the human change curve

In deep thoughts, learning, relationships by Jay Clouse

You’re probably familiar with the year 1969 as the year the United States landed on the moon and the cause of a catchy, but all-in-all pretty average, song by Bryan Adams.

But it was also the year that psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross wrote On Death and Dying.

The book was inspired by her work with terminally ill patients near death, and in this book, Kubler-Ross introduced the Kubler-Ross Model, also known as the Five Stages of Grief.

[It’s worth noting, that while this model got a lot of attention and seems to be generally accepted by the public, there is still some argument over in the scientific community…

“Kübler-Ross noted later in life that the stages are not a linear and predictable progression and that she regretted writing them in a way that was misunderstood. Rather, they are a collation of five common experiences for the bereaved that can occur in any order, if at all.” (Wikipedia)]

But experiencing those stages is still common, while not exclusive. And not only does it apply to grief, but to our reactions to change in general.

This is why we resist changes to the status quo. This is why we don’t like to hear the work that we’ve created for someone isn’t good enough or that it needs to be different.

When we are faced with the prospect of changing something (especially something we are emotionally invested in) we often go into shock, denial, frustration, or depression.

Just as Alan Jacobs describes in his book, How To Think, it is often our immediate instinct to go into “refutation mode” when we are faced with something we disagree with. At that point, we are no longer open to conversation – we are just waiting to refute the point and defend our own position.

But if we can come to accept change — or if at a minimum, we are able to be aware of our predisposition to be resistant to change — we can jump into the three “acceptance” states of experimentation, decision, and integration.

Imagine if your immediate responses to criticism (intentional or unintentional) was not to power up and defend. How would that change the dynamics with the people around you?

It’s natural that our first response can be our worst response. Especially in asynchronous communication — take a pause, take a breath, and remember that your instincts are to be emotional and defensive.

Then you can consider what a true, best logical response would be to have a positive impact on the situation and this relationship.


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