I was reflecting on Stuart’s recent blog about how we tend to hold our “right” position and not look deeper, and it made me wonder about a situation I had recently with a client.

The client was frustrated by the reluctance of a group of engineers doing some cultural awareness training to help working with a group of indigenous stakeholders.

What I was hearing were comments like…

“I’m over their rejection of training”, “I can’t be bothered trying to help them? , “If they don’t want to learn, why should I worry?”

It felt to me like an example of ‘weaponizing’ rejection or disagreement, as one might do to make a difficult situation feel OK.

A bit like finding someone to blame- “I’ve done all I can, it’s up to them whether they sink or swim”

Now while it must feel very exasperating, it’s probably not very helpful in terms of getting the desired outcome of working well together.

I pondered what a different response might look like if I was in his shoes.

I could just ignore their supposed ignorance, but it might be more helpful (and probably more satisfying in the end) to seek to remove some of the barriers to their involvement.

So I had two thoughts:

  1. I might not be aware of what those barriers are, so I might first step back and check my assumptions which might include things like…
  • maybe I don’t understand why they are not interested, so I just assume they don’t want to learn
  • maybe I’m not communicating the value effectively, so they can’t see why to spend the time
  • maybe their workload is such that such training cannot get sufficient priority
  1. and then I could act ‘as if’ they want to learn- based on my new understanding and appreciation- and create space for people to step into …
  • seeking input from those involved on the best way for them to learn about the indigenous stakeholders
  • rearranging workflows to allow space and time for learning
  • listening to their perspectives on the topic and seeking their input on best ways forward

So while rejection is frustrating, it’s still an opportunity for collaboration.