Yesterday we learned about the characteristics of a person thrust into a state of distress over a proposed change. Before that, the perspective of a resistant reaction-type was the focus. It all started with an introduction to change from Jai, who thought it might be fun for the family to give a vegetarian diet a try. Little did he know that what he thought was a healthy diet choice that would benefit the whole family would turn into such a controversial issue.
Today we are going to look at one more typical reaction to change; one of indifference. Marley, Jai's 17 year-old daughter, doesn't really have an opinion one way or the other about Jai's suggestion for a shift in diet. She works part-time, is primarily focused on her studies, graduating, and heading off to college. Marley already eats very little meat, so in her view, making the switch official is no big deal. Everyone in her circle of friends has dabbled with different food choices and/or dietary restrictions, and Marley doesn't see this change as having much, if any, impact on her world. Plus, since she'll be leaving for college soon, any change she makes will probably only be for a couple of months.
What Marley finds especially interesting though, is how her family is reacting to her lack of one. Jai, her Dad seems really concerned, because, unlike her Mom, Betty, and brother, Ian, Marley hasn't voiced a preference either for, or against, her Dad's idea. What she eats is really inconsequential to Marley, so she hasn't made a big deal about it. But her Dad thinks that she should voice her support for his idea, and her brother, and to a lesser extent her Mom, want her to unite with them in their dissent for this change. But all Marley wants is to go about her business and leave the discussion and decision about whether or not to make the change up to those who care about it. And that is soooo not her!
People who appear indifferent in the face of change may have different reasons, but all tend to have taken a step-back from the activity and conversations associated with the change. Like Marley, some might just have other things that they consider to be a higher priority, while others may take a wait-and-see approach, or make the conscious decision to stay out of it because of frustration or a sense that any contributions they make won't be valued.
Because they haven't been hooked into one of the more passionate (satisfied and resistant), or emotional (resistant and distress) reaction types, people who are indifferent to the change are often the most objective about it, which can be a strength if others ask their opinion and truly want an honest response.
Some times people seen as indifferent are perceived by others as sort of free-agents who can be recruited to support their cause or perspective. But this group has their reasons for staying out of it, and it is common for attempts to garner their support to backfire. Indifference can often be perceived as disengagement, but take heed; any attempt to get more involvement from people with this reaction-type by more tasks, responsibility, or motivational speeches run the risk of shifting them out of indifference into resistance or distress.
All concerns aside, what people in this group require in order to get more involved is inspiration. If it is truly important that someone with an indifferent reaction partake in the change (and sometimes it's better to just leave them be - they'll catch up if they want to and you'll only be wasting your efforts if they don't want to be involved), the best way to solicit their involvement is to ask them what, if any, aspects of this change are of interest to them, or what they need in order to become more actively involved, and providing them with opportunities to do those things.
For some, they might need to trust that their contributions will be valued and that they aren't just being asked to go through the motions for the sake of doing something. For others, they may have an unorthodox idea that they'd like to pursue in support of the change. Or it could be that there just isn't enough interest for the idea to take flight; useful information if accepted by the powers that be.
For Marley, who had to write a paper for one of her classes, she thought it might be fun to write about this change, and offered to work with her Dad to identify the individual needs of family members and to offer some ideas, based on her findings, on how to move forward. This offered her a way to get involved without having to support one view or another; a great way to inspire involvement from her otherwise indifference to the change.
Next up, what the person satisfied with a change needs in order to get others onboard.
*note: the proposed dietary change in this scenario is intended as an example only, and is does not represent any views, for or against, a vegetarian or any other diet.
About the Author
Megan Rounds, Ed.D. is owner and principle perculator of perculcha, llc.
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