Blog: Character resistance

Life @ Work

Character resistance

What Galinsky describes as 'character resistance' can easily be observed in leadership teams.
Character resistance

I have been reading some work by Galinsky, an erstwhile Professor of Organisational Development in the University of North Carolina and have been fascinated by some of his thoughts on what he describes as "character resistance". Upon reflecting on what I understood of his writing, I am trying to capture here some typical instances of the ways by which people (and groups) exhibit resistance to exploring themselves at a deep level. I see some of this in my leadership coaching work, as well as in process consultation work in leadership teams.


As I understand it, character resistance is a phenomenon whereby a person presents themselves in a "typical" way to the world, which has potential to "save" them from being connected with at a deeper level than their interface allows - a kind of flight really. Here are some types:


The cool detached type: Gives an air of largely being disconnected with the tumults and turmoils of life. Escapes airing deep thoughts, does not engage in confrontations in a direct manner, prefers to avoid the spotlight.


The polyanna: Sees the world through rose-colored glasses. Tends to adopt a pseudo romantic air. Invariably gushes. Everything is a fairy tale. Sees gnomes, pixies, fairies and the like. This cloyingly sweet view of the world serves to perhaps anesthetize the pain and receipt of any form of turbulence.


The overtly adulatory but covertly hostile-demanding type: Fawns over, lavishes praise and professes abundant love, demonstrative also. In reality and often in private, often ends up masking a tendency to be extremely demanding. Passive-Dependent. The external adulatory behavior covers up the fear of engaging in depth conversations and self-reflectivity.


The masochistic: Tends to distract away from deeper engagement by beating themselves up or by being excessively self-flagellating, self critical.


Can you spot some of these? Any other "distractors"? In my next post, I wish to add a few more to this list, but feel free to add what you see, in your responses.

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Topics: Life @ Work, Learning & Development, Watercooler

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