Let’s Talk About Change

Have you ever been excited about making a change in your life … only to feel completely deflated by someone’s reaction?

Or have you ever faced a difficult change … and had it made worse by someone else’s reaction?

The people around us – friends, family, colleagues – aren’t always as supportive as we might wish, especially in times of change. They might offer lots of advice – you know they mean well, but it drives you crazy. They might be very negative about the change, telling you it’ll never work out – and that’s often the last thing you need.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to this: you can’t make the people around you respond to your news in just the way you’d like. You can, however, ensure that you’re emotionally prepared for a potentially not-so-great reaction … and you can control the manner in which you deliver the news.

When the Change May Take Some Time

If you’re embarking on a change that’s inevitably going to take some time, you may want to think about who best to tell in the early stages.

For instance, if you’re starting a new diet, you might prefer not to tell all your friends, family and colleagues – as you may get unhelpful comments. (Anything from “Oh, you don’t need to diet!” to “I’ll believe it when I see it.”)

Of course, some people do find that social support and accountability helps – but you may want to build your confidence by waiting until your diet is established before confiding in anyone beyond close friends and family.

The same applies to other time-consuming changes, especially ones that may not be fully under your control. If you and your partner are trying for a baby, for instance, you might not want to tell anyone at all – that way, you won’t have constant enquiries of “Any news yet?”

Remember: You are in control of when you choose to talk about a change. Try to pick a good time to tell people, perhaps once you’re feeling confident and strong.

When the Change May Provoke Disapproval

Sometimes, you just know that certain relatives, friends, or colleagues are going to try to talk you out of a change – or tell you that you’re being stupid.

Some lifestyle changes can provoke strong reactions. Perhaps you’re getting divorced, and you think some of your relatives will be angry or upset. Maybe you’re quitting your job in order to become self-employed, and you suspect that your friends won’t understand.

It’s normally up to you whether or not you tell people about a specific change, but there’ll be some circumstances where you don’t really have a choice.If you’re getting divorced, for instance, your immediate family and social circle are going to know about it sooner or later.

Something you will find, though, is that people don’t always react the way you expect! Your curmudgeonly aunt might prove a sudden bastion of support. Your high-earning friend might confess a desire to also leave the rat-race.

Remember: You can’t live your life to please other people, so don’t be too anxious about negative reactions. You may well find that you’ve magnified the worries in your own head – some people will be more supportive and encouraging than you expect.

When the Change Isn’t Under Your Control

Sometimes, you’ll have a change forced upon you. Perhaps you’ve been made redundant at work, or you’ve discovered that you’re facing a health issue. You might well feel anxious, angry, upset … but you may also be trying to focus on positives.

Telling people may, in some cases, make you feel worse about the change. Perhaps you’ve decided to make the best of redundancy, for instance, finally pursuing the career of your dreams … only for your relatives to talk as though it’s the end of the world.

Think in advance about how you want to frame the change. Saying “I’ve been feeling very anxious about…” is going to make the whole thing seem negative. You might want to start instead with the bare facts – “I’ve been made redundant” – and then follow this with something positive, like “Even though it means money will be a bit tight, this is actually a blessing in disguise – I’ve been thinking about a career change for a while.”

Remember: By being positive, even in difficult circumstances, you’re giving a cue to other people to respond the same way. If you’re worried about getting upset or angry when you talk about a difficult change, consider telling people in writing, or asking a mutual friend to pass on the news.

What changes are you facing right now? Are you anxious about telling people – or telling a particular person? If you’d like some support, or if you’d like to share your experiences, just leave a comment below.

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