December 2015: Why Do We Resist Change?

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In this Issue

Opening Remarks

Managing change is a fact of life for leaders and organizations these days and one of the challenges is to understand the reasons behind people’s resistance to change.  In this edition of Transforming Challenges, we describe five of the factors affecting how people react to change and some tips for overcoming that resistance.

At The Reid Group, we have a passion for helping leaders and organizations transform their challenges into opportunities to create a better world. One of the ways we do that is through this e-letter, Transforming Challenges. Is there someone you know who could benefit from receiving it? Forward this edition to them and encourage them to subscribe for themselves. They’ll thank you—and so do we!

The Reid Group News

  • Maureen Gallagher made a presentation to parish leaders in the Diocese of Scranton in December, focusing on ongoing planning in changing times–in the Spirit of Hope and Light.
  • Lucien Roy and Maureen Gallagher are completing a parish planning project with St. Dominic Savio parish in St. Louis while John Reid and Fr. John Hurley are finishing their work on a parish plan with St. Pius X parish in Redwood City, CA.  Implementation for both parish plans begins in January 2016.
  • Tom Reid and Maureen Gallagher are working in the last region in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis to complete a parish reorganization process.
  • We wish all of you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas and a joyous New Year!

So as you look at your individual or organizational future, what are your challenges? Could you benefit from skilled support? Give us a call at 206-432-3565 or send us an e-mail to start transforming those challenges into opportunities.

The Reid Group teleseminar series

Sensing there is a dimension that could be strengthened in your leadership and your leaders? Then attend our Teleseminar call.

  • Tuesday, December 15, 2015 at 4 PM ET
  • Host for the Call: Tom Reid
  • Session Focus: Experiencing Contemplative Leadership Practices 

At The Reid Group, we are focused on helping leaders and organizations transform challenges into opportunities for increased effectiveness and productivity.

December 15, 2015
4pm ET / 3pm CT / 2pm MT / 1pm PT

During this teleseminar we will present and experience some contemplative practices that can inform and empower how we exercise leadership. In addition, the session will also offer tips for practical ways to carry the momentum of the call into 2016.

If there is a topic you would like to see us explore, send your suggestions to

Feature Focus

Why Do We Resist Change?

The only person who likes change is a wet baby.
Roy Blitzer

We all know that one of the very few constants in life is change. Why, then, do we have such difficulties with it? Why do some of us resist change so strenuously? The Alban Institute, an ecumenical think tank based in Washington D.C., suggests five reasons why people resist change:

#1:  The desire not to lose something or someone of value and/or familiar.
When one of our colleagues was in college, he had the opportunity to study abroad in Innsbruck, Austria. When he first got there, he tried to take America with him. He measured his experience by everything they didn’t have, and only thought about what he was losing. Fortunately, the longer he stayed, the more he came to see the value of different cultures. This experience, resistant as he was at first, changed his whole understanding of what is “familiar.” It is nevertheless true that when change is on the horizon–a new job, a new pastor, a new location–often our first thought is of what we are losing.

#2:  Misunderstanding of the change and its implications.
Sometimes, the exact nature of the change is not well-understood and consequently there is misunderstanding of what the change means for us. In our recent experience, working with a group of churches on the east coast in the United States where parishes were being restructured, we heard many people ask, “What did we do wrong to get on this list?” They isolated and personalized the change, rather than seeing the broader nature of shifting circumstances that are calling for change.

#3:  The belief that the change doesn’t make sense for us–the “whys” have not been sufficiently explained.
This reason for resistance is particularly strong when the change is imposed rather than chosen. In contrast to the positive approach of some dioceses, others have simply announced the closing of parishes or the termination of employees. Life-shattering experiences — when life as we know it is gone — are the most extreme form of change. Often, there is no reasonable explanation and our reaction is to label the change “not fair” and demand that it be rectified. Resistance to change can harden into bitterness in these situations, making it impossible to see this change as a possible source of gift.

#4:  Low tolerance for change.
We each have a different capacity for change, depending on our experience and personal style. Those with little positive experience with change and a history of difficulty in navigating change will likely be more resistant to any future change. The same is true for any of us who are dealing with major loss.

#5:  Limited trust in those leading the change.
Resistance to change is inversely proportionate to the level of trust in the leaders orchestrating the change. If trust is low, resistance will be high even if people understand the change and have a relatively high tolerance for it. Conversely, if people trust their leaders, the path of change is smoothed immeasurably.

The only constant in life is change — and, maybe, the resistance to it. However, when people, including you and us, befriend resistance in themselves or others, we can learn so much. We find that becoming curious rather than defensive in the face of resistance makes a big difference in our attitudes, responses and actions. We encourage you to shift your attitude toward resistance from foe to friend.


The Art of Change: Faith, Vision and Prophetic Planning

Think about what your organization could do if the process of planning met the inevitability of change head-on—and it resulted in significant success.

bookcoverweb2Organizations large and small, religious and secular, for-profit and not-for-profit, successful and unsuccessful, go through change. John Reid and Maureen Gallagher of the Reid Group have been instrumental in helping many groups discover the power of Prophetic Planning. This book presents a complete overview with detailed information that any organization will find useful in understanding how to plan for change.

The Art of Change: Faith, Vision and Prophetic Planning, and its companion CD are now available from Liguori Publications as well as from

And that’s it for this month. Look for Transforming Challenges next month–and until then, have a good day and a great week.Kathy Johnson, Editor, Transforming Challenges
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