Have you ever wondered why change can be so difficult? What needs to be done might seem completely logical and make perfect sense. It might be as clear as 2+2=4, but, yet, sometimes people will still be very resistant. Have you ever wondered why? I know I have.
Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky, in their book Leadership On the Line, perceptively touch upon, what I think, is one of the real reasons why people avoid change.
“Habits, values, and attitudes, even dysfunctional ones, are part of one’s identity. To change the way people see and do things is to challenge how they define themselves…People hold on to ideas as a way of holding on to the person who taught them the ideas..Some of our most deeply held values and ideas come from people we love–a relative, a favored teacher, or a mentor. To discard some part of their teaching may feel like we are diminishing the relationship” (27-29).
Did you catch it? When we ask people to change, we’re asking people to essentially reject the person that taught them the belief that they cherish. The person has to evaluate your idea and compare it to the idea that the person that they love has taught them. They have to come to terms with the reality that “yes, my Mom, or Father, or teacher, or pastor, was wrong.” For many, this can be an almost unsurmountable experience.
So what do we do with this knowledge?
I think in initiating and bringing about change we have to be much more willing to listen to people. Hear their stories. Why are they resistant? What are they afraid of? Help them to explore and sort out the emotions behind why they’re resistant to the change.
It seems like a messy process. Yes, things would probably take longer this way. But I think this would help to bring about a more lasting effect, and a more thorough buy-in for the change process.
What about you? Have you ever experienced this first-hand? Looking back at a time when someone was asking you to change, can you ever look back and see the real reason you were resistant to it?
[image by Paul Glover]