Compassion during change


As some of you following my story will know, my family and I relocated to Malaga in Spain last weekend. To transport the dog, my Godson and I drove from London with a tired Labrador and a heavy roof box of essentials.

My father had taken the lead in packing the house so everything I was transporting was down to him. Halfway through the journey we needed more blankets for the dog, and when we unpacked to find them, I discovered what we were transporting were not things I saw as essential. My Dad had packed sugar and teabags, despite going to a country with plenty of supermarkets!

Keep things familiar!

The significance of this is that during times of change, people want to keep things that are integral to how they work. We need compassion to recognise that when someone is suffering the stress of leaving behind everything they know, it helps to have small pockets of familiarity. The sugar and tea are part of a ritual that centres my Dad and enables him to make a drink in exactly the same way he makes his drink at his old house.

When everything else is new and different (conscious incompetence) the brain is on alert, using up huge amounts of energy to work out the next steps. Doing something that you know exactly how to do, without having to concentrate on every step (unconscious competence) is restful. The brain isn’t using much energy, the task can be accomplished easily, and the achievement brings reassurance that you can still get things done despite the different circumstances.

Don’t criticise!

How often in change do we “police the environment”, dictating what people will need in their new world? We issue instructions about shredding documents, deleting access to old copies of software and stop using reports and documents that we have always referred to when getting our work done.

The experience of my move has reminded me how important it is to let people bring their own comforters with them when they change. I shouldn’t worry that they will use these to roll back to the old ways of working, but recognise instead that they act as a temporary bridge between the old, familiar landscape and the new, unknown world.


If I have done my job well, they will refer less and less to these symbols of the old ways of working as the new ways become the new norm.

So now I am off to the supermarket to show my Dad the range of teas on offer in Spain!


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