Dealing with Change.
The only constant is change. It’s a cliché but true.
However, there are 2 types of change and the way we react to each can be quite different.
The first type is the change we make ourselves – a new hair cut or colour, moving neighbourhoods or just rearranging the bedroom furniture are changes we choose to make. They’re often fairly easy to deal with because we have control over them.
But what about change that happens to us – comes along uninvited and shakes up our lives?
Adapting to Change. Some people relish change and thrive on it. For others, dealing with any of these scenarios is challenging and their first reaction is to worry.
For the latter types – which is probably you if you’ve chosen to read this article – change may always be hard. How then can you feel less threatened and anxious about change and how can you adapt to it more easily? Here are 4 steps that will help.
Step 1 is to stop. You’ve heard the news that a change is about to happen; you can feel your blood pressure start to climb and your head’s rushing with ‘but you can’t’ and ‘no, it’s going to be terrible’. But just stop. Take a breath and put those objections to one side – it may help to close your eyes and imagine them as solid objects that you can gather up and put into a drawer or closet. Acknowledge that your concerns are there and are valid but tell yourself that you’ll come back to them later if necessary.
In step 2, remember that the Chinese character for ‘crisis’ is a combination of the characters for ‘opportunity’ and ‘danger’. So, when you’ve gathered your thoughts and got over the shock of the change that’s taking place, take a moment to ask yourself what opportunities this unwelcome change could bring you.
Does a change in the company’s management enable you to make better progress in your career? Or does your parent’s marriage to a new spouse give you the opportunity to get to know a step-sibling who can help you on a project or introduce you to different things? At the most extreme end, this change might be one that makes you re-evaluate everything in your life and force you to make changes yourself.
Step 3 is where you ask yourself what you can learn from this change. If there is a change in management at work you may come into contact with new people you can learn from – even if you don’t like them. Try to objective and dispassionate. Do they have skills you can learn, or even the reverse (ie can you learn how not to do something/handle someone)?
If your new step-dad’s daughter isn’t the sort of person you’d normally get along with, can you learn to ‘act’ the part of step-brother/sister until you get to know and like her/him? Or do you need to brush up on some negotiation skills to make sure that everyone gets a good deal with the new family arrangement?
Step 4. Even changing your attitude to change using steps 1-3 won’t always make everything peachy. So step 4 involves minimising any actual or perceived negatives that the changed circumstances bring.
Who can you talk to? Who can help? Do you need to move house or job? What changes do you need to make to help you take back control of the situation? By working out what you need to do (and by doing it) you’ll feel more in charge of what’s happening around you and therefore more confident to deal with it.
Step 5. It may help to write it all down. If the change is major or very stressful, keeping a journal can be cathartic. Use it to write imaginary letters to your new boss/step-sister. Use it to write every 4-letter word you’d like to say to the people who are causing this stress. Use it to get some distance or perspective on things and work out what the learnings and opportunities could be. Use it to express your anxieties, anguish, frustrations and fears. It will be there listening to you long after your friends think you should be over it. And look back through your journal when things are improving or the crisis has past to see if your fears were founded and know how far you’ve come.
Lastly be aware that if you are the one imposing change on others (and most things we do in life have some sort of ripple effect) have empathy with how they will feel.
Minimise their stress by ‘selling’ the change to them where possible. Do this by:
– preparing them in advance discussing why the change needs to happen
– getting their ideas and involvement in how to move ahead with the change
– highlighting the positives of the change
– taking small steps in the process of change so that people have a chance to get used to each element along the way.