Personal change can be tricky. We have identified something we want to change, we mull it over, hone it and get excited about it before mentioning it to others, and then declare to the world, THIS IS MY CHANGE!!!!!
Other times we talk about the potential change ad nauseam with everyone we know to the point where they start telling us what we want to hear just to get us to make a decision and stop talking about it. Of course, there is a range here, so anything in between fits too.
The point is, the conversation is about the change and rarely about the transition.
Regardless of how we reach our decision, once it’s been made, we usually tell it to others and expect their full support. But when the transition begins and some of those people who initially supported us are surprised by how they have been affected by our change, strange behaviors start to show up.
Enter unintended consequences.
There could be less-than subtle hints about the other person’s displeasure of being inconvenienced by our change, or a noticeable increase in the person’s emotional state that seemed to begin shortly after the change was announced. Perhaps the person really wanted to be happy for us, but weren’t able to move beyond what they considered to be a negative impact on them.
All of these behaviors lead back to the change, and what were likely unintentional consequences that just weren’t considered or addressed.
There’s usually more than meets the eye.
Before getting angry, hurt or otherwise upset by the reactions experienced by our tribe, it is important to understand what is really going on.
It is unlikely that anyone within our close circle wants to see us fail; rather, their reactions are likely due to being surprised by the way our change has affected them.
Some words we might hear include “I never signed up for this!”, or “when you said you were going to do this, I didn’t think I would have to do it with you!”, or “you never told me this was going to happen.”
These are cause and effect types of reactions. We decided to change something…it had an effect on others…and they were surprised by it.
These situations tend to be the ones we never thought about, or didn’t think would be so drastic or important to the other person. For whatever reason, they weren’t talked about, or maybe they were, but reality has shown a different effect than what was anticipated.
Here are some examples of when this can happen:
What’s the big deal?
Even if the people closest to us appear to embrace the idea of our personal change, that doesn’t mean that they support it to the extent that they are willing to make the change themselves.
This level of support takes additional buy-in which can only be gained by having a clear understanding of what is involved for them and how they will benefit.
While we can still continue with the change, doing so could be much more difficult without the buy-in of those affected, and we will have to work harder to stay the course.
Having a solid solace plan prepared before embarking on a change that lacks buy-in from those closest to us is crucial to helping us stay the course.
So what do we do when those we thought supported us change their tune because of the impact our change has on them?
Plan, communicate, co-create when possible.
Looking ahead to how our change will affect those around us is key to being able to lay the groundwork for preparing ourselves, as well as others, to the change.
People are more receptive to change that impacts their lives when they are aware of and agree to it, so the more we plan ahead, the more proactive we can be with respect to the impact our change will have on others.
But planning alone won’t resolve this issue. We must also communicate to the people who will likely feel the ripple of our change. This is a part of the buy-in process.
If we only tell them about the change, but not how it might impact or benefit them, then they are providing their support based on false pretenses. It’s like agreeing to loan a person money without mentioning that we plan to charge them 20% interest until it is repaid.
A really open way to communicate the potential implications of our change with others is to ask questions like; “How do you think this change might affect you and/or the family?” “Gee, I don’t think I’ll be able to make dinner every night because of my classes. How should we handle that?”
Get the conversation started and then work together to create mutually agreeable options. Reality usually shows up differently than how we planned it, so it is also important to revisit the options and see how they are working and what, if anything, needs tweaking.
Keep the lines of communication open, and we are far more likely to have a better outcome. Plus we might find we also have a more personalized support partner or group, when they willingly experience a part of our change.
Sometimes we don’t realize that a personal choice to change will have an impact on someone else until after the change has occurred.
In this case, while the planning part might no longer apply, it doesn’t hurt to see where the change has affected others, and where additional unintended consequences might potentially occur.
Once we’ve done that, we can communicate and co-create with the hope of receiving greater buy-in, or work with those affected to identify alternatives for coping with any ongoing undesired ripple effects.
The choice is ours: To be or not to be proactive.
Change and especially transition are complex things that often take more planning and foresight than we may want to devote.
But investing the time before beginning our transition to change can help us to alleviate those unintended consequences that can create turbulence along the way.
Recognizing and considering that our personal changes will almost always have an effect on the other people in our lives is a great way to get others actively involved.
When people important to us are willing participants in our change, we experience a greater sense of support, motivation and accomplishment because we’re all working together.
Passive supporters, on the other hand, who are reluctantly pulled into active roles can create disruption and interference with our ability to succeed in our change.
Given the choice - and we do have a choice - I choose proactivity for a smoother transition. How about you?
About the Author
Megan Rounds, Ed.D. is owner and principle perculator of perculcha, llc.
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