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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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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

  • Why do people hate change?
    Humans find change difficult. Fundamentally, we are creatures of habit. We operate according to habits which we repeat every day and we find it difficult to change our habits, even our bad habits.
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  • Effectively manage change
    Effectively Manage Change Change management training is important because there have been enormous changes in the way that we shop, how we entertain ourselves, how we spend our leisure time and how we do business. But for many, this change means a feeling of uncertainty. Most people don't like uncertainty: they...
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  • Management training: Continuous improvement cycle
    Management training: Continuous improvement cycle The role of a manager is to induce the best performance from the team. If the manager is not inducing a better performance from the team, than what the team would have achieved if the manager was not there, then the manager is superfluous to need...
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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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  • 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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