I’ve been having a few discussions lately with clients and friends about making changes and it’s been interesting to hear everyone’s views. We all know that change is constant in our lives. The questions that we have been pondering are whether some people more easily adaptable to change than others. What are the differences between people who adapt well to change while others do not.
If you look at the change curve, there are distinct stages that people transition through after the initial ‘shock’ including denial, doubt, acceptance and finally moving on. Whether it is a change in a professional setting or in one’s personal life, we basically all go through these stages at varying speeds.
So what is the difference that makes the difference? Everyone agrees that when a person is more open and welcoming to the changes, they adapt more easily and with less stress. They are more able to let go of what is known and embrace the new changes. Yet there needs to be a reason for the changes, some sort of greater benefit for making the changes. Yet what about those people who struggle with change?
The common theme that came from the discussions touched on the issue of vulnerability and loss of control for the people who struggles with change. Change may trigger a person’s fight of flight stress response based on past experiences and therefore put them into a state of heightened anxiety and fear. It appears that people who have experienced times when they felt they did not have control in some area of their lives, they crave stability. So, when they get some sort of stability in their lives, they want it to stay that way even when they acknowledge that change will happen. Additionally, when a person is already experiencing high or acute stresses in their lives with lots of changes or instability, they might struggle to deal with yet more changes elsewhere in their lives.
So how can you help yourself or someone else better cope with changes?
Preparation. Before a change is going to take effect, attempt to think through the possibilities of what is required and how to deal with the situation. This provides a level of reassurance that they can manage the change and get through what they are going to go through.
Learnings and lessons. Shifting from a negative perspective to a more positive one in an attempt to see how one will grow, learn and develop can also help. Rather than focusing on the ‘losses’ of what the change means to the person, what are the ‘benefits’ and how will they gain from the change.
Acceptance. Rather than resisting or even fighting the inevitable changes that will happen, being able to accept that it will happen can lighten those stress levels. Try to identify areas where the person can have some control, even in a small way, can help them regain their sense of being in control in the situation.
Humour can also help too!
Point to Ponder: Reflecting on your experiences with change, what can you draw upon and use for future change situations? What could you say to a friend to help them adapt to a change they are going through?