one level it makes your task that much more difficult. But don't turn into Locutus of Borg - resistance is not futile. In fact, it can serve a valuable purpose as a learning tool. Countering the objections of a Franchisee and working through an issue with him/her can be a tremendous stimulus to growth – both on their part as business people and for the relationship as a whole. For true learning to occur, it is necessary that all feelings of resistance on the part of a Franchisee will have to be expressed directly, before he/she can accept and use your counsel.
Dealing with Resistance
Key skills required to deal with resistance are:
- the ability to identify the signs;
- being able to view resistance as natural, that it is a sign that the learning process has begun;
- supporting the Franchisee in expressing all of his/her feelings and objections;
- not internalizing the resistance or seeing it as a personal attack.
Forms of Resistance
Resistance can take many forms. Here are some of the most common.
The Franchisee persists in wanting more information. No matter how much is given, it's not enough. While some of the questions will undoubtedly be reasonable, at some point it will exceed reasonable levels and you will begin to feel impatient. This reaction is a good barometer for judging when a simple need for information crosses the line to become resistance.
"I need to give you more details." A corollary to item #1 is when the Franchisee insists on giving you way too much information. For instance, you may ask "How did this problem start?", and the response might be, "Well, I think it all began about five years ago on a Friday afternoon in May when… "
Time pressure. The Franchisee indicates that he/she would really like to implement the suggested change, but not right now - the timing is not right, we're far too busy, we're short-staffed at present, etc.
Practicality. This refers to situations when the Franchisee protests that he/she is living in the "real world" and is facing "real world pressures". The implication, of course, is that the Support Representative is not on the firing line, and is overly idealistic and impractical.
Verbal attack. The most blatant form of resistance is an angry verbal attack by a Franchisee. Your response to such an attack may be either to withdraw or to respond in kind. Both of these responses indicate that you are taking the attack personally rather than seeing it as just another (though highly unpleasant) form of resistance.
Confusion. When a Franchisee asks for help, he/she is likely sincerely seeking clarification. But if the Franchisee continues to claim lack of understanding after you explain the situation once or twice, the "confusion" could just be a form of resistance.
Silence. The silent approach is one of the hardest for Support Representatives to deal with. You may talk to the Franchisee until you're blue in the face and be met with little response or just a passive silence. He/she may reply that he/she has no particular objection to what you're proposing – but be warned, silence doesn't mean consent. In matters important to business, a Franchisee is sure to have some response.
Intellectualizing. Rather than focusing on the practical matters of implementing a change, the Franchisee may begin exploring theory after theory about why things are the way they are. This intellectualizing is actually a means of escaping the reality at hand and is a form of resistance.
Moralizing. Moralizing resistance can be recognized through the use of certain key words and phrases such as "those people should", "they need to understand", etc. When you hear a Franchisee taking this tack, it is probably a defence against the reality of the change.
Compliance. Beware of the Franchisee who expresses a desire to get to solutions quickly, with no need or desire to discuss problems. Likewise the Franchisee that implies "whatever you do is fine with me". While the compliant Franchisee who totally agrees with you and seems eager to know what to do next seems like the ideal situation, compliance of this sort can be one of the more difficult forms of resistance. Typically an absence of reservations is part and parcel of a "low energy agreement".
Methodology. A Franchisee's persistent questioning about the methods of implementing a change can represent a legitimate need for information. But once you have established the credibility of a proposed change, repeated questions on the part of the Franchisee about implementation strategies, or suggestions of alternate methods, may be a form of resistance that will impede progress.
Flight Into Health. This occurs when a proposed change is being discussed as a resolution to a problem, yet partway through the discussion it appears that the Franchisee no longer has the problem you were addressing in the first place. It has now magically disappeared, so there is no longer any reason for the change.
REMEMBER – Resistance does not actually mean "No".