Change Leadership Secret – 33 – Understand Coping Strategies

Change Leadership — Secret # 33
Understand Coping Strategies

Problems are not the problem; coping is the problem.
—Virginia Satir

What I Need to Know

In order to characterize a person’s change response, we first need to understand general principles of how people process stimuli, called “coping” strategies. Wayne Weiten and Margaret Lloyd suggested three generic strategies:

1. Appraisal. People typically first appraise the force, or situation, and make judgments whether to (a) deny its existence, (b) delay dealing with it, (c) devalue its importance, or (d) dig in and do something about it.

2. Emoting. After appraising, people typically experience emotions. Eventually, people have to construct a solution to yield an improvement in the situation. In the meantime, they may become distracted or attempt to demolish the force, which makes the situation worse. People’s emotions can either reinforce the construction of solutions or reinforce distractive and destructive behaviors.

3. Problem solving. Finally, once people have emoted constructively and opted for action, they problem solve by (a) defining the problem, (b) researching solutions, (c) choosing a course of action, (d) taking action.

What I Need to Do

As you characterize your customer’s change response, first note how the customer appraises the situation. Of course, you hope the customer will dig in and take immediate action. But if the person goes into denial, devalues the importance, or otherwise delays action, you will have to watch patiently and, if possible, gently guide the person until he acknowledges the necessity of action.

Keep your expectations low for your ability to influence the person’s appraisal. Most people feel their appraisals are very personal and may even resent what they would consider an intrusion into their personal identities.

Next, note if the person emotes constructively or destructively. If the person is committed to action, you need to spring into action and quickly bring value to the problem-solving process. If the person is distracted with destructive emotions, especially a sense of helplessness, you may want to offer assistance and support to guide the person into the problem-solving mode. But you’ll want to assess carefully how much of your investment is appropriate.

Action Summary

  • Observe how the customer appraises, emotes, and problem solves in response to specific situations.
  • Move quickly when the customer is disposed to take action..
  • Patiently wait, or possibly disengage, if the customer’s response is not constructive.
Change Leadership Secret - 33 Understand Coping Strategies

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