“I get it but it’s not fixed in my brain”

“The people who get what we are trying to do are telling me they understand the point of the change programme but they haven’t got their head around what it means yet, what they have to do differently.”

This was the view of the person driving the change programme. He was talking about the ones most supportive of change, the ones doing their best to adapt and evolve. They knew and signed up to the goals but they hadn’t made the shift to the new way of thinking in their head. The result was no change in behaviour. They were still doing the same old things in the same old way.

I knew exactly what he was saying but for me, he had missed a crucial point. The problem is not that people’s thinking hasn’t shifted in response to the change process. If they understand and are convinced by the rationale for the new approach they have, almost by definition, made the mental shift. The challenge is something quite different.

It is relatively easy for us to change our thinking. And, of course, if we want to get something done we have to do exactly that. We have to convince people of our argument, persuade them to see things the way we do. But that does not necessarily make any tangible difference. Agreeing with the strategic approach doesn’t mean we will behave differently.

It’s the shift at our emotional core that counts. We may not understand it, we may not be able to articulate it, but if we don’t ‘feel it’ we probably won’t do it and we certainly won’t do it with the passion and determination necessary to make it a success.

With the emotional commitment of your team almost anything is possible!

The challenge, therefore, is how to make sure the people in your business take the emotional leap.

It’s not easy and it’s certainly not quick but there are some basics you need to get right to begin the process of securing emotional engagement.

People need to feel involved. No one likes having things done to them, so seek feedback and listen carefully. A superficial paper exercise of a consultation is not only unlikely to be particularly effective, it could be actively destructive, undermining trust. But if people feel they have been heard, their contribution thoughtfully considered, and they get good feedback on what’s happening next and why, then emotional engagement is much more likely to follow.

This dialogue is also an incredibly important opportunity to understand the barriers to action. The problem here is people might not understand the blocks themselves, but unless you can get to the bottom of them nothing is going to change. If you’re going to find this out listen carefully to every piece of communication, overt and covert, verbal and non-verbal. And a valuable rule of thumb is where there is a conflict between the verbal and non-verbal, it’s the non-verbal that is almost always the accurate message.

Drawing on my years as a communication consultant and work as a counsellor I can help you hear and respond to the messages that count.

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By Cathy Connan

I'm an integrative psychotherapist. I help people invest in their wellbeing and live the life they want.