Meet People Where They Are

May 10, 2003 | Tags:

When you are asking people to change, it is important to understand how people respond to change. In my article "Managing Yourself Through Change" describes the Satir Change Model. This model says that when we respond to change, we move through four stages: Old Status Quo, Chaos, Practice and Integration, and New Status Quo.

The Satir Change Model tells us the general characteristics of each stage of change. It does not tell us in detail how a particular person will experience a particular change. Different people respond in different ways to each change.

For example, people progress at different paces through a given change. When you propose a change, one thing that you can predict is that, other people are starting from a stage of change that is different from the stage you are in.

You see the New Status Quo that will result from your proposal. Maybe you're seeing what the New Status Quo will look like when you arrive. Or maybe you're there now, having already taken the journey. It's easy to be seduced by the promise of your vision, or to be enamored of the splendor of the beautiful new place at which you've just arrived. Whether you're already there or looking forward, you see only the New Status Quo, and it's wonderful.

For other people, the view is quite different. They are standing on the safe, solid ground of the Old Status Quo, suspicious the Foreign Element you have lobbed into their world, dizzy from vertigo as they peer over the edge into the abyss of Chaos.

You see the beauty and splendor of your vision. They see confusion, pain, and risk immediately ahead.

Hold onto your vision. It's the source of your energy and passion. And just for now, let go of asking people to meet you where you are. Right now, they can't see what you see. They hear you asking them cross a treacherous chasm into a murky, uncertain future. They hear you asking a great deal.

Instead, meet people where they are. Hear and acknowledge the confusion and risks and losses that fill their field of vision. Accept that their fears are real for them. Let them know that you will take the journey with them, supporting them in the ups and downs of Chaos.

Experiment: Recall some changes that you've made after being initially reluctant. What were your initial expectations about each change? What happened as the organization made each change? What did you learn?

Experiment: Recall some changes that you have initiated in your organization. What were your initial expectations about each change? What happened as the organization made each change? What did you learn?