Every change costs someone something.
One of those costs, which is often underestimated by those leading change, is the emotional response to change. All change has an emotional response.
Realizing and recognizing the emotions of change can help you better lead through the change. Acknowledging someone’s emotions goes a long way towards helping them accept it. Change is hard either way, but if you ignore the emotions you’ll find yourself always battling to make change successful.
Here are 7 common emotions to change:
Fear. Change can be very scary because it takes you into something unknown.
Grief. There’s a sense of loss associated with change. Something was left behind. People may have loved the way things were. Even if they know the change was needed people may grieve what they left behind.
Enthusiasm. This is a good emotion. Most of the time. And, for some people. There are times, however, that one groups enthusiasm further frustrates another person’s pain.
Anger. People can get mad about change. They can even “lose their religion”. Change can cause people to react in very ungodly ways. They may say or do things that are mostly out of character for them. (Although, sometimes change allows us to see someone’s true character.)
Confusion. Change takes people somewhere new and, therefore, can often leave people feeling very confused until they figure out and adjust to what the new reality will be after the change. There can even be an appearance of acceptance simply because a person doesn’t yet understand how they will be affected.
Loneliness. Change takes something away from people. It may have been what made them comfortable. They may feel an emptiness as a result of the loss.
Sadness. There can be a profound sadness to change. For example, I think of my wife when we have changed church assignments. She can know we are following God’s will but she is sad at the separation of relationships she values.
Numbness. Sometimes change can leave people with their heads spinning — especially when change is fast. People don’t even know what to feel — which means they don’t know how to respond. (You won’t know their true emotion to change until after the period of numbness.)
Next time you’re in the midst of change — which if you’re in leadership should be often — watch for — and find ways to acknowledge — the emotions of change. Don’t limit these emotions to leadership. They are true in all relationships — in marriage — parenting — life. Where change is occurring, emotions are sure to be found.
In a future post, I’ll share some thoughts on how to address each of these emotions.
What other emotions of change have you observed?