The Emotions of Change

Just returned from a wonderful trip to Florida visiting children and grandchildren. Only one thing went wrong: I forgot my cell phone and left it in a public place for a few minutes.

By the time I remembered and returned, it was gone.

Interestingly, even after transferring cell service to an older phone and arranging for a replacement phone, I still felt distressed. Upon reflection, I identified my distress as feeling a sense of loss and insecurity, as though I had left a part of myself behind. 

This reaction surprised me. I must be more attached to my phone than I knew!

Even though the replacement phone might be nicer than the stolen one, I wanted my old phone. I missed the silver sparkly case and how it felt in my hand.

This experience reminded me that all change, even positive change, brings with it a sense of loss. That is one reason leaders must understand the emotions of change.

Church people, like all people, often cling to traditions and “the way we do things around here.” Stability creates comfort, security, and predictably.

It’s almost like we’re wired to resist change. Predictably, certainty, and routine helps us feel some sense of control and well-being. Conversely, change brings loss of the familiar and predictable. It leads to feelings of discomfort and at least mild displeasure.

No wonder we resist change!

So, that’s one reason understanding the emotions of change is an essential, vital, indispensable key to creating buy-in. Even when people perceive a change as good, they may still feel anxious about it!

Here’s another reason understanding the emotions of change matters.

Dr. James Emory White writes, “People will not even consider change unless they are impacted on an emotional level.” 

People need enough heart-felt conviction about the benefits of the change to outweigh the emotional discomfort and expenditure of mental energy, time, and money of making the change. Otherwise, inertia wins!

And that brings us to my main point. Be aware that buy-in to change includes an emotional component. People feel anxious and fear loss. On the other hand, what positive feeling will they get from the new thing?

Consider emotional factors when making your plans for change. You will certainly increase the likelihood of buy-in!

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Dr. JeannieComment