Quiz: How Do You Personally Feel About Change?
Imagine that your boss walks into your office and says, “The company is doing some restructuring and, starting next week, you’re going to report to someone new.” That’s certainly a change!
Some people look at that situation optimistically and think, "That’s great, I can’t wait to see what new opportunities are available!" Others, however, look at that same exact statement from the boss and immediately experience fear and dread. They may think, "Oh great, now my career progress is going to stop."
By the way, if you’re curious about how your personal reactions to change stack up, you should measure yourself with the online test “How Do You Personally Feel About Change?”
How can two people interpret the same statement in such radically different ways? The key is understanding the FIRE Model. Humans generally evaluate the world around us with a four-step process. We notice some Facts, then we make Interpretations about those facts, then based on our interpretations we experience emotional Reactions, and once we experience those emotions we have some desired Ends. Taken together, Facts, Interpretations, Reactions and Ends form our FIRE acronym.
In our change example, our boss walks into our office and delivers a Fact; they say “the company is doing some restructuring and, starting next week, you’re going to report to someone new.” It is a fact that we’re going to report to someone new. And we know it’s a fact because we could see, hear, and videotape it; facts are objective, provable and verifiable.
But once we observe a Fact, our mind uses our life history, previous experiences, and personality predispositions to interpret the Fact, to put it into a context and to give it meaning. That’s Interpretation, and it’s where change management starts to get messy.
Some people have a worldview that says, "Change is good, even if (or especially if) it means leaving our comfort zone." In fact, the current research, from the quiz I mentioned above, shows that 38% of people like to leave their comfort zone. When these folks are presented with a change, their histories and personalities tell them, "Hey, this is going to be good." Those positive interpretations then lead to positive emotional reactions (e.g. happiness and excitement), and those positive reactions lead to upbeat desired ends (e.g. I want to get to know this new boss ASAP).
By contrast, there’s the other 62% of people who either don’t like to leave their comfort zone or do so only occasionally. These folks are more likely to have histories and personalities that skew their interpretation of the change more negatively. The fact is I’m going to have a new boss; my interpretation is, as a result, my career progress is going to stop. Based on that interpretation, my emotional reaction is that now I’m depressed, I’m angry, I feel betrayed, I’m frightened, whatever it may be. And based on that reaction, my desired end may be that now I want to stop working or even find a new job.
I’m simplifying these trains of thought a little, but you can see how these kinds of cognitions typically work and how two people presented with the same exact fact can have such divergent responses.
What if you’ve just been presented with a change and you’re feeling negative or anxious about it? It’s going to happen to every one of us at some point. But there are a few things we can do.
First, ask yourself whether it’s truly a fact that the change is going to be bad. The overwhelming majority of the time, it’s not the change itself, but rather our interpretations of it, that make the situation appear negative. When you start to probe your own mind, really work to separate the facts from the interpretations. Yes, it’s a fact that I’m getting a new boss. But that’s the only fact here; my boss didn’t say everyone is getting fired or that everyone’s new boss is guaranteed to be tyrannical. It’s my interpretation that is negative.
When we start to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, especially a more positive person, a funny thing happens—their positivity rubs off on us. As we dig deep into someone else’s mind, and we start looking through their eyes, we experience a melding of us and them (of self and other). We start to see ways that we’re alike, and as that happens, a little bit of their positive thinking worms its way into our brain.
Finally, remember the FIRE Model. When you start to have negative feelings about a change, remind yourself that this emotional reaction didn’t just appear out of nowhere; it’s a result of your interpretations. Just by recognizing how your emotions are driven by your personal interpretation of an independent fact will help unskew your worldview and allow you to view the situation more objectively.Subscribe To The Forb