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Helping Others Get Over the Fear of Change

Photo from Flickr by Lyndi&Jason

Photo from Flickr by Lyndi&Jason

Change can be scary. Moving to a new city, having a kid, getting a dramatically different haircut – we often fear the unknown. What if I can’t make friends? What if I am a bad parent? What if my hair looks stupid? Fear can often hold us back from great experiences and doing great things.

Sometimes in libraries there is also a fear of change. Most readers of this blog are likely embracing change and see it as the only constant, but I am willing to bet they have colleagues or directors who are less than excited about all the rapid change taking place. These co-workers likely have done things the same way for a long time and may not see the value in new technologies.

Through some discussions and reading that I’ve recently done, I have found a few things that are useful to remember when trying to help people get over their fear of change:

  • Play and have fun – Don’t take yourself to seriously. Libraries are fun places and the work we do is fun. We’re not brain surgeons. No one will die if we use the wrong subfield in a MARC record. We need to be able to have fun. Failure is going to happen, and that’s good because it leads to learning. Learning a new technology is all about failure and play. Instead of already knowing how a new technology works, you have to just start playing and clicking on things until you understand it, failing multiple times in the process.
  • Listen – Listening to people is an important tool in getting people over the fear of change. Instead of talking about how great a technology is or how much it will benefit people, try listening. Often through the simple act of shutting up you can better understand people’s concerns. In fact, sometimes people just want to be heard. You don’t have to do anything, but they want to at least know that they have a voice. As Epicetus said, “We have two ears and one mouth so we may listen more and talk the less.”
  • Tell stories – Well reasoned arguments are great, but when trying to change someone’s mind they often fall flat. Stories are much more effective when you’re trying to make an impression on someone. Instead of saying “this widget will increase your productivity 77%,” say “I was using this widget the other day, and boy did it make life easier!” Stories will get you further than facts and figures.
  • Make use of a group – People are much more comfortable in a group setting. If some people may be hesitant to learning a certain technology, perhaps try it in a group setting. Groups are powerful. The peer pressure and the idea that “we’re all in this together” can help people get over their fear and improve themselves and gain new skills.

I’d like to thank Margot Price, David Lee King, and my library school bud Becky Canovan for discussing this with me and helping me clarify my thoughts on this. Are there other things that you have found helpful in getting people over their fear of change?

Andy Burkhardt

4 Comments

  1. Metaphors are a very powerful tool in your box of communication gadgets. Metaphor often seems to seep into the brain subliminally, making the case at a sub-conscious level … to the conscious brain, a metaphor is a condensed story. Next time you need to teach something, spend a little time in advance coming up with a metaphor that makes it easy for learners to ‘get’ one thing by comparison with something they already understand. Use an analogy or a metaphor to do the work for you.

  2. Metaphors are a very powerful tool in your box of communication gadgets. Metaphor often seems to seep into the brain subliminally, making the case at a sub-conscious level … to the conscious brain, a metaphor is a condensed story. Next time you need to teach something, spend a little time in advance coming up with a metaphor that makes it easy for learners to ‘get’ one thing by comparison with something they already understand. Use an analogy or a metaphor to do the work for you.

  3. Good point. People often don’t learn in the same way and a technical explanation that works for one person may be lost on another more creative person.

    Thanks Louise! I’m going to have to remember this, especially when I am trying to explain things that may seem easy to me but are likely confusing to others. Explaining a new concept is a difficult skill to master. Using metaphors can be very helpful.

  4. Good point. People often don’t learn in the same way and a technical explanation that works for one person may be lost on another more creative person.

    Thanks Louise! I’m going to have to remember this, especially when I am trying to explain things that may seem easy to me but are likely confusing to others. Explaining a new concept is a difficult skill to master. Using metaphors can be very helpful.

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