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Why Do People Hate Change?

Why do people hate change?

Why do people hate change?

There are two reasons why people hate change.

  1. Change takes you out your comfort zone.
  2. Change brings uncertainty.

Many people hate change because, fundamentally we are creatures of habit. We operate according to habits which we repeat every day. We find it difficult to change our habits. We find it difficult to even drop, bad habits.

Humans organise their days by using habitual patterns of behaviour; habitual patterns of thought, speech and actions.

For example, you tend to have habitual ways of speaking. The English language contains approximately 1025,000 words but most people habitually use a much smaller number of words in their everyday usage. The average person uses only 2,600 words.

You know and understand many more than 2,600 words but you habitually use a very small percentage of the whole. Why?

Because it is easier to use habitual words and phrases, every day, rather than creating new, unique patterns of speech. That would be very difficult for the brain to do. So brains simplify and streamline their activity by creating habits.

Habits are automated forms of action. Habit patterns are performed without real thinking. Habits take the place of thinking. Habits allow you to make your way through the day with the minimum of mental effort. So you eat, drive, speak and type, by using habitual routines.

So in some respects, habits are a good thing because they make the complex tasks of living more manageable.

But in other ways habits are a bad thing, because they make us very resistant to change.

To change a habit is very difficult.

You have to really stop and think, and put in a real conscious effort, to act in any way contrary to an existing habit pattern.

If you have always done something a certain way, then changing your habit is very difficult. Making a change requires breaking a habitual pattern. And breaking habits is difficult, so that means making a change is difficult. So we don't change easily. We resist change.

Example exercise: Try folding your arms in front of you. Notice which arm is on top and which is underneath.

Now unfold your arms. Then fold your arms again, but this time do it the other way around. Notice how difficult it is and how awkward it feels.

Now if I told you that this New Way of folding your arms is the "Proper Way" to do things, and from now on, you are expected to fold your arms in the New Way, then you would probably be annoyed and would try to resist.

The next time that you were in a meeting, and your mind was occupied with the content of the conversation, and you went to fold your arms, then you would automatically fold your arms in the Old Way: irrespective of your new training and of your recent instructions on how to "properly fold your arms".

What is true for arm folding is true for practically every other habit you have.

It is difficult to change any habit, and so people like to keep things, as they are.

Then they don't have to change habits and life can get back to normal.

Change introduces uncertainty.

Just as people love habits, they hate uncertainty. People love certainty.

Human brains need to act in circumstances that are forever changing and where knowledge is limited and incomplete.

In order to cope with the inherent uncertainty of living, human brains create certainty by adopting beliefs, which they take to be certain.

By the time you reach adulthood you have developed a set of beliefs which you hold as certain.

You don't keep changing them every day. Your political, religious, ethical, artistic and other views are stable over time.

These belief systems took years to develop and they act as your guidance mechanism. You act in certain ways because you see the world, in all its complexity, through a set of belief systems which you are "sure are true".

So, for example you may be a true blue conservative. Or you may be a lifelong labour supporter. Or you may be neither, because you believe that you cannot trust politicians of any persuasion. You believe, "Politicians; they are all the same."

We like certainty. But change brings UNCERTAINTY.

If you are required to change your actions, you are being asked to go against your current beliefs or to change your beliefs. But to what?

Remember; all that negative feedback means, is that what you have been doing, is not working and that you need to change your current plan and action.

BUT negative feedback doesn't necessarily instruct you as to what is the correct response.

So the thought occurs to you. If you change the current plan to plan B, who is to say that plan B will work any better than plan A? You cannot be certain that the new plan will work any better than the current plan.

So the thought continues, why not stick to the current failing plan, because it may be better than the untested new plan. And that leads to the phrase, "Better the devil you know".


People hate uncertainty and therefore they will often prefer to stick to a plan they know is failing, in preference to changing to the uncertainty of a new plan.

We know that humans resist change and we know why they resist change.

We also know that the environment in which we live, is constantly changing.

We know from recent negative feedback that, even if we don't like it, we must change.

Change Management Course

When you read or listen to the news, you will see that the future is uncertain and that political, economic and social Changes are on the way. These changes may affect you and your organisation. Whether the effects are positive or negative will be partially due to how well your teams cope with the change. Only if you manage the change well, will it feel progressive and beneficial. You will be able to make big improvements and thus secure your better future. Our one-day Change Management training course will make the process of change work for you and will bring you, a better future.

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As the team leader or manager, you know that, on the technical level, you are very good. In your role as an effective and inspirational leader-manager, you recognise that there may be some gaps. Now you are searching for a method to help you to improve your skills as a team-leader and manager - click here to find out more!

About the Author: Chris Farmer


Chris Farmer is the founder of the Corporate Coach Group and has many years’ experience in training leaders and managers, in both the public and private sectors, to achieve their organisational goals, especially during tough economic times. He is also well aware of the disciplines and problems associated with running a business.

Over the years, Chris has designed and delivered thousands of training programmes and has coached and motivated many management teams, groups and individuals. His training programmes are both structured and clear, designed to help delegates organise their thinking and, wherever necessary, to improve their techniques and skills.

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Further Reading in Change Management

  • Leadership Training - The Universal Success Formula
    The Universal Success Formula We all want to be more successful. But how does one do that? Answer: Be guided by "success principles". What are success principles? Success principles are a set of generalised instructions that lay down the steps that you need to take, in order to achieve a certain...
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  • What are the Principles of Change Management?
    The eight principles of change management are a useful framework for understanding how to manage change effectively. By applying these principles, organisations can make progress towards their goals.
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  • Change Should be an Evolution, Not a Revolution
    People find it hard to accept change. But for organisations and ourselves to adapt and improve, change is necessary. Change doesn't have to be revolutionary, it can in fact evolutionary. Well organised and well paced.
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  • What is Change Management?
    Learn the definition of change management, the theory and methods behind it, and how to deliver change management training to your team.
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  • Why do people resist change?
    People are creatures of habit and resist change because it is too difficult, or unproven to be better than what they are currently doing. Better the devil you know, is a well-used phrase when it comes to change, but should you accept it?
    Read Article >

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