People Hate Change (and What Can Be Done About It)

It’s normal to be change-resistant. Think about some over-used sayings. ”If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” “Leave well enough alone.” “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Marty Rubin famously quipped, “It’s not easy to change things. Things fight back.” The point is, we all resist, even when we know better.

There are lots of reasons why we resist change, according to the Harvard Business Review. We resist because it’s different and unknown. It puts us outside our comfort zone. But it also allows us to grow as human beings and in our professional lives. Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” Being in a state of change sparks creativity and growth.

The real question is, how do we help people accept change? Virginia Satir’s change model is a great tool for making people aware of what change does to us—throws us into chaos—and how to survive the chaos and work through the change.

Briefly, the Satir model has several basic steps—to which I’ve added examples from the world of training:

People Hate Change (and What Can Be Done About It)

In a recent blog, productivity consultant Steven M. Smith provided a great visual (and an equally impressive overview) of the Satir change model:

People Hate Change (and What Can Be Done About It)

Over the years, when bringing change into organizations, I’ve used the Satir model to make teams aware of what’s about to happen to them. Give them permission to be outside their comfort zone while in chaos. Let them know they’ll come up with the transforming idea that will move them out of chaos. Assure them that things will get better over time.

Just making people aware of the path ahead is all it usually took to get them to be more accepting of the change and jump into the chaos. It’s like holding onto the seat of your child’s bicycle as they take their first 2-wheel ride. You aren’t really doing much – just a gentle touch to let them know you’re there.

So when (not if) change happens, lead your team through the Satir model and let them know:

  • Change is coming, and it’s going to throw us into chaos.
  • It’s OK. That’s where we’ll be most creative.
  • We’ll each find our transforming idea to move us out of chaos.
  • We’ll practice and integrate the change until it second nature.
  • We’ll be good to go—until the next change.
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