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Why Won't People Accept Change?

Why Won't People Accept Change?

Why Won't People Accept Change?

Why won't people accept change, even when they can see that what they are doing does not bring them what they want?

Here are a few of the most common reasons for people refusing to change:

  • They don't think they should have to change.
  • They don't know what to change to. (They can see no alternative).
  • They are afraid that if they change they will get even worse results. ("Better the devil you know" argument.)

Let us say a few words on each one.

First excuse for not changing:

They don't think it is fair that they should have to change.

There is a child-like element in some people that clings to the simplistic notion that life should conform itself to the child's desires.

And if life does not conform itself to the way the child thinks it OUGHT to be, then the child gets angry, upset and stubborn and throws a temper tantrum.

Most children grow out of it. But some don't.

They grow into adults with the same unstated premise in their mind that expects the world to conform to what he thinks it ought to be. When it does not, rather than take that as a signal to change his actions to correspond to the reality of the situation, the person stamps his foot and has a temper tantrum, saying, "I want the world to change. I will not change."

An example of this is the person who wants to lose weight but won't change his diet. He says, "I can't seem to shift this fat off my waist." But he is not willing to give up his beer and chocolate. "Why should I give up my beer? It's not fair. A man should be able to have a few beers and not have to pay a price. It's not fair."

This is an example of trying to rewrite the laws of nature to accommodate one's personal taste. As opposed to the correct method, which is to adapt one's personal taste to fit in with the laws of nature.

Second excuse for not changing:

They don't know what to change to. (They can see no alternative).

It seems easy to say, "The feedback suggests that you need to make a change!". But the question remains, "Change to what?"

It may be clear that Plan A is not working, but it is not always clear what Plan B should be.

There are three ways to answer this problem.

  1. Look at Plan A and improve it in some small way. That would mean that Plan B is fundamentally the same as plan A, but with some minor adjustments.
  2. Throw out Plan A completely and start from scratch with a fresh piece of paper. This is a major change, and it is not easy to accomplish.
  3. Do anything. Just try anything and see what happens. This is my least favourite method, but it can sometimes work wonders. Do something whacky and unexpected. Break with convention and the habits of the past. Be iconoclastic! This is an expression of "If what you are doing is not working, try something else."

You may think that the Americans did that when they voted-in a non-politician to be the president of the United States. If the government run by politicians is not working, then try something else; vote for a NON-Politician (Donald Trump) and see what happens.

The third excuse for not changing:

They are afraid that if they change they will get even worse results. (Better the devil you know argument.)

You have heard the idea, "Better the devil you know". This is a common excuse for not changing. They know that their current situation is not working for them, but at least they know what it is. They have become comfortable with their discomfort. They have adapted their habits to accommodate the pain of the ongoing failure. There is a fear that, if there was any change from the current situation we might end up with something worse.

Again, we see that in Politics where people said, "The EU may not be functioning well, and it may be detrimental to our political future, but if we leave the EU, that introduces so much uncertainty that we may be even worse off. The safest thing to do is to put up with the devil you know."

Be cautious of using the "better the devil you know" argument as an excuse for not changing. It is a recipe for stagnation and settling for less than you could have.

The "better the devil you know argument" justifies NOT changing. And NOT changing in the light of negative feedback, is part of the failure formula.

"Better the devil you know" will cause you to fail because it stops change, stifles creativity, halts innovation and robs you of a better future.

It is failure formula step five: refusal to change.

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Further Reading in Change Management

  • Why Won't People Accept Change?
    Why won't people accept change, even when they can see that what they are doing does not bring them what they want?
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  • Ten Laws of Change Management
    It is a fact: Everything changes. The world is in a constant state of change. It is vital that you are equipped to deal with change positively, in order to make adaptive adjustments to your plans for your future success.
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  • How can I get people to change?
    How can you get people to change? It is clear that you need to improve the current system you are using at work; and that means that you need people to change what they are doing and adopt the new system. But the problem is that most people don't like change...
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  • Managing Negative Attitudes To Change
    Companies need to evolve, which involves change. Often, employees will complain about change and want things to remain as they are. As a manager you must be able to read the mood of your staff and manage their emotions and attitudes towards change.
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  • Change Management Models
    Change affects every organisation at some stage and it needs to be handled skilfully in order for it to be successful. We take a look at the four change management models that can be used for effective change in business.
    Read Article >