by | Jan 16, 2017 | Leadership

We all face seemingly impossible professional and personal challenges every day.  These professional challenges may include completing our to-do list, developing a new team, overcoming a poor leader, completing a sale with a tough client or getting an interview subject to tell the truth.  Personal challenges may include raising children, starting an exercise routine, learning a new hobby or dealing with your in laws.  It’s common to perceive these challenges, and many others, as impossible.  Often when we are presented with potentially insurmountable tasks we tell ourselves  “I can’t do it.”

When people say “I can’t do it” they are leaving out one very important word – easily.

What they are really saying is: “I don’t currently see enough value in completing this task to invest the necessary effort.”

Very few people love change. Most of us would prefer to avoid change just to avoid discomfort, making long-term commitments, and risk losing what we already have. Additionally, people may also avoid change because they believe past experiences have made future changes either worthless or impossible.

Inspiring commitments to change can be difficult.  It is certainly not impossible. Here are ten steps to help move your counterparts (and yourself) from “I can’t do it” to “I did it.”

1. Accept the response – don’t argue. Arguing motivates people to defend their positions and increases their resistance to new ideas. When someone tells you “I can’t do it” reply by saying “Ok” and transition to asking clarification questions, offering new perspectives or temporarily changing the subject f necessary.
2. Consider their likely fears and motivations. Most people resist change when their fears dictate their initial reaction. Pause to consider what their fears may be and ask yourself what may motivate them in this situation.
3. Reverse engineer your strategy. The statement “I can’t” is often the result of an obstacle focused mindset. Change the perception of these perceived obstacles by focusing your audience on the end result and working backwards to where you are today.
4. Evaluate their previous actions. Look back through your experiences with your audience and examine why  they’ve previously accepted any opportunity to change.  Apply those lessons in the current situation.
5. Gather any relevant facts and/or stories. People can be persuaded by rational and/or narrative approaches. Prepare the facts and stories that you think will be most persuasive to your audience prior to asking them to take action.
6. Demonstrate results. One of the easiest ways to get people to believe a new idea will work is to demonstrate how similar ideas have previously worked.  Another approach is to demonstrate how actions they’ve previously taken have already started the process they need currently engage with.
7. Allow your counterparts to save face. Make any potentially contentious requests, in a location and with a delivery that allows your counterpart to save face and take idea ownership of the new direction.
8. Collaborate. Ask your audience for their ideas  and integrate as many of them into your new process as possible.
9. Earn their trust. Consistently show your character and competence. Quickly admit any mistakes you’ve made. Publicly work hard towards achieving the same goals and give your audience credit for their actions
10. Follow up. A commitment to change develops over time. Your team will perceive the amount of time you dedicate to them as a direct reflection of how much they mean to you.



Michael Reddington, CFI is an executive resource, the president of InQuasive, Inc. and the creator of the Disciplined Listening Method. He teaches leaders from all industries and specialties how to apply strategic, ethical persuasion techniques in all of their conversations. To learn more contact Michael directly at +1 (704) 256-7116 or mreddington@inquasive.com.