When we face major changes in life or work, we may have one of several reactions:

  • We may resist. Dig in our heels, fight back, complain. Close our eyes and think that if we stay that way, we can keep things the way they were.
  • We may be nostalgic about the previous situation. When we daydream about the way things were, we stay stuck in a past that doesn’t exist anymore. We may even remember it as being better than it was, as we block out any unpleasant memories, glorifying what was.
  • We may feel angry. Just plain mad. At ourselves, for mistakes that brought us here. At others, for forcing these changes on us. At the world. At the executives in our organization. At the situation. We may feed our anger by telling others how we feel. Instead of being a relief, our outpouring may instead fuel our emotion, intensifying our rage.
  • We may feel sad. We may mope, cry, withdraw from others, lose hope.
  • We may feel happy. Or ecstatic. Or giddy. Or excited. We were waiting for the change, and we’re glad it’s finally here. Bring it on.
  • We may be afraid. To face the unknown, with its new experiences, expectations, and reality, can be frightening.

The truth is, we may experience one of these emotions, or several of them, all in the same day or over a period of adjusting to the change. First sad, then angry… or excited and then fearful. We may not be aware of our emotions at all. Instead, we may process change intellectually, thinking about our new realities.

Each situation we face is unique, so our responses are likely to be unique.

As we try to lead ourselves (and others) through change, being aware of the wide range of possible responses in important. Paying attention to peoples’ behavior may give us clues to their response, but in order to help people process change effectively, we need to spend time listening to them, asking good questions to help them express their thoughts and emotions.

Join the conversation!

What works for you in helping others process change?

What change did you face recently? What was your response?

This was originally posted at Mountain State University LeaderTalk and is reposted with permission.