A Tankful of Tolerance

Mar 02, 2013 No Comments by

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Sometimes it takes a lot of tolerance to be a Change Agent.

putting out fires

Expect to Face Some Heat: As people go through their natural reactions to change, we get bombarded from time to time with negativity, insecurity, doubt and frustration.


We might be surprised to hear these emotions from people who had previously been quiet or even supportive of the change. Even more shocking might be the strength of their reaction to what’s going on around them.

It’s hard to guess how people will react to change.

dealing with anger

Sometimes they’ll roll with it.

Sometimes they’ll panic.

Sometimes they’ll get emotional. 

I’ve even encountered stakeholders who’ve expressed outright disdain toward me because I represented a change they didn’t particularly care for.

I’m sure they didn’t intend for it to be personal – but without a little context and preparation, I could have easily taken it that way!

Freeport Water Tower 2


Fill ‘Er Up! I’d like to imagine that we each have a big tank filled with tolerance for situations like that. We need to draw deeply from that reserve when the fires of emotional resistance flare up.

We also need to constantly refill that tank so we can be helpful to struggling stakeholders, regardless of how their struggle is manifested. We can refill it by learning about others, listening to a range of opinions and opening our minds to new ideas.

When we recharge in this way, we are more capable of seeing things from other frames of reference and using that knowledge to process resistance. 


Open ‘Er Up: Keeping the doorway of communication open – even when my heart tells me to be offended – can yield unexpected levels of understanding for the situations faced by others. This in turn yields downstream opportunities to help them successfully adapt.

If I had not opened up the faucet of tolerance for the way they expressed their frustrations, their doubts or their concerns, I might have missed an opportunity to help.


The PayOff: I’ve also learned that weathering the storm of emotions without lashing out in return can help build Change Agent credibility.

Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire! Remember: If you can’t sort out the emotions from the data, there’s a good chance you’ll have a tough time helping stakeholders adapt. If you over-extend yourself, you could drain your tank and be unprepared to help.

dealing with frustration

The Bottom Line: As a Change Agent, I’ve learned to exercise tolerance for a wide range of opinions, emotions and reactions to change. I believe that even the nastiest expression of resistance has some kernel of change-related truth buried deep within it. 

Without an open mind and a thick skin, I might miss those clues.

So keep learning and listening.

Keep your cool and keep things in context or you may risk walking into a dangerous (and useful) situation with your tolerance tank on “E”. 


Question for Chatter:

  • How do you recharge your tolerance tank so you can be fresh and ready for the heated situations you may face as a Change Agent?

Change Agent Skills, Change Communication, Change Execution, Change Leadership, Stakeholder Readiness, Team Dynamics

About the author

I help people and teams succeed with big changes... never a dull moment!
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