Tip #3 to galvanize climate action: resistance is code for what we care about 

More often than not, when we come across someone who dismisses our ideas out of hand, we judge them for being obtuse and begin to see them as problematic and a roadblock. In the context of climate change, our response can be even stronger, when we feel the heavy breath of urgency on our necks. 

Our knee-jerk reaction is to drive home our own reasoning about how things should be done, thinking if only they would understand our logic they would agree. Yet if those on the receiving end have a seed of doubt, this approach can cause them to cling to their scepticism and be less open to our ideas. 

Beneath someone’s resistance there are often deeply held beliefs and values. If we can learn to hear those things below their words, we can begin to understand their internal logic and what is holding them back from action. This simple trick can change the tone of the whole conversation and pave the way for much more constructive collaboration.

“ When we are tussling over an action, it may feel counterintuitive to help people explain why they disagree with you. Yet when we are arguing, our fundamental human desire to agree and be in the warmth of community is at odds with our need to stand up for what we hold dear, and it can often result in both sides feeling disempowered and at fault. Rather than escalating the disagreement (or damaging the relationship), finding out the legitimate reasons for resisting can bring us back into mutual respect. When we realize that someone is not being difficult but holds meaningful concerns, we no longer see them as a roadblock.

The power in a values-based approach is that once someone can name what is behind their reticence, it opens the door to exploring how that value can still be honoured in other ways.” 

 – Excerpt from chapter 10: ‘Understanding intrinsic values to overcome resistance to action’ of Climate Change Coaching – The Power of Connection to Create Climate Action


Coaching skills allow us to listen for the other story being told, beneath the outward frustration or reticence, to unearth what really matters to someone. When we help people to connect with what they care about, new opportunities for action unfold.

Here are 3 ways you can use a coaching approach with someone who is resisting climate action:

  • Listen for values in what they are saying and ask them straight out if that is something they care about. For example:  when you hear someone dismissing eco-products because they are too expensive, you may ask if fairness or equal opportunities are important for them. This may lead to a conversation about upcycling projects that are accessible to everybody. 
  • If you don’t feel comfortable suggesting someone’s values to them, simply ask “What matters to you about that?” or “What’s important to you about that?” Their response will take you straight to their values.
  • Help others not conflate values with behaviours. For example when someone says “I can’t reduce how much I fly. I’m a natural explorer” take the opportunity to help them imagine how their value of exploration could be lived in other ways – for example by taking the train over the plane.