Incredible Buzz • Blog
Change... be honest and ask yourself some questions?
This story appears in the April 2022 blog of Incredible Buzz.
If I asked you if you ever had to deal with change, I would guess that you would say yes. From changing brands, products, services, friends, government, homes, jobs, environments we all are subject to change. You are lucky if the change is planned, if it’s not, well maybe that’s not so lucky. It really depends on how you view the change, and it is through this that we can see we all have different mechanisms for identifying and handling, or in some cases not handling change.
So why then is coping with change, or not coping with change almost a taboo subject that you cannot share with some people, and it is almost career suicide if shared in the work place. It is good to note that we all at one time or another struggle with sharing how we feel. But the minute you share, or open up to a person you trust or value, the weight of the feeling is somewhat lifted.
To demonstrate how change can even challenge those open to change I will share with you my own experience in not coping. A simple task of going shopping, I head to the bread aisle and get frustrated at the same selection of bread, all of which have been perfectly suitable until right then. The dilemma of buying a simple loaf of bread is my aha moment, to look at what it is concerning me.
So how do you cope? How do you identify that you are not coping? How do you know others are not coping, while you are coping? What do you do then? These are real questions and a challenge that is faced by us all.
In this post I will not share anything new, it is what I have learnt or read over the years and adopted over time. These have worked for me and others I have guided. You can take and use some or all of these questions and points, they may work for you now, or maybe in the future as we all cope with change differently at various times and points in our lives.
Ask yourself, what is the worst that could happen?
We are bewildered and sometimes scared of the unknown. So the first thing is to think about the situation… not too long… you do not want to overthink and find yourself in a pit of questions. A good strategy is to think on a time when you were in a similar situation and how you handled that, or not handled it well enough. You need to imagine all outcomes, both good and bad. This will help you to know what to expect should it occur, and help you plan where you can, and manage your mindset where you cannot.
"I always plan for the worst and hope for the best, in doing so I even the playing field of my mind, and take action where practicable."
Ask yourself, what can I control?
In imagining all of the possibilities of the good and the bad, you will now be able to identify what you can and what you cannot control. This in itself will help you to manage and realise any anxiety or fears, how to manage these and take action. If you know what your role is in the change, then you can plan each stage, and check these off as you go. If you can anticipate how and what will trigger your emotions, you are more likely to manage these and look after yourself in the process.
Ask yourself, how can I be flexible and adaptable?
We are creatures of habit, we have ideas of what and how things and people should be. It is amazing the stories we create because of things we see and hear, or even worse the things we think we see or hear. We use stories to make up the missing pieces of what we do not know. Being rigid in our habits and stories, means we open ourselves to challenge and frustration when things change. We need to let go of the stories or expectations we have and work with what we are presented with. Adjustment needs to occur, and while we may have more time in some areas, we have less in others, we still can work with what we have. It does not mean to be so flexible to be a patsy, or to lose yourself or what is important to you, it means to be a realist in how the change can be managed. With this point I am reminded of seven most dangerous words ever shared:
"We have always done it this way"
Ask yourself, who can I talk to?
This is a bit of a trap, we need to talk, and vent. What you do not need is to throw yourself a pity party. While you have feelings that you do what to address, it is normal, everyone at some time or another feels overwhelmed. But continually talking about negative feelings can disrupt how you cope and manage change. I talked about feelings earlier, and how you need to identify them. A great tool, not sure who designed it, I used when I was studying to be a primary school teacher is called the emotion wheel. It was a great tool to help identify feelings that could be impacting the behaviour, see below.
When you can identify your feelings, you can then talk about the problems. What are you facing, and how you can manage or take action to overcome the change? It is interesting how our feelings can impact our actions even when you least think it. Understanding your feelings helps you to understand how it could be confusing you, how you think, how you are relating to others during the change process. This will help you to find practical guidance or advise about what you should do. You can talk with HR, line manager, coach, employee assistance provider or friend. If you work on the problems you will know where to focus on your attention and solve the problem.
Ask yourself, how many steps will I take?
You have heard the saying, the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. Change is no different, it can take as little or as many steps as you need. Change is the elephant, break it down, plan each stage, check it off and celebrate successes as you go. It does not matter how small a win is, it is a win, and should be celebrated. If a stage is too big, make it smaller, then start again and work towards completing it. As you slowly achieve you will become more comfortable as your skills adapt to the new environment.
Ask yourself, what is so funny?
Why laugh you might ask? If you don’t laugh you might cry. You need to stay light, and find humour. It does not mean that you are in denial when it is difficult, its puts a more pleasant spin on it as you deal with it. People want to be happy, well I do, and using humour, and a different viewpoint can help you to find a new process or strategy to overcome a problem. It can also help to bring people along the journey. I read in a HBR article a while back that:
"A good rule of thumb is that other people’s strife is no laughing matter, but your own struggles can be a source of comedic gold."
Nick Tasler, HBR 2016
Ask yourself, am I open to change?
Are you a roadblock for change? Is your attitude or behaviour hindering change? These are good questions, and necessity to know if you are open to change. Given change is a constant, being open to change is a realistic mindset and necessity. Change helps us to grow, it helps us to be more than what we were yesterday. Change helps us to learn new skills, while sometimes confronting change does help us to grow. As we overcome challenges we build our confidence, we achieve and gain a sense of accomplishment as we move to operating a new environment. I am not saying change should gleefully be accepted without question, but what I am suggesting is to be honest when you are not coping with the idea or the actions stemming from change, and do something about it.
As you have read, nothing here is new, but it comes from practical experience, some work better than others. I hope it has helped you. Those who know me know I talk about eating the elephants’ toenail, as not all of the elephants are tasty, see some humour there too. There are many more strategies and yes sometimes they are just to suck it up, put on my big girl pants and move, other times less flattering positions, in any instance it is only for a short time until I get the mindset right and make it work. As I am a firm believer of change as a growth point where I will learn and develop new skills to make me better than I was yesterday.