Three Ways to Respond to Change

Resistance, Running Away, and Curiosity are ways to respond to change

The Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, is attributed as saying, “Change is the only constant in life.” And since we would all agree that is true, how do you and which way do you respond to change?

My long-time life and career coach, Nicole Greer, and I have had many talks on this topic. Most of these discussions are in coaching sessions when…you guessed it…there is a change in my life and in my circumstances and I am struggling. She reminds me of the 3 energies I can apply to the changing circumstance.

The three energetic responses are:

  • Over/Against
  • Retreat
  • Toward

Let’s look at all three and see how they may show up for you and for your team.


The first response is Over/Against. The illustration of tug-of-war is perfect for this type of energetic response. Some change is thrust upon you and resistance sets in. You or your team begins to dig in. The trenches are established and we settle in for the long haul. Sabotage is even in the playbook of this response.

As a leader, how often have you been excited about a new process, new protocol, or a new way to build up your team yet, when you arrive on Monday morning you receive the eye rolls, crossed arms, and shaking heads?

They dig in as a fortification surrounding a city under siege. They know you can only hold out for maybe a day, a week or a month…at most. Then they know it will be business as usual.

Or maybe you are facing the change. It could be a competitor opening up down the street, a new direct-to-consumer business model encroaching on your potential clientele, or even a child making a decision you do not like.

Your blood boils, your mind swirls, your stomach turns into a knot. You might even be like the boy below…”I’ll show you!”

The sad part about the resistance is that everyone digs in and no one is cooperating to make the circumstance, or change, better.


Run away! Ignore it!

Retreating is yet another way to respond to change. The thought being if we refuse to face the circumstance before us, it is as if it really does not exist.

This response is the opposite of Over/Against. It is to ignore it as if it will vanish like an early morning mist. But in reality, it only puts off the inevitable. And the inevitable may become more intense when not addressed.

Think of your team. Sometimes we all know someone needs to be “promoted out of the company”. One poor team member can ruin the entire culture. Not only does it create tension and awkwardness for the team, but it destroys the team’s confidence in your ability to lead.

You may hate the thought of firing the employee because you hate such a crucial confrontation. Or maybe the thought of finding a replacement scares you. Either way, putting off the best decision by retreating from it does not make it better or go away.

Don’t ignore a needed change. Face it.


Finally, we have a “Toward” response.

Let’s face it. Change isn’t always easy. Change may not feel good. But if we can ease movement toward it and remain curious, the transition will be easier.

For a personal change. Take one small, repeatable habit at a time. Secure that habit then add another. This keeps us from overhaul resolutions that rarely last.

Within your business, instead of returning from an event and thrusting broad and sweeping changes, start with casting a vision for what you desire. Then start with one change at a time. This will allow your team to more easily draw upon “toward” energy instead of “against” or “retreat” energy.

Draw them in. Help your team moving toward the goal.


As Norman Vincent Peale says, “Change your thoughts and you change your world.”

Pay attention. Notice your responses. Observe your team’s responses. Are you taking note as to how you and your team respond to change?

It may be time for some change in your office to ensure you are keeping up with the industry trends. Set you and your team up for success. Watch out for “Against” and “Retreat” attitudes. Foster how you and your team to take on the inevitable change with an attitude and energy of “toward”.

“Slow and steady wins the race.”


“It’s too…(hard, busy…)”

Picture of cheese as a play on cheese with a complaining whine.

Do you need some cheese with that “whine”? We have likely heard this play on the phrase “wine and cheese” when someone is whining. Our team members are not immune to it…and neither are we.

But let’s face it, phrases that start with, “It’s too…[hard, busy, new, different]” usually equate to one thing…a whine or EXCUSE.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way

Willingness is a key component of change and growth. Without it, even the most capable person wallows in mediocrity or stagnates their progress.

In order to overcome a challenge or obstacle, we must apply willingness. When I see stories in the news or posts on Facebook of individuals overcoming impossible odds, such as Nick Vujicic, Aldo Amenta, or Anna Sarol, our willingness seems pale by comparison.

“In order to accomplish something, you must be willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish it.”

Mike Hernacki

Now I’m not saying this is to do anything illegal but let’s take it to where the rubber meets the road in our offices with two examples of what we can do to foster success.

“It’s too hard to remember.”

Really? I know the change of a habit is not easy but we can prepare in advance.

An example of this is when I hear some individuals needing to exchange one word in their greeting. The culprit is the word “can” instead of “may.” The last part of our introduction should be, “How may I help you?”

And why do we say “may”? “May” is a permission word and “can” is an ability word. You may remember this from your grade school days when you asked your teacher to leave the room to go to the bathroom. You may have said, “Can I go to the bathroom?” to which your teacher sarcastically responded, “I don’t know…CAN you?”

Then you would make the exchange to use the correct word and repeat yourself by saying, “May I go to the bathroom?” Then your teacher would grant you permission.

The same happens on the phone. We have teachers and English majors calling our offices and though they may not say the sarcastic response out loud, I can guarantee they are saying it in their head. So, exchange the word and remove an unnecessary hurdle. Say it correctly and demonstrate you take care of even the little details to get them accurate.

What can you do? Create a reminder…a sticky note to be placed at your phone. That way we set ourselves up for success as we exchange one habit for another. (For more on exchanging habits, refer to Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit.)

“We’re too busy to take an inquiry call on paper first.”

Here is another one. When I hear this whine or excuse, it cries the need for a checklist. Checklists are invaluable as a safety net ensuring nothing is missed, and they serve as a communication and trust tool allowing anyone to notice, at a glance, the status of the process.

It is said best in The Checklist Manifesto that checklists:

…provide a kind of cognitive net. They catch mental flaws inherent in all of us – flaws of memory and attention and thoroughness.

Atul Gawande

The debate over taking an initial call directly into the computer versus on paper doesn’t seem to go away. A summary of the debate can be obtained here.

But that is not the point here. We want to apply willingness to create the best first call experience while not forgetting to input the details into our system. So what do we need to ensure we do what it takes to make it excellent and without error? A checklist!

Create a checklist and stick to it. Not only will your callers have a better experience, but you can then move some of the tasks on the list to a quieter time of the day, allowing for level loading of work capacity. Checklists are critical to your office’s playbook of success.


Watch out for when a whine or excuse bubbles up in your office. A key indicator of them is hearing phrases start with, “It’s too…”

Finally, apply true willingness to overcome the obstacle. Do what it takes! A couple of examples are reminders and checklists. Do so and you will set the environment for excellence!

Do You Have a Plan on What You Say?

Plan ahead or risk boring your customer.

Blah, Blah, Blah

Is this what you sound like to your callers, potential customers, or customers? You might if you don’t have a plan.

You must find the sweet spot of providing enough information to demonstrate appropriate knowledge, while also coordinating it with brevity so it can be absorbed. The balancing act is like walking a tenuous tightrope.

Have a Plan

The best way to stay on topic appropriately is to follow a defined plan. That plan can be an outline of what to cover and at what level of detail. Or it can be a fully scripted monologue. The key is to not “wing it”.

What does the absence of a plan, outline, or script do? I can tell you with absolute assurance after evaluating over 10,000 calls a year, that without a plan, team members ramble, omit, or goof critical details.

Guideline by Scenario

On the phone: The first thing to remember is that whenever you are on the phone, provide details at “sentence” length. Full education on the phone is confusing, tedious, and boring. Make the point or answer the question succinctly, then move on.

In person: Here is where explanations can expand into full paragraphs. You have the benefit of reading body language to assess if the message is landing effectively and then adapt as necessary.

Empower your team members with this distinction. “Sentences” on the phone…”Paragraphs” in person.

Add Aids When Necessary

Finally, remember to draw upon other aids and tools to help clarify complex topics. Complex topics include insurance, appointment policies, and detailed instructions. Add a pictorial handout to such discussions to provide greater comprehension.

As they say, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”