How to Move from Adversarial to Influential with Curiosity

What happens when you bring a new idea to higher ups? You hear reasons why it won’t work.

People often defend the status quo, even though the present is dissatisfying.



Objections express the search for certainty when facing change. When objections win, the alternative is pouring more energy into disappointing efforts. Try harder!

Trying harder at failed efforts is ‘fairy dust’ thinking. Somehow, more effort will magically transform failure to success.

In stagnant organizations, objections carry more weight than new ideas.

Responding to objections from higher ups:

The influential response to objections is curiosity. The adversarial response is defense.

The worst thing you can do is quickly answer objections from higher ups.

The ‘yeah but’ dance:

What happens when you answer objections from reluctant higher ups? They come up with new objections. It’s the frustrating ‘yeah but’ dance.

Yeah, that’s a good idea, but …!

  1. New idea.
  2. Yeah but.
  3. Defence or explanation.
  4. New objection. Yeah but…!
  5. New defense.
  6. Decision regarding the new idea.
  7. Winners and losers.


Positional authority isn’t the answer to objections. Forced conformity never ignites engagement and enthusiasm.

Curiosity is influential. Defense is adversarial.

Genuine curiosity is the influential response to resistance.

  1. Tell me more.
  2. What else?
  3. What’s important?
  4. What are you trying to achieve?

People won’t hear your ideas until you hear and understand theirs.

Listening is more influential than telling when earning a hearing for new ideas.


Use curiosity to pivot to opportunity.

  1. I see what won’t work. (Acknowledge resistance.) What might work?
  2. I see why things should stay the same. What are some reasons why we might want to change?
  3. What do your best aspirations tell you we might try?
  4. What happens if we choose to do nothing?
  5. Where will we be in six months if we stay the course?

How might leaders and managers earn a hearing for their ideas?