Can You Learn from Your Own and Others Resistance?

What do you do when you feel offended by a comment or resist a point of view?

Have you ever paid attention to that feeling and asked why?

In her interview with  Tim Ferriss  on his podcast, Tim asks Whitney Cummings  what question she would ask of his audience.

Her first response is ‘Watch Comedy. It’s good for you.” (2:29:26)

Tim then says he will dig on that for a second. He asks what some new to comedy should pay attention to or asks themselves if they want to see another layer.

Whitney says “Look at what Offends you.” (2:30:00)

She continues “If something offends you; Watch Richard Pryor, watch Daniel Tosh, watch the most incendiary comedians, Bill Burr, maybe Louis CK …”.

“If something offends you, look inward. That’s a sign that there is something there. What offends someone says a lot about them.”

That question has stuck with me ever since.

Pay attention to that feeling of offence. That feeling is telling you something about yourself. About your own views and values. 

Similarly, someone else’s offence, or resistance, tells you something about them and what they value.

This resonated with me for a couple of reasons.

First, a couple of years back  Stuart and I were talking about bias in the news. Stuart told me what he does to combat the preference to only read a view we already agree with. He would deliberately read articles covering the same news story from different news sources. He looked for another point of view. For example, let’s say it was a story in the Middle East, he would read something from BBC New, Sky News, CNN, and AlJazeera.

With that rattling around in my head the Rhodes must Fall movement played itself out across the Indian Ocean and my Facebook news feed early last year.  I went to the University of Cape Town, so my feed was full. The articles that showed up on my feed didn’t cover the whole spectrum, but they were diverse.

“The movement was initially about the removal of the statue of Cecil Rhodes, a symbol which the protesters felt was oppressive,[4] and grew to encompass institutional racism,[9] the perceived lack of racial transformation at the university,[10] and access to tertiary education and student accommodation.[11][12]

From Rhodes Must Fall on Wikipedia

Remembering Stuart’s comment I challenged myself to read them. Particularly those I suspected I would disagree with.

So when I heard Whitney make that point it resonated.

Every time I have felt offended or threatened by what other people were saying, by their point of view, her comment challenged me to think about why that was? 

What was I afraid of?

Then this week on the train into work I read the following paragraphs about change in Gerald Weinberg’s book The Secrets of Consulting. In this chapter Gerald is discussing change within organisations.

“Rhonda’s Second Revelation has proved even more useful than the first. Whenever my clients struggle in the face of change, I can use that struggle to discover what they value most. Sometimes, I can even catch myself struggling, and learn something about my own values. I was certainly struggling against Rhonda’s revelations, a fact that she didn’t fail to point out.

“What is it you don’t want to face about these revelations, Jerry?”

“Admitting that I make my clients believe they need me in order to change. And that’s because I fear that they don’t actually need me, and that I will lose them.”

from The Secrets of Consulting

“Whenever I feel resistance to my ideas, my first instinct is to resist the resistance. If I’m repeating myself, or exhibiting any peculiar behavior, my unconscious has already recognized the resistance and is trying to combat it. My conscious mind is slower to realize what’s going on, but when it finally gets into the act, my most reliable resistance detector is direct observation of my own behavior. ”

from The Secrets of Consulting

You should get acquainted with your own behavior pattern. At the slightest hint that something may be out of kilter, follow Brown’s Brilliant Bequest and start listening to your music. Notice nonverbal behavior, which will either be defensive or aggressive, depending on how you perceive the resistance.”

from The Secrets of Consulting

Gerald is making the same point that Whitney was, but applying it to the person or part of the organisation you are working with.

When you feel them resisting, notice it, and learn from it.

What does it tell you about what they value? About what you value?

And always pay attention to it in yourself. You have to model an open mindset. We have to be open to changing our minds when better information and data supports it. If we can’t listen and think properly polarisation will persist.

All things come in threes …

An article came up in my feed this morning from Next Draft by Dave Pell (highly recommend). It’s number 1 in his daily list and titled ‘Feel my Pain’.

Now that you have heard what Whitney and Gerald have to say about resistance and offence, I challenge you to read this article, Activism in Liberal Arts Colleges.

Pay attention to you reactions as you read. What are they telling you?

There is something in this article for everyone. I don’t think one person can read it and agree with everything. You will pick a side early. If you challenge yourself, maybe you will learn.

I did. I had one view going in, and a different one coming out. A more nuanced view that was more informed.

Update on 29th May 2016: In the original post I had remembered the gist of Whitney and Tims conversations. I had remembered the question, but had mixed it with other parts of their long conversation. After listening to the whole podcast to find the exact timestamp, right at the end of course, I updated the first part of this post to reflect how they question was asked and how Whitney put the question. The point however remains valid for the rest of the post.

Featured Image courtesy of Jason Rosewell and