My mentor always told me he would rather people were either hot or cold toward him, not lukewarm. You can’t do much with a lukewarm response, but you can use challenge and opposition to your advantage.
This topic of opposition is one that comes up weekly during coaching sessions. More specifically leaders learning the hard way how to meet opposition from a colleague and how to deal with it.
The key word here is “meet.” Most people get into trouble by failing to meet what another person is bringing to them. Instead they avoid that person’s energy by trying to pacify, correct or fix it. Often that just makes things worse. What works for me is to recognize the emotion that person is experiencing, see where the challenge is coming from, and meet them there.
Most of us are hesitant to meet people with a strong pushback. Understandably so; as leaders or experts, we are careful with the power differential derived from our position and, if the person is coming from pain, low self-esteem or self-protection, coming on strong clearly doesn’t help. There are different ways to meet each of those types creatively, which we have touched on in this post here. The coaching in these recent sessions, however, was about meeting people who were bringing their challenge in a feisty, aggressive way.
It is easy enough to recognize when opposition is coming from this kind of energy. The language will be clean and direct, not veiled or pained. You will probably feel some feistiness rising in yourself. Under the issue the person is bringing, you will often notice it is really about them finding their place. They want to play, to contribute more in some way, and they’re looking for a way in.
Typically such people were told along the way that they don’t really matter. They are used to being dismissed or overpowered and are wrestling this demon right now with the current authority figure in their life: you. What a golden opportunity. You can let them know, finally, how much they do matter. Avoiding their energy, even meeting it with all the gentle kindness of a saint, won’t give them that. You have to be willing to fight a little, to engage but in a way that leaves them getting a win, so they end up honored for the truth they are seeking to bring and feel that they have a place to give their gift.
The more willing we are to meet opposition, the more we will find ourselves surrounded by strong people engaging in a genuinely loyal and creative way.

David Lesser
Founder & CEO