a problem with them

So allow me to share at the immediate onset of this post that one really should avoid tackling a tough topic in a singular, mere thousand word post, assuming a subject to be so simple. It errs a wee bit on the side of ridiculous. Allow me to also aver that one should avoid a discussion about only a half-read book. Both, no less, are what we attempt at our pernicious peril this day… 

On my current nightstand sits Switch, the New York Times bestseller with the subtitle, “How to Change Things When Change Is Hard” — a book with a marker, yes, that sits halfway through.

The reality for each of us is we are a part of some things we don’t like — circumstances and scenarios we wish were somehow different, we wish would change. For example…

  • an increasingly dysfunctional family or relationship
  • a lack of satisfaction with one’s current health
  • a work set up that is no longer rewarding
  • an ugly, political national state
  • an infighting around a community conflict

Want any of the above to be different?

Want to make changes in your own life?

… individual, organizational, or societal change?

… changes in the areas you influence or lead?

Perhaps the naiveté from a half-read perspective provides a bit of a backdrop for too much positivity. But with the drain and strain of all of the above and more, I’d venture to say that positivity is a welcomed approach!

Switch authors Chip and Dan Heath empower the reader to make more changes by instilling a practical confidence that is contrary to current culture. They simplify the process. They start with the notion that change can actually be made. To be clear, the brothers Heath do not promise that they can make change easy; their goal is to help the reader see we can make it easier.

Often, however, we stop before we start. We camp out on our sides and stances in all of the above, and we never even attempt to make authentic, healthy change. We make it way too hard…

“People don’t change… they’ll always be like that… touché… it is what it is… it’s impossible… it’s not worth the effort… it’s not worth the time… it will take too long… it’s the way I am… they’re so stubborn… I’m too stubborn…”

We allow perceived resistance — either in society or self — to extinguish any initial effort.

But what if — as the Heaths claim — what looks like resistance is instead a lack of clarity? What if we’re not seeing things accurately?

The basis for Switch is to provide a framework for making change simpler. Imagine what would change — how our confidence and efforts would alter — if some of these major life challenges weren’t seen from the onset as just so stinkin’ hard?

The Heath brothers discuss the two independent systems of our brain that are at work at all times — the emotional and the rational side. And to make change, we have to:

  1. Direct the rational side.
  2. Motivate the emotional side. And,
  3. Shape the path — that is, the situation.

Key point, friends: “what looks like a people problem is often a situation problem,” say the brothers. 

When we see a problem as a people problem, we tend to blame others, acquit self, and be increasingly more generous with our insult and offense. Fascinatingly, we then actually never solve the problem.

So what if we simply changed our perspective this day, from looking at all things as a “people problem”? … what if we quit looking at a conflict as a problem with “them”?

I know. I hear you. I am being way too simple. I need another few thousand words. But wouldn’t it be refreshing if all the leaders and influencers in the above situations gathered in a room, identified what was most important, honored the rationale and emotion in each person, and actually solved the situation? Could we be a more perfect union?

Friends, take solely the current ugly, political, national state. It’s not going to get better if we ignore or invalidate the rationale and emotion in another side; there’s a reason each of us thinks and feels the way we do. We need to thus change the way we respond, change the way we evaluate, change the way we solve. As the Heaths say, “For anything to change, someone has to start acting differently.”

So could we try acting differently?

Could we try something more positive?

Could we focus on the situation and not the people?

(Me? Well, I’ll start by reading the rest of the book…)



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