Make change easy
I WAS recently working with my very agitated client on how to achieve a change she was seeking in her life.
She was trying to figure out why this other person wouldn’t change towards the required outcome when the benefits were “obvious”. I asked my client: “What should this other person change?” Again, she said: “Well, it’s obvious”, and went on to outline a series of very compelling reasons for this change to occur.
She looked at me with a victorious glare when I responded: “You have outlined some very good reasons as to why you think the other person should change. But my actual question was why should the other person change, NOT why you think they should change…” She responded with silence before eventually muttering: “It’s obvious!” Obvious to her but possibly not to the other person.
Change is hard. Our brains don’t like change. Our brains are lazy and desire certainty. So, in order to achieve change in thinking and behaviour, the trick is to make it easy for the brain to accept change – and that is harder said than done. I don’t believe you achieve change in behaviour by only focusing on the obvious or the facts, because after all, you may be the only one who sees and believes in the ‘obvious’. Our brain has powerful mechanisms to stop it from seeing the obvious. The reticular activating system (RAS) is a function of the brain that I call the gatekeeper of facts. It’s that part of our brain’s function that decides what to acknowledge and act on – the brain will only see what the brain wants to see. This leads to a phenomenon referred to as the confirmation bias, resulting in us undervaluing evidence that contradicts our beliefs and overvaluing evidence that confirms them. We filter out inconvenient truths and arguments, which makes it harder to change our thinking and behavioural patterns.
So, when trying to achieve change in mindset and action, don’t focus only on the facts. Seek to change perception of the facts and why people should change – the ‘what’s in it for me’ response (WIIFM).
The WIIFM can be either negative or positive.
When encouraging people to change, don’t use fear or shame as a motivator to change. Don’t say things like: “If you don’t do this, then…”, “other people are saying this as well” etc.
These are threats that will only force the other person to take an entrenched position or, at best, will result in short term “begrudging” change.
This begrudging reaction will lead to inauthentic change followed by a revengeful mindset and/or behaviour.
So, look for the motivator to change and once found, work with the individual to take small steps that allow for small wins – where the mindset or behavioural change is having a positive, desirable effect.
People will then see the benefits of the actual change and feel motivated for the change to continue.
It may be that support in the form of skills upgrade, changing small habits, interacting with different types of people, being exposed to different mindsets or information is required to sustain the new behaviour.