Hooray! Whoopee-do! Hosanna! Gadzooks! …and other such excited exclamations are rarely heard when it is suggested that we ought to make a change. More usually, we experience the cautious agreement that something should be done. There will be many people nodding their heads in approval while their eyes tell you a very different story. At this point the ‘shadow-side’ becomes mobilised, outwardly in support while inwardly organising their defence.
The ‘not in my back yard’ defence demonstrates this well. People often declare their support ‘in principle’ of; nuclear power stations, refuse dumps, wind farms, youth clubs, mental health units etc… but; ‘This is not a suitable place, we believe there are better options’
Equally effective is the ‘timing ploy’. This is a double-defence move. It starts with questioning the need to start now; ‘This is not the right time, after all we are up to our eyes with work, there are a number of other initiatives that we are involved with at the present time’
This is often linked to the ‘delay strategy’ where there is a need for more information or research before we can proceed.
I particularly like the more subtle ‘deflection response’. In this, the shadow-side suggests that they are being thwarted by the actions or inactivity of others; ‘We have everything in place to move forward but the finance department/procurement/our customer/the patient/legal/health and safety team have some issues to resolve before we can work out what we will do.’
These ‘deflectors’ like to claim the support of the ‘authority figure’, the more obscure or unchallengeable the better; ‘I’m sure ‘they’ would wholeheartedly support what we want to achieve but I’m sure this would not be the way they would want to do it.’ Take note of how this infers that they have the ear of authority and are the custodian of their views. The shadow-side is now controlling the higher moral ground!
I’ve started to compile a collection of shadow-side defence strategies to share with you. If there are others you’d like share, then give them a title, send them to us and we’ll add them to the list.