What to Do About the Change Back Reaction

Change back behavior is a common reaction to almost everything. Understand what it really means, and you will be much more influential at creating change and innovation.

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Stay the Course

When you are an innovator or changemaker, there’s one thing you’ve got to get used to. And that is fear of, or resistance to, change.

Every time you take a step toward improving or adapting yourself, your situation, and by extension the world around you — it causes friction. Just like basic physics, it will feel like ‘equal and opposite’ forces push back against you. The more change you seek, the bigger these forces will feel.  They will be inside your own head: discouraging you and playing up fear of the unknown. They will be outside of you: in the systems and cultures of everyday life that don’t change easily and in the reactions of those at home and at work who are used to a certain predictability. 

Martha Beck, a well-known sociologist, has written about this as “change back” reaction. As in, “Don’t do that. Change back to the way you were.”

The thing to remember about these behaviors is that they only happen in reaction to genuine, real, and ongoing change. If you start a change and then stop because of the push back you are feeling, the good news is that those unpleasant change back forces will go away. If you call that good news.

What we’ve learned about responding to change back reactions is this:  

Stay the course.

Don’t freak out.

Because:  it wouldn’t be happening if there was not some real transformation happening.   

That negative reaction you are getting? That’s actually the real good news. 

Once you learn to recognize change back reactions, you can see them in the smallest interaction between two people, among groups and communities of all kinds, and even at the scale of major world events. Push and pull.  It’s everywhere. 

Be calm and firm. Understand where others are coming from and recognize that we’ve all spent plenty of time on both sides of this coin.  Realize that not everyone will come around to your way of thinking or agree with you completely. Expect some people to react with anger, fear, aversion, or sadness. If you really believe in the change you are seeking, stay the course strongly and wisely.  When you do, you will be surprised to see how far the influence of your steady commitment will reach. 

For more reading on change back reactions, check out more links and learning in the original blog post. If you want to build skills in innovation leadership and changemaking, let’s talk.

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