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Intransigence -Garrett's Change Management Blog

Intransigence

Is there a word that sounds any more like sticking you neck in the sand, or digging your feet in, or just plain being obnoxiously stubborn?

:characterized by refusal to compromise or to abandon an extreme position or attitude

Merriam-Webster

The last US congress, the 112th, became the “dictionary definition” of this word with their inability to pass anything of substance (with a whole lot of wacky ideas pawned off as substantive). (What are the odds the 113th will be any different?).

This word is one of those words that is used with change incorrectly. Well maybe not this BIG word, usually it’s the synonym resistance. (Funny intransigence only has three more letters than resistance and yet my kids would say it is one of those BIG words- as in hard to learn and hard to remember the definition for… let alone spell). When one person thinks something should go one way and another is unwilling to go that way I do not think there is necessarily intransigence on the part of the second party (or resistance).

Intransigence might be an extreme example of resistance. Resistance does not have to have a position (it will certainly develop an attitude though). Resistance tends to be a desire to just stand still (or carry on as usual) when it comes to change. If intransigence was to refuse someone else’s position we might have a change word.

In almost all of the cases of “resistance” I see (or situations where another consultant would look for ways to reduce “resistance”) there is a very good reason for not participating- when the world is seen from the “resistors” viewpoint. It might be history that reduces trust, or structure that will not accommodate the change, or lack of prioritization that means it is mathematically impossible to add in or just an idea that does not make sense.

There is ALWAYS a reason to be resistant. And there may always be a reason for intransigence. For that person with their feet dug in, certainly.

When it comes to change don’t get all riled up about intransigence or the lighter form of resistance. Find out why. Change something else before you try to change the intransigent/resistant person.

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