When it comes to change, it’s the uncertainty of the unknown rather than the change itself that we’re afraid of, says Futureye Director Daniel Abbas. Change triggers emotional or psychological responses, causing us to fear the worst, feel a loss of control or setting off our “outrage triggers…which means there’s little chance to engage in rational dialogue about what’s actually going to happen.”

The key to overcoming natural human resistance to a new policy or internal change is in the preparation. As Daniel puts it, “it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.”

The typical approach is management makes a decision and then announces it. This approach creates an adversarial situation, where one side defends the change and the other resists it.

An environment where genuine consultation is undertaken and control is shared encourages people to engage because they know it’s worthwhile, making them more invested in the change process and its outcome.

For Daniel Abbas, a more effective approach to change is built on a ‘genuine conversation’ – a two-way consultation that includes all parties with a perspective on the change – and sharing control before decisions are made.

While management should only share control to a level it’s comfortable with, not sharing control exaggerates our psychological triggers.

“We acknowledge there are a number of different directions we could go. Importantly, we’re telling you about all the forces at play. We don’t have all the answers but we feel responsible for solving this; that’s what we call declaring a dilemma,” Daniel says.

“And then you acknowledge some of the shortcomings; it might be that previous attempts haven’t worked as well as we’d like. That’s quite different to the approach that doesn’t work. When you’re in the defensive mode of the typical approach…the more we sell the benefits, the less likely people are to support them.”

It’s also critical to evaluate any policy or internal change – for next time. “If the experience of being involved previously was ‘I’m not sure where that went’ [or] ‘we developed a policy but I don’t know if it was effective’…next time you’re asked to be involved, you’ll moderate your view of whether it’s worthwhile based on your experience the previous time,” Daniel says.

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