The University Record, June 7, 1993

We need to become ‘go-with-the-flow’ logs to meet challenges, opportunities of change

By Jane R. Elgass

All of us are living and learning “in permanent whitewater” and we can choose to be either the battered log that gets jammed against the river’s edge and fights change or the “go-with-the-flow” log that continues downstream and adapts and adjusts to change.

“Change is happening and we can’t ignore it,” Christine Carlsen-Jones told participants in a Workplace for the ’90s Conference workshop in late May. “We can’t ignore change. Rather we have to learn to work with it, to turn it to our advantage.

“Our culture feels riskier than in the past because things are unfamiliar. This means that empowerment of self is more important than ever.”

Carlsen-Jones, an Ann Arbor consultant and trainer, advised her audience to take control of themselves in reacting to change. “You can’t change anyone else, only yourself, your attitudes and perceptions.” For many, she noted, this may mean a change in behavior.

Behavior is a choice on a continuum, she noted, indicating that we can choose to be apologetic, passive and non-assertive; to be assertive; or to be aggressive.

Individuals who fall into the “assertive” category are more likely to make both short- and long-term gains in working with change. The concepts of M-Quality and the tools that it makes available rely on respect for oneself and others within an environment that encourages and supports giving and receiving feedback, that says change is healthy, Carlsen-Jones noted.

Individuals with high self-esteem, who feel good about themselves and what they do and who are assertive, adjust to change much more easily than those who continually apologize for themselves and what they do as well as those who insist on blaming others, who take the “my way or the highway” approach.

Success in any environment requires that individuals be able to give and take feedback, base decisions on fact not feelings, and respect and treat all people as equals.

A key factor in coming years, Carlsen-Jones noted, will be the ability to work in an environment that supports and nurtures open communication and feedback, an atmosphere in which everyone gets a chance to talk, but in which they also must listen.

To feel comfortable in this new environment, many individuals will have to take stock of themselves and decide how they are going to approach the challenges and opportunities inherent in change.

One of the best ways to create a positive attitude toward change while bolstering one’s confidence is through “self-talk.”

In self-talk, Carlsen-Jones said, “you say ‘I can cope. I can turn this negative into a positive for me.’ Through self-talk, individuals learn to recognize in themselves the good things they do, they learn to avoid the tendency to ‘put themselves down.’ ”

She noted that self-talk works because “the brain believes that what it is told is true. If you wake up saying ‘I know I’m going to have a bad day,’ you will. You are programming yourself for failure.”

Instead, she said, “we need to give ourselves good, healthy messages, we need to applaud ourselves for small changes and improvements.

Carlsen-Jones also suggested that people learn techniques to relax themselves in stressful situations. “You can’t listen unless you feel calm inside. When you feel calm, you’re in control of your response to change. You’ll be more comfortable working in a more open environment. “Practice deep breathing and relaxation, techniques,” she told her audience. “As you breathe in, think wonderful things, of quiet, of peace. Breathe out negative thoughts, anxiety, tension.”

Other things to try while developing a positive attitude and dealing with the stress of a new environment:

  • Get plenty of exercise and sleep.

  • Save some time for yourself.

  • Use prayer and/or meditation.

  • Pursue a hobby.

  • Read a positive book.

  • Look at your standards. Are you a perfectionist? Are there some situations in which OK is good enough?

  • Eat healthy.