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Like Chalk and Cheese - Our Reactions to Change

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cheeseI recently read "Who moved my cheese?" which is a classic tale, captured by Spencer Johnson, that describes different reactions to change, and provides helpful messages to get through the times when change is forced upon us. It isn’t rocket science, but it’s a great little read that only takes about an hour out of your day. The book made me thing about 2 close friends in particular: one is very change receptive whilst the other is very change resistant.

The change receptive one approaches new situations with gusto. He never gives them a second thought and dives in without hesitation. We are constantly reminding him to stop and think; to "look before you leap". He has no fear of the unknown, and adapts to new circumstances very quickly. He is always looking for 'what's next?' Whilst his enthusiasm and optimism are lovely, they bring problems: He tends not to think things through, he doesn't see (and so plan for) problems and danger. He has a tendency to leave things half done as he quickly gets bored and moves on to the next big idea.

Our change resistant friend is of course, quite different. Any change, no matter how small it appears to us, upsets her. The mere mention that something may change can send her retreating into her shell and brooding for days. She imagines every possible scenario and none of them are good. She finds very creative ways to keep things as they are regardless of practicality or the facts staring her in the face. Whilst this can be frustrating, it does mean that before she takes action, things have been properly considered, alternatives explored and contingency plans made.

For us, this poses very different challenges: Our first friend encourages us to try new things and takes us out of our comfort zone. He helps us to grow and stretch ourselves. However, sometimes he is reckless and we need to reign him in - to force him to stop and think, and sometimes we have to simply refuse to go along with his ideas. Our other friend makes us think things though and be sure of our decisions. She resists change for changes sake, but we have to make sure that she doesn't end up in a state of ‘paralysis by analysis’. So, there are times when we have to take her by the hand and gently pull her forwards, reassuring her all the way.

We all respond to change differently. Our first friend will always dive in head first, our second will always worry. It is in their nature. We can't change that. What we CAN change is our approach to helping them through turbulent times. If you want more information on this, check out our modules on Managing the Impact of Change, Influencing People and Handling Resistance to Change. They MAY just help you and your colleagues or friends to get through tricky times.

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