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Change Made Easier For Yourself and Others
by C.S. Clarke, Ph.D.

When you want someone else to change their thinking and/or behavior, just talking to him and reasoning with him about it is not likely to get you what you want. Any idea of change meets with resistance. In fact, it's even hard to talk yourself into something you know you should do, when it's your own idea in the first place. Whether you're doing it for individuals, or for organizational change management, here are a couple of suggestions that may make it easier for you to help others with necessary changes.

Show 'em

One of Ronald Reagan's most famous quotes is: “When you can't make them see the light, make them feel the heat.” You have to demonstrate the effects and consequences of making or not making the change. That may mean telling anecdotes and examples, showing pictures or providing an immediate experience.

People respond to everything emotionally. No matter how much logic and sweet reason your apply to a choice, ultimately it simply must "feel right." Having a convincing experience of some sort immediately before the choice to change can spur the feeling of "rightness." So the anecdotes, examples, photos, videos, etc., must have emotional/motivational/inspirational content. That's why before and after pictures of children rescued from poverty work so well in getting people to contribute to a charity.

In addition, everyone has a belief system through which to view the world. If your message hooks into that belief system, it increases the chances it will work. The belief system includes personal beliefs developed through experience, cultural beliefs and religious beliefs. Most of the belief system is unconscious, but you can "read" the belief system through a person's behavior, through knowledge of their culture and religion and through a basic knowledge of their background and experience. So, as it is described casually, you can easily learn "what buttons to push." That is, you can imagine what kind of demonstration will work and what content it must have to be consistent with the beliefs of an individual or group. You already know that if you walk into a bar, you're going to be addressing a different group than if you walk into an A.A. meeting.

Connect the dots

Once you've shown someone, you need to help him "do the math." After you've given a great demonstration of your point, you should interpret that demo. It is dangerous to assume that your target individual got the connection you wanted him to make. Tell him what the connection is between what you showed him and the point you are trying to make. Tell him the meaning and consequences of the change you want and the failure to make the change.

You also have to overcome denial. The greatest friend of resistance to change is denial. We are all quite excellent at coming up with justifications for why we should stay the same. Why the need for change doesn't apply to us. So, be prepared with follow-up demonstrations that are on point.

Be able to answer questions in ways that keep reiterating the point of the demonstration and keep interpreting it in a way that shows its connection to the change you want. A big part of convincing someone to change is being perceived as trustworthy. An ability to answer the questions and consistently "connect the dots," goes a long way in overcoming resistance. Again, this is true of both organizational change management and individual change.

Be prepared to do the above repeatedly until the thinking and behavior change. Understanding some of the above principles and actions can make individual and organizational change easier. But it won't make it easy.



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