One of the most important aspects of understanding how the Nine Moments of Agreement can help you systematically leverage resistance to change to create support and momentum, is listening. However, for listening to work, you need to understand what you are listening for, and how to use what you are hearing.
Seek first to understand
Stephen Covey famously said that one should seek to understand, before seeking to be understood.
Working through the Nine Layers of Resistance to build the Nine Moments of Agreement needed for a successful change initiative, is one of the places where this piece of wisdom can simply not be ignored.
A shared and agreed upon perception and understanding of the situation is the immutable foundation on which true buy-in is created.
Three things to understand
There are effectively three primary pieces of information that you are listening for, when you have not yet converted one of the Layers of Resistance to a Moment of Agreement:
- Perceived facts
- Reasoning (in the form of assumptions, deductions, inductions, and conclusions)
- Position on the Layers of Resistance
By listening carefully and classifying the information you are receiving as to whether it is a fact, or an assumption; and where it is positioned in the Nine Layers of Resistance will help you to understand what your response should be.
To classify what you are hearing, you can simply constantly be asking yourself the following three questions about every piece of information you are being presented with:
- Is the speaker presenting this as a fact?
- Is the speaker presenting this as a form of reasoning – i.e. moving through a series of logical steps to come to a conclusion?
- Is the information that is being presented at the Layer of Resistance that we are dealing with at the moment, or is it at a different level?
The way you should respond differs significantly – depending on how you classify what you are hearing.
If the person is presenting facts that are different to the facts you have built your solution on, then your response should be to verify the facts through obtaining evidence. Either your facts were wrong, or the facts that are being presented are wrong. If you want to reach agreement you need to get to a point where you and the other person agree on the evidence and the facts.
If the person is presenting a path of reasoning that is different to yours, then you need to expose the assumptions on which each of your paths of reasoning is built. An Evaporating Conflict Cloud is a relatively simple, and surprisingly effective tool that can be used to uncover assumptions on which conflicting conclusions are built.
Position the objection accurately
If the person is raising an objection that is at a layer of resistance that you have not yet reached, you need to take note, not get tempted into starting that argument, and move the conversation back to the layer just above the last moment of agreement you had reached.
If the person is raising an objection that is at a layer of resistance which you have already passed, you should go back to the moment of agreement, and confirm whether some new evidence or idea has truly moved you back to that layer – or whether this is just a normal case of human inconsistency – which can often be dealt with by simply reminding the person that you’ve already come to an agreement on that point.
The central point of all of this is listening – but not just listening because you are interested. Listening because you are truly trying to understand exactly where the information you are receiving belongs in the process of building through your Moments of Agreement.