Overcoming Resistance to Change

Jul 19, 2013
4 Min Read

Adapting to change is hard enough. But when change happens to us, it is even more difficult. For true change to happen, three components of our mind need to make a shift: our emotions, our thoughts, and our behaviors. These three adaptations come from within.


Change is often heavily emotional; we feel fear, we may be in denial, we get angry, we become sad, transitions cause disorientation and frustration, and the new reality is fraught with uncertainty. Even when the change is for the better, there is always a sense of loss as we move from the past state to the future state of things.

THE FIX: Increase autonomy, involvement, and independent decision-making. Retaining a sense of meaningful control during the change that is happening is empowering and helps change stick. Do what you can to allow people to choose the change on their own.

Change involves a mental shift. Most of us start out skeptical and remain cautious. Thoughts that occur might be along the lines of, “is this the right direction? What was wrong with the old ways of doing things?” When the need for change is understood and when the future appears predictable, the transition becomes easier.

THE FIX: Provide clarity to eliminate confusion. Any confusion surrounding the change is likely to amplify negative thought patterns and dialogue. Provide more structure, more instruction, and more concrete directions than you think is necessary at first.

Change requires adaptation to comfortable behaviors and automatic habits. Don’t expect an immediate behavioral shift. New behaviors and habits take time to develop. As we adapt to change cognitively and emotionally, behaviorally we are paralyzed, resistant, and generally unproductive. These are necessary steps to experience if the change is to be accepted and internalized. Some people may adapt faster than others, but realize that quick adaptation may be superficial. Respect the ones who take their time going through the process.

THE FIX: Emotions, thoughts, and behaviors can be interchangeable. Consider the classic chicken and the egg analogy. Which comes first? A common misperception is that emotions and thoughts come before behaviors, but the reality is the three psychological states are highly interdependent and any one can influence the other two. The implication for change is that you can ‘fake it til you make it.’ This is especially helpful for anyone struggling to make a change or anyone struggling to help someone get through change. Act as if the adaptation has already taken place, and eventually it will.

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