Emotional Responses to Change
Why is coping with change easy for some people and hard for others?
This is something that I have been thinking about a lot over the past month. Research has told me that everyone has different emotional responses to change, and it is important to recognize this and work through the emotions in order for change to be successful.
One individual change model that I have found helpful is William Bridges’ Transition Model. Bridges describes transitions that individuals go through during change as a process:
- Ending (end what “used to be”);
- Neutral Zone (period of confusion and distress);
- New Beginning (accept the purpose of the change).
I found value in applying this model to a personal experience over the past month – helping my Mom sort through the contents of her house as she prepares to move from the home in Flin Flon, Manitoba that I was raised in to live with us in Alberta. I have been so impressed with how she made this decision on her own (at 85 years of age), indicating that she has moved through the first phase of the transition model (ending what used to be).
However, the second phase, the neutral zone, has not been easy. We were both feeling stuck at one point last week when I was home helping her out. We hit an emotional point, feeling like we couldn’t get through this huge task that was ahead of us, and felt helpless for a brief period of time. We worked through it though and found a way to move on, by focusing on the bigger picture, the new beginning (phase 3) and proceeded to get more work done in 3 days than we had ever imagined.
Change can be hard, even when it’s positive, and individuals can react to it very differently.
I have witnessed coaching clients struggle with change and once they work through their emotions and see that they have a choice about how they react, they are better able to move on. Stephen Covey has said: “there are three constants in life … change, choice and principles.” I see a lot of truth in this and believe that our choices and principles can always guide us through change.
If the topic of change is something that resonates with you and you would like to explore it further, I have included below a list of books that I have found useful. If you have any other books or models that you would like to share, please do so in the comments section below.
All the Best,
- Transitions, by William Bridges
- The Heart of Change, by John P. Kotter and Dan S. Cohen
- Our Iceberg is Melting, by John Kotter and Holger Rathgeber
- Who Moved My Cheese, by Spencer Johnson
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey
- HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Change Management, by Harvard Business Review