Saying No To The Status Quo - repost

By popular request, I am re-posting this…

Last year I was trying to make some final medication claims on my previous health benefits carrier. They have be problematic to deal with in the past, and this time was no different. It took me days to resolve, with a lot of traumatic negotiations along the way.

It’s not that they are abnormally incompetent. In fact, they are very normal, they are the Status Quo.

In terms of Status Quo, most people are not aware they are behaving the way they do. Why would they? The Status Quo is normal. To think outside the Status Quo is abnormal.

Having dealt with service people for decades, I typically encounter some routine challenges:

  1. We don’t listen to hear, we listen to respond. ‘This is a contraction of a quote from Stephen R. Covey ’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”’
  • This is generally the biggest barrier in dealing with the Status Quo… most people simply do not care what we are saying, they cannot hear us as everything they hear is reprocessed and repurposed into a reply, a response, and most often an invalidating response.
  • It’s not that they are incompetent, stupid, or evil, it’s that they are normal. It is normal not to listen effectively.
  1. 6 Reasons Why You Take Things Too Personally. It never fails that one reason people cannot hear us is that they inappropriately take things personally. After decades of experience with service people, and others, I try not to make personal comments, I focus on the product or the service, but in the majority of cases, people transfer my emotions about the product or service to emotions about them personally. Transference is a common psychological trait, and one reason it is hard to Say No To The Status Quo.
  • Over the decades, in my career and elsewhere, I have noticed this issue is getting worse.
  • People are not as tough as they used to be. It’s not that they are overly sensitive, it’s that they don’t listen and parse things effectively.
  • Even when criticism was personal, my memory is people were tougher and did not wilt so easily in the face of new perspectives, unpleasant ideas, inconvenient truths, etc.
    • The Inconvenient Truth of Climate Change and Global Warming is an iconic example of dealing with the Status Quo
  • Even when there is no criticism, when it is simply a feature request, feature improvement request, just a new idea or perspective; if it challenges the Status Quo, it must be criticism.
  • Personally, I believe that people who cannot handle criticism, either direct or indirect, cannot be critical thinkers. It takes a thick skin to do good science… remember Galileo?
  • Early in my career, we had epic arguments, solved real problems, and later had beer together where we laughed at the silliness of some of our arguments (such as violent agreement)
  1. 27 Conflict Resolution Skills to Use with Your Team and Your Customers. In almost all cases, saying no causes conflict. Saying no to the status quo amplifies such conflict. Conflict Resolution is a skill that usually requires training, practice, and experience.
  • People who hear “No” rarely have these skills, so they
    • Reply without understanding
    • Take things personally
    • Escalate conflict rather than reduce or resolve it
  • But people who say “No” typically don’t have or don’t practice these skills either.
    • We need to spot when people are not hearing, and rephrase when necessary
    • We need to spot when people are taking things personally, and rephrase when necessary
  • We need to spot when people have no conflict resolutions skills, and either rephrase, employ more skills, or abandon the effort.
    • You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink
    • It is very normal to be unable to say “No” to the Status Quo

There are many other psychological factors related to this, Cognitive Biases, Cognitive Dissonance, Identity Foreclosure… There are many systemic factors, Status Quo Culture, Toxic Workplace, Insufficient Training and Awareness…

Back to my recent experience with extended benefits, I went through all the standard issues saying No to ineffective service, the Status Quo. In the end, I was finally able to get them to act responsibly, but only after looping in a service person who was previously able to deal with the same issue. Unlike most other people at the company, my sense was she had the temperament, training, and skills to deal effectively and efficiently with the corporate Status Quo.

Over the years I have also noticed that some people and organization deal better with “Hearing No To The Status Quo.” I was dealing with our local Internet Service Provider, trying to resolve a problem and give feedback. The service consultant had no problems hearing my complaints about product quality. When I asked him why he was so good about the criticism he replied, “We know our product quality needs improving, so we have had specific training to deal better with customers complaints.” In effect, they had been trained to Hear No To The Status Quo.

Meeting Resistance and Moving Forward • Linda Rising • GOTO 2017

One of my heroes is Linda Rising, who is 15 years my senior, and she demonstrates how much wiser and learned she is than I. But, we do read the same books, and subscribe to the same ideas, so I am no slouch either. It pays to have good heroes.

I think her presentation has a lot to say about the Status Quo, although she uses different labels. She is definitely a gentle strength with kind toughness, who I find particularly inspiring.

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