We occasionally ask people to accept a change that seems to us like an easy sale. They are already eager, willing and able to accept the change. For instance:
- changes in policies which allow them more personal discretion and freedom to accommodate their unique circumstances
- changes in requirements which lighten their workload and help them get other things done
- changes in assignments which enable them to work with their favorite people or show up at a time that works best for them
- changes in rewards which give them more recognition for what they've accomplished as well as satisfaction with the reward itself
Most often, we're asking people to accept a change which seems like a tough sale. They are predisposed to oppose it, resent it and possibly even obstruct it. For example:
- making a personal sacrifice to compensate for a financial setback or downturn in the overall economy
- making time to work with a unskilled new hire, an antiquated machine or a location with insufficient resources
- making an adjustment that changes personal habits, increases the chances of failure or expose their previously undisclosed limitations
- making greater effort to cover for others who seem to be slacking off, negligent or lacking in initiative
The sales pitches we typically make to get acceptance of an unwelcome change usually come across as indoctrination. We attempting to override what they are already thinking and pressure them into changing their minds. We're resisting what they're inclined to value and feeding a vicious cycle of conflict. We're implicitly telling them "you're wrong and I'm right" which sets them up to feel wronged, misunderstood and devalued.
The way I've found to doctor this kind of indoctrination is one I enjoy. Rather than try to sell others on acceptance of an unwelcome change, I've found it works to switch to wondering about this situation which seems to require that change. Here's some of the many facets of any situation to wonder about:
- You may be wondering what other alternatives there are to this change that's hard to accept, including what will happen if we do nothing.
- I'm wondering why this change became necessary now, instead of much earlier and with more advance warning.
- You might be wondering what could have been done to prevent the need for this change and who could have accomplished that for all of us.
- I'm wondering what other connections are influencing our situation and possibly keeping it from being even worse or forcing us to make this change.
- You may be wondering who's responsible for letting this happen, whether they can be blamed and how much you can be left off the hook.
- I'm wondering what's lined up in our near future that may require even bigger changes unless we do something we not even considering right now.
- You may be wondering whether this is a question of a change in attitude or effort that could make the big difference in getting through this with a minimum of pain.
- I'm wondering if I'm setting an example of one who can handle this challenge or someone who's looking for ways to make the challenge go away.
All this wondering opens the space for considering the change with less fear, opposition and negative emotions. Questions of wonder fire up the right brain which is non-judgmental, creative and fascinated by new challenges. With an audience thinking about what-if?, why not? and how could I contribute?, the tough sale of acceptance just got a lot easier.