Dr Bev Smallwood

Articles Library: Change

How To Understand Why People React Differently To Change

Constant change is a fact of life in today’s world. Changes in technology, communications, globalization, business structures, organizational cultures, and personal changes are enough to keep every person and organization busy.

However, there is more to successful change than the accomplishment of the latest situational change or initiative. There is a clear difference between “change” and “transition.” Change is a movement in an external or situational event. It can occur instantly or in a brief period of time. It can even be mandated.

Transition, however, is an internal psychological process. It is a three-phased period of personal and or organizational adjustment.

The three phases of transition require different time periods for different people depending on several factors.

1. Learning history.

Everyone has had different experiences in life, some of which were personally traumatic. This develops certain sensitivities which may impact the speed with which a person can make a transition.

2. Perceived magnitude of the loss.

The key word here is “perceived.” People attach meaning to certain external losses, and the symbolic meaning that they attach to it will have everything to do with how big it feels to them.

3. Opportunities to deal honestly with the losses.

When the impact of losses is swept under the rug and people are not given opportunities to deal with the losses, the pain and anger tends to go underground. It then surfaces in indirect ways throughout the organization.

4. Personal coping style of avoidance.

ven when given opportunities to discuss the negative impact of change, some have the personal habit of avoiding facing painful events or information. These people have developed a personal defense system in which they try to ignore things in hopes that they will go away. Unfortunately, this usually does not work when major change is in process.

5. Effectiveness of personal coping skills.

The degree of a person’s self-confidence and/or tendencies to experience depression and anxiety will also impact the length of time transition takes.

6. Support systems.

Another key factor in the ability of individuals to move through change is the support they feel. The strength of connections within the organization, along with support from friends, from family, or “from the world” will impact how long it takes them to move through a transition process.

7. Perceived alternatives.

Changes in which the people perceive they have no control or choice are more difficult to accept. This is particularly true when the change is unwelcome and when it takes away valued experiences or goals.

8. Purpose.

People who have a strong sense of purpose are more resilient during change. It is this sense of purpose that guides them and directs them through changing and stressful circumstances. They are more able to maintain a confidence that their lives will be productive in the future. They know that, despite setbacks, they will find ways within the new situation to live out “what they are on earth for.”

Dr. Bev Smallwood is a psychologist and professional speaker who is the author of “This Wasn’t Supposed to Happen to Me.” Visit her website, www.DrBevSmallwood.com; or contact Bev at 601.264.0890 or by email, Bev@DrBevSmallwood.com. Also connect with Bev on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and her blogs, Shrink Rap and New Morning Devotionals.

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