Your change and their reaction does not sing to the same tune at all times. You’ve done it. Changed – with a capital C. Lifestyle, Job, Partner, Marital Status, Country, Weight, Habits. Whatever the change goal was, you have achieved what you set out to do. You have come out on the other side. You feel great, and want everyone around you to be part of this newfound joy. You find to your surprise that not everyone is as supportive, happy and willing to accept this New You. You wonder why, and ask yourself what you can do to make this an easier fit for your friends and family. Should they not wish to take in this new energy, and celebrate it with you? The easy answer is of course Yes! But…
Change Doesn’t Come Easy
Truth be told – change doesn’t come easy. Change is to do something different, based on a long-term planning and goal setting. Change is to make a new habit. There are blocks along the way that you must overcome, and it is easy to stumble as time plays tricks, or unexpected events put stops signs on the planned route.
Maybe you have tried to change before few times before, and failed. Caution tells your friends to ‘Wait and See’. Change that has become a new habit – or relationship – is a real achievement. It happened over time. It probably took you a while to decide to embark on this new adventure. Then you made a plan, and worked to get to your goal step-by-step. With time actually got there.
Your friends and family are still reeling from the surprise you have landed them in. A new person in your life; a new appearance; degree or professional challenge; a new location? For them it’s all new – whilst for you who lived through the goal setting, planning and actually doing it is a bit like old news.
Change Reaction: Living in a Box
When you change you move away from the box where people placed you. It is confusing. People like to have you in a circle, box or frame. You are the ‘unmarried spinster’, ‘the chubby one’, ‘the nice girl in the corner’, ‘the guy in the left (right) seat’, ’the country bumpkin”. Social rules dictate that one should not stand out. To move away from the path that have been set is not appreciated, as you are not playing by the rules. Life lessons teaches us that you should be one of the gang, and not be different. You ‘must’ follow what your social circle finds acceptable – otherwise you will be left out in the cold – at least for the time that your change is being mulled over, churned and digested.
Change Reaction: How to Inspire the Non-Believers
When you take a decision to change, set goals and then actually follow through with the plan – and succeed you will reach levels you never thought possible. Many of your friends and family will embrace this change. You will however encounter a group that are not as keen on your achievement. The green-eyed monster may have a role to play in this – but, reaction to change can be emotionally charged, and while it feel directed at you that is not often the case.
You can positively reinforce the relationship. You can inspire change, and convert the non-believers. You have stepped out of the frame that was built for you, and a positive chain change reaction can start. What can you do to inspire, instil confidence and build trust?
Change is not for Everyone
Accept that change is not a given for all and reactions will go through a reaction curve. By using the Change Curve to understand and predict people’s natural reaction to change, you can help them more quickly and more successfully adapt to your new state. The stages people go through when confronted by change can be strong, and often driven by inner feelings that have little to do with you. The Kubler-Ross model illustrates this, and is well worth a read to understand why this is and what to do: Kubler-Ross Five Stages Model .
Maybe you have tried to change before, and bounced back or failed? Your friends react by protecting you from this new self just in case you should fall again. Giving up smoking is a good example of how friends tend to ‘wait and see’ before saying ‘well done!”. Maybe you have been through a few diets or fitness fads – and then given up, so your friends will smile and think to themselves ‘this won’t last!’. Your friends will no doubt have tried a few changes themselves but not succeeded. What was your reaction then, and how can you convince them that this time it is for good? Stay the course, keep going, and don’t get discouraged. Time will be the proof that wins them over.
Change Reaction: Its in the Eye of the Beholder
Realise that your change may not be to everyone’s’ taste. If this is the case you can simply play down the less than friendly comments. Show them that you like them even if they may not like your new undertaking. Taking up a new hobby like parachuting, or enrolling in a Yoga class may not be your buddy’s choice. It is said that ‘opposites attract’. You may find that your activities becomes part of why they like hanging out with you. As long as you respect your friends’ individuality and liking for ‘Zumba’ or ‘Suduko” – you will revel in your different pursuits and exchange notes on what makes it so inspiring.
Maybe your change is seen as a reflection of someone else’s own insecurity. The change you have undergone is easier to take if you can placed in the stand – your friend can then deliver the verdict and be a perfect judge. S/He will be tell you how ’not so good for you’ being a vegetarian is, or ‘it’s great that you have started exercising, but you still need to quit smoking so therefore all your efforts are viewed as useless to me’ or ‘learning how to sail is not easy, and you don’t strike me as someone who stays focused long enough’. Humour works well to fend off any unwelcome verbal doubts, and if their judgement does not seem to stick they will move on and over to someone else for their next verdict.
If your change involves major lifestyle changes people around you may not like it, as they think less of themselves as a result. A lifestyle change – that visibly changes you inside and out is hard to miss, but also provokes comments such as ‘are you starving?’, ‘what on earth are you doing this for?’, ‘well – it won’t last!’. In most cases this is because the person in front of you will not think they could embark on such a change themselves so they go back to play school behaviour, and kick you out of the sand box. Fine – prove them wrong. Stay the course, and either they will be inspired, or stay behind.
Change Reaction: Everyone Does It!
If you stop doing something that ‘everyone’ does – it can be an issue for the social aspect of your circle. Say you give up drinking – not so popular with your friends in the Pub, or ‘girls/guys night out buddies’. The comments and almost abuse will rain over you – as you then get the great pleasure to smile at them bright-eyed and serene the next day, when they look bleary eyed and ready for retirement. You have taken a decision that is connected with a deeper sense of wanting more from life, and your friends will slowly see this too. They will order you a cranberry water with a twist of lemon, and eventually give you respect and admiration because you can stay the course whereas they wish they could too.
Change Reaction: Professional Blunder?
If you change jobs, profession or life course you will find that some of your former colleagues and ‘friends’ were actually not as close to you as you once thought. Maybe they hung around with you, because you represented someone who could help them in their career. If you really change from the course that you were supposed to retire from, you will surprise, amaze and in some cases make people upset or worried. The latter will be displayed by close friends and family who will not know how you ‘will survive’ and a wish that you go back to your ‘real job’. The kindest thing to do is to gently show your loved ones that you will make it, that this change is no fad or crazed mid-life crisis thing – it is something deeply felt and achievable. Something that makes you happier than ever before. They will come around – eventually 😉
If you change profession the surprise is palatable as a title may mean more to your surrounding than you. The fact that you are no longer actively following what you are supposed to ‘be’ does not take away from your abilities, or possibilities of course — and you will always be able to ‘do’ what you had been taught or done for such a long time. Your dream, realisation and vision is yours – and by simply explaining patiently what you are doing, and why you all win them over by continuing to live your dream.
Change Reaction: Love or not to Love this is the Question
If you change partner or marital status, the social implications can be many. New relationships are fraught with threatened friendships that either stay or become cooler as a result of your new love. What if you met someone from another country, or background? You may find to your dismay that some of your friends will not accept your chosen partner as ‘fear of the unknown’ is too much to handle. As a couple you may have to create new friends together and continue to try with the ’old ones’. They will stay or they will go – and ultimately as long as you are happy ask yourself what matters most.
A newly singe status after years of joint friends can be equally as complicated, as the friendship circle struggles with ‘choices’ you have not asked them to make. Some will remain friends just as they always were, but some will not. Your ‘New You’ will also involve other changes no doubt, so the tensions will increase as your friends not only have to see you as a former Mrs or Mr So-n-So – but also have to come to terms with lifestyle change explosions on all levels as you find yourself a new frame of mind/body/work. Keep what is important to you – and that includes your real friends.
Change Reaction: The World is your Oyster
What if you change countries, culture and language all together and then see your ‘old friends’ on a less regular basis than before? This kind of change is tough on acquaintances but solid friendships will remain. Facebook, Twitter and email became crucial aids to keep up with comings and goings, and the more you socially network the more your friends will feel part of your new life, and be able to share it with you. Some will have a hard time with what you experience, learn and see. They may not even like the new you that is emerging as a result of your mind expansion. Invite them over to wherever you are – make them see your life. They may see, or they may not. You will perhaps decide to become acquaintances rather than lifelong friends as the borders become more than a geographical divide. More likely is however that you will now have even more shared memories that add to a deep essential friendship.
Change Reaction: An Invitation to Inspiration
Real friendships do survive most changes, and while you may have to take questions, teasing, haggling and kind abuse – it is all a reaction. You can anchor your friend and kinship even deeper by inviting the reactions. Consider them as interactions, and inspiration possibilities. Positivity, passion and real belief is contagious. You have done it. Changed. Stay the course – and slowly you will win over your real friends too. You might even inspire them to positive change too 🙂
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