“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves.” French novelist Anatole France
Why do people resist change? Is it because we are habitual creatures, craving the comfort of what we know versus the discomfort of what we don’t? When faced with an impending change or even the possibility of change, some of us stubbornly dig in our heels and resist. And if that resistance involves someone you love, perhaps an aging parent who won’t accept any help, how can you successfully transition from the old to the new?
A sociologist named Thorsten Veblen noted as early as 1899 that human nature contains, “an instinctive revulsion at any departure from the accepted way of doing and looking at things.” This instinctive revulsion to change is particularly pronounced when an individual is faced with a change in lifestyle or behavioral habits. Some folks will even go out of their way to avoid anything that contradicts their ‘accepted way of doing things’. In the field of psychology this process is called selective exposure, whereby people seek out information that supports their existing views and consciously avoid things that confront them.
For example, if someone is told by a doctor that their lifestyle is putting them at risk for heart disease, they may immediately put up a defensive wall that shields them from having to change their behavior. They may downplay the link between lifestyle and heart disease or seek out information that contradicts the doctor’s advice. If a family member also encourages that individual to change their lifestyle, convincing them otherwise becomes more of a challenge. An overview on resistance to change published by American psychology professor John T. Jost in the journal of Social Research confirmed that people are more likely to stand firm when, “they know someone is trying to persuade them - they build up a kind of immunity to arguments they have heard before and are able to recruit defensive counterarguments more or less automatically.”
When faced with an increased risk of falling or worsening health condition, an older adult may vehemently deny the need for a medical alarm by immediately saying, ‘I’m always careful.’ Victoria Lifeline educators work with older adults living in the community and these counterarguments are all too familiar. Education Facilitator Vicki Russenholt does over a hundred presentations a year on fall prevention and the benefits of a medical alarm. She frequently talks people through their defensive barriers with an open and honest conversation about risk. “People tell me – ‘I haven’t fallen yet so I don’t need it’. I talk to people about being proactive not reactive – the statistics show that one in three older adults will fall this year alone so I ask them, if you know you’re at risk, what’s your plan? A fall can compromise independent living.”
In the Social Research article, Professor Jost also discussed how people were more likely to oppose change when it involves, “beliefs that are logically or psychologically connected to other beliefs and values that are important to them.” Continuing with the medical alarm example, an older adult might object to a help button because they believe they are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves – and that belief is intrinsically tied to the value of independence.
So what are some strategies you can employ to help someone you love accept change? Here are a few tips…
- Understanding the objection is really the first step to overcoming it. Validate your loved ones fears or misgivings and listen to their objections. Having an honest conversation about why they don’t want a medical alarm for example may help you ease their concerns.
- Encourage them to talk to their friends who have a medical alarm service. Sometimes hearing a first-hand testimonial of someone who loves the peace of mind that comes from having Victoria Lifeline can make all the difference. We also have some Client testimonials on the website.
- Enlist the help of a trusted professional – the Social Research article confirmed that people are more likely to be persuaded to change by a source they feel is credible, trustworthy and an expert in their field. Having your loved one talk to a healthcare professional about the serious consequences of fall for example may be all the encouragement they need.
- Suggest a short term trial. Sometimes the idea of a permanent change can be daunting, so why not just try it and see how it goes. It's been said that change is a process, not an event. That process may involve a few trials runs and that's okay. Victoria Lifeline has no contract on any of their service plans so your loved one can cancel at anytime.
And from the staff and volunteers at Victoria Lifeline, we wish everyone a wonderful holiday season filled with the love of family and good friends.