How to Make Opposition Work for You

Opposition

Have you ever tried to persuade someone to your way of thinking only to be confronted by heavy opposition? Although it may sound illogical, opposition can actually be a good thing when trying to influence and persuade others.

Opposition can be good

Every time we are engaged in an attempt to influence someone we need to evaluate whether that person is receptive to our efforts or not. Normally when we encounter opposition we tend to feel our efforts are failing. Strange as it may seem, that’s not necessarily the case.

Opposition means you still have a chance

Let’s suppose you are in a meeting and you are presenting an idea and someone in the meeting begins to challenge it. They throw up opposition by arguing why it can’t be done or why it shouldn’t be done or why your idea isn’t a good idea. Your first thought is to think that the person will be impossible to persuade to your way of thinking. Actuallythe opposite is true. It’s the person who agrees immediately with your ideas and wants to move on that usually is not going to take any action in that direction. The person who is actually giving you opposition and is actively engaged in a discussion about it is much more likely to be persuaded.

If the other person agrees too easily 

Let me give you an example. Let’s suppose you know someone who is in very poor health and you tell them, “You know, you really ought to go see a doctor and get a checkup.” That person can handle that suggestion is two ways.

The first way is to agree with you immediately and say, “Yes, you’re right. I should go see a doctor and get a checkup.” They don’t argue with you at all. They immediately agree with you but inside they know that they have no intention whatsoever of going and seeing a doctor. They want to agree with you immediately so they can move on. They want to get past the subject. They don’t want to discuss it. They know on one level that you’re right, but on another emotional level they have many internal reasons they don’t want to see a doctor. It could be that they are afraid of what the doctor may find out. It could be that they can’t afford it. It’s going to cost them money and they don’t want to spend it. It could be that they already know what the doctor is going to tell them. The doctor is going to tell them they need to cut out certain foods and they need to exercise and they are not ready to deal with that right now.

So they will agree with you immediately so they can get off the subject and move on. You haven’t persuaded them at all but they want you to think that you have. So when someone agrees with you immediately it’s a sign that they are closed to discussion.

If the other person disagrees 

The second way they can respond is to disagree with you. If they argue with you about it, then the channels of persuasion are still open. They will say things like, “You know, I don’t really want to go to the doctor. It’s too much of a hassle and I don’t trust doctors.” If they oppose you, if there is opposition there, then the conduit of persuasion is still open.

You may think just the opposite is true when they agree with you. You think you have persuaded them but when they oppose you and argue with you, you think that you haven’t persuaded them. Opposition doesn’t mean that you have persuaded them but it does mean that the lines of communication and the channels of persuasion and influence are still open and that you still have that opportunity. They still haven’t made up their mind internally. There’s an internal conflict. So they may be arguing with you on the outside but internally they are arguing with themselves about whether they should or they shouldn’t pursue the particular course you are suggesting.

Pay attention to the responses you get

The next time you are in a situation where you need to persuade others to your way of thinking, pay attention to their response. If there is opposition then you still have a good chance to change their minds.