Why Can’t We Change?

Why Can’t We Change?

Change—whether it’s work related or personal—can be challenging.

Some people seem to embrace it, while others dig in their heels in favor of the status quo. Is openness to change a personality trait? Perhaps.

I’d like to argue that whether you change or not has less to do with who you are and more to do with how you’re being dealt with. In other words, it comes down to how a person communicates with you.

One thing I can say for sure from my 17 years in communications is this: communication and change are positively correlated. When you receive the right messages, the more likely you are to change. Likewise, the better you are at communicating with others, the more likely they are to change.

The trouble is, very few people understand this. Instead they resort to the wrong communication tactics like casting blame, making threats or using negative reinforcement (e.g., “you never” or “you always” statements).

Trust me, this approach doesn’t work.

If you want to instill change in others—or in yourself—follow these techniques instead:

  • Keep it positive. Change is an uphill battle, so take a cue from “The Little Engine That Could.” Phrases such as “Piece of cake” and “You got this” will go a long way in helping others see that change is possible.
  • Chunk it down. The smaller the change, the easier it is. When dealing with long-term changes, break them down into shorter, doable increments. For example, say, “Let’s build a 7-day plan, see how much we’re able to accomplish and then revisit it next week.”
  • Praise the effort. It takes time to truly change. The more encouraging you are the better. Messages like “I see how hard you’re working,” “You’re getting stronger every day” and “Thank you for making such a conscious effort” will up the ante and bring results sooner.
  • Offer public praise. There is no better change motivator than recognition and the most effective kind of recognition is a third-party compliment. For example, letting your son overhear you telling a friend how impressed you are by his change efforts is a much more effective form of recognition than telling him directly.
  • Focus on benefits. People resist change because they fear the unknown or believe they will lose something of value. Clearly telling them how much better off they’ll be when the change occurs is the best line of defense against resistance.

You can’t force people to change. But if they’re open to it, they respond better to a positive communication style that makes change easier, quicker and sustainable.

Before you act . . .

Pave the way for change in the way you communicate. Start by staying current with communication trends, terms and tools. And learn to be a good listener as well.

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