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What Triggers Resistance Against Healthy Habits

Family and friends can hinder your ability to lower your resistance to changing your unhealthy habits. Their behavior (such as nagging) can even make your resistance worse. On the other hand, you can hinder family and friends in addressing their resistance to change and even make it worse.

A wide range of triggers can bring out resistant behaviors. It's important to understand how you and your family members can resist change in different ways. Such an understanding can help recognize what triggers your resistance so that you can tell others what is unhelpful, such as nagging behaviors. Conversely, you can stop unhelpful behaviors when trying to help others to change.

What Triggers Resistance

Here are some sure fire ways of triggering resistance -giving orders and instructions (you must, should or ought to change), lecturing, judging, moralizing, criticizing, interpreting and analyzing others.

Here are some additional behaviors (from obvious to subtle ways) that can trigger resistance- persuading with "logic", giving advice, giving recommendations, offering solutions, making suggestions, providing information and asking questions.

Even your nonjudgmental, open-ended question with good intentions can still evoke resistance if the other person interprets your intentions as trying to influence their choice or control their decision. For whatever reasons, the person wrongly interprets your good intentions. The converse is also true when someone asks you a nonjudgmental, open-ended question with good intentions. You may take the question the wrong way too.

Can you think of an example when you got this reaction from someone else? And when you reacted in the wrong way to someone else's questions? Miscommunications are common between good intentions and mis-interpretations of a question.

Your challenge is to use your insight about resistance in ways that help to change their perceptions about their risk behaviors and thereby become more motivated to change. Pay particular attention to how your interviewing approach can powerfully affect patients' receptivity or resistance to the possibility of change.

How To Recognize Signs of Resistance

The Table below lists the signs of resistance to change that range from subtle to blatant forms of resistance. Sometimes, you may not recognize the signs of resistance in yourself and others. In both situations, you will underestimate the strength of your resistance and the resistance in others.

  • Exhibiting nonverbal cues of negative emotions-discomfort, flushing, fidgeting
  • Ignoring you-inattention, no answer, non-response, cutting off
  • Evading issues-sidetracking, talking over, interrupting,
  • Using humor-making light of serious issues or conflicts
  • Deflecting issues-placating yourself or others
  • Pseudo-agreeing-making implied or halfhearted agreements to change
  • Projecting-blaming others, holding others responsible for their actions
  • Rationalizing-making excuses for yourself
  • Rebelling-being oppositional, arguing, challenging, disagreeing,
  • Going on the offense-discounting, discrediting, being hostile
  • Giving up-resignation, unwillingness to try, defeated

This list can help you identify and discuss how both you and your loved ones tend to resist change when interacting with others. The question is: what do you do when you do recognize resistance to change?

A deflecting excuse
"I'm under too much stress at the moment to quit smoking right now"

A counter response
I will always be under some kind of stress but this is the best time to quit. If you quit now, I 'll be in a better position to stop yourself from smoking again when I am under a lot of stress the next time. But if I quit when I am not under lot of stress"

Now write down one of your excuses for not changing:

Write out a counter response to that excuse:


Understanding how you can interact with your family and friends in negative ways can help you to stop doing things that makes things worse. Conversely, you can tell family and friends to stop doing things (such as nagging) that are unhelpful or make things worse. Stopping negative behaviors is more difficult when you care for someone or when someone cares for you.



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