Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Everything changes

I had a meeting with a client in the FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) sector the other day. I'm going to run a workshop session for them on the topic of managing change more effectively in September.

Did you know that psychologists have spent decades researching the stages that we go through when we experience major setbacks or change in life? Understanding these stages gives us the chance to move through the stages of recovery more quickly. The stages of change are:

1. Denial. We're in shock. We feel numb. Our first reaction is often to refuse to believe what has happened. We might think to ourselves 'I can't believe this is happening to me'. We don't know how to behave as we can't quite come to terms with what's happened.

2. Anger. We then often get angry. We may complain about the situation or try to blame others for what is happening. We may unfortunately take it out on friends or colleagues or loved ones by lashing out or pushing them away without good reason. For others, they internalise their anger and become infuriated with themselves.

3. Disorientation. Next, we may feel confused and unhappy. We may feel physically and emotionally exhausted or even despairing.

4. Acceptance. Eventually - and for some people it may take weeks or months while others may need only hours or days - we come to terms with the need to change our behaviour or get on with life after a setback. We recognise that our situation has changed and feel less emotional about the past.

5. Renewal. Finally, we are able to resume work and life as normal. We may still think about the setback, but for the most part we are able to think about it rationally rather than becoming emotional or distraught about it.

So, here are a few implications. Firstly, it's okay to experience negative emotions as a result of setbacks and change. Research shows us very clearly that everyone goes through similar stages - so you should never have to feel embarrassed or guilty about how you feel. Also, understanding these stages can help us all to identify which stage we are currently experiencing and then hopefully accelerate the pace with which we can move through them to renewal.