5 Ways People Naturally Respond in Times Of Change – Which One Are You?
Where do I begin? Often, at this time of year, I’m writing about the “Back to School Blues” as parents adjust to their children heading off to school and the inevitable mixed emotions that turning the calendar pages on another school year brings. I also often write about preparing for the mindset shift of heading into another year wondering if our careers or businesses are on the right track. These questions often arise in the September version of the New Year.
This year, while those questions and adjustments are still relevant, there is a whole new overlay. And this year it’s not a four-letter word that has us all on edge, it’s FIVE. C-O-V-I-D.
How have things changed for you this season with this new lens?
In my house, we have entered a season of change on so many fronts, and with the additional layer of this lens, stress is at an all-time high. It’s really curious to me the different tendencies people have when faced with change and stress. Often, there is a great deal of stress created by the conflicting styles in your workplace, in your home, and in your community that can really add to the stress many are already feeling. I have found it exceptionally useful to depersonalize the response others are having around me (and going easier on myself) when I recognize that how people respond in times of stress is a personality style and not necessarily a conscious choice.
The Five Tendencies People Have When Faced with Change or Stress
1. The Avoider
These people don’t want to admit change is happening and will do their darndest to put their heads in the sand until it goes away. Unfortunately, these big life shifts rarely go away and will still be there when we decide to take our heads out of the sand and face it.
2. The Rescuer
Many of us have a tendency to want to jump in and rescue the situation or person experiencing the stress or change. Is this you? You may find this is you in different situations – for example you may find yourself more wanting to fix everything when a loved one is suffering vs when a co-worker is suffering or in a work situation
3. The Welcomer
These people are fairly comfortable with change and stress and will often welcome it into their lives. The idea of change makes them feel excited and the adrenalin of figuring out a new way of being or doing has them embrace the change head-on. For The Welcomer, change is exciting!
4. The Fighter
These people do not want change to happen and will actively fight against it. They resist change. We all know people like this at work or in our personal lives who fight fiercely for the status quo and may even sabotage other people’s efforts to welcome or accept change.
5. The Realist
The Realist is the one who accepts change. They may not be happy about the change that’s coming, but they accept that it is and will collaborate and often lead the change because they can most easily bridge the gap between those who are avoiding and those who are welcoming the change. The Realist sees the inevitable change on the horizon and doesn’t want to bother when unnecessary avoidance or difficulties. “Change is happening, let’s get on with it!” The Realist will say.
For example, when applying these five tendencies to the case study of how the community is responding to sending our children back to school in the midst of COVID, what type do you most relate with? Were you avoiding the topic until it happened – not even wanting to think about sending your child back to school with Covid-19 in the community? Or did you welcome the discussion, happy to discuss the various options and think about the opportunities this environment could possibly bring your child or your world? Or were you the fighter? Not wanting the realities of Covid-19 to impact our school system at all and were opting for status quo?
It’s also possible for you to shift through these natural tendencies with perhaps denial or avoidance being the beginning and then moving eventually to acceptance and reality. It’s important to recognize your shifting approach as well as you may surprise others around you with a sudden difference in perspective.
We all know someone who falls in one of the above tendencies when dealing with conflict.
Years ago, as a corporate communicator who often had to communicate difficult information in times of crisis or change, we would design our communications to meet the various ways people accept (or do not accept) information, anticipating reaction and often, fear. The knowledge that we all have a natural style and way of avoiding or dealing with conflict really helps depersonalize the situation and makes it easier to be with conflicting emotions and points of view in these stressful times.
What is your natural tendency when faced with turbulent times? What is the natural tendency of your spouse, business partner, child, or colleague? And how does knowing that they (and you) have a natural way of greeting (or avoiding) stress and change, impact you going forward?
I believe that knowing how you respond in times of conflict or change, and knowing that people are born with a natural way of responding and dealing with it will help reduce stress. Perhaps it will make us all a bit kinder and more tolerant of the different opinions and ways of dealing with things.
I invite you to enter this week with a newfound tolerance towards managing conflict and change in your world.
To your success, in business, in your career, and in life,
P.S. Next time you find yourself in a stressful situation, take a step back, and notice how you want to naturally respond. How do others respond? What would be the best way to respond in that situation, for the benefit of all?
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