The Neuroscience of Resistance to Change
Traditionally we define resistance to change as actions or inactions, overt or covert, to oppose, block, or minimize the impact of a perceived threat or loss of value. With this definition in mind, traditional change efforts focus on trying to minimize discomfort and increase clarity by establishing greater:
Transparency and effective communication
Involvement and engagement
A Partial Definition
While trust, effective communication, and engagement create a valuable foundation and support overcoming a wide range of resistance to change, other types of resistance to change are missed under a traditional definition. Past definitions are based on years of experience and are very relevant, but thanks to Neuroscience and understanding resistance to change in terms of how the brain works, we are provided with insight into additional resistance responses which are blocking progress but were unseen before.
New science expands the definition of resistance to change and helps us identify and support clients to overcome a wide variety of otherwise invisible types of resistance to change - hiding in plain sight. We now know that resistance to change start when people need to unlearn and rewire the brain. This means that resistance is not only about the specifics of the change and the impact it will have on us (for example resisting a change that will limit people's control or goes against what people want). It is also the reaction to the discomfort associated with the need to "re-write" pre-existing patterns and create new patterns in our brain.
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Invisible Resistance to Change
Traditional view of resistance to change focuses on behaviors like cynicism, nitpicking details, snide comments, sarcastic remarks, missed meetings, forgotten or late assignments and commitments, argumentativeness, lack of support, and in rare cases outright sabotage.
A better understanding of resistance to change allows us to see that this is only a fraction of resistance responses. In addition to the above, we should also identify and support resistance responses related to:
The anxiety and stress associated with the need to rewire the brain which can show up as confusion, disorientation and other blocking challenges.
Deep emotional response patterns to discomfort which are not the result of how we communicate change or how much trust we create but stem from people's insufficient mastery of effective abilities to cope with discomfort.
Click here to learn more about Neuroscience-based techniques and principles for overcoming resistance to change.