When people butt heads, it creates friction. Friction slows everything down, making it more difficult and sometimes even impossible to change.

We all have less bandwidth to get things done these days, and with less bandwidth — defined here as time, energy and willingness — the tendency to create friction with those around us increases. This may occur with those with whom we disagree, those we perceive as roadblocking our way forward, or those who may just annoy us for a variety of reasons.

I am going to share the three most effective things all of us can do to help resolve friction and move past it. All three revolve around an attitude, willingness and strong desire to facilitate a healthier approach. I will acknowledge that these three suggestions are offered much too simplistically. There are books, articles and essays exploring each of these concepts in much greater depth, so reach out if you’d like further insight from suggested readings.

1. Express Admiration

If we hear something or observe an action we truly like from someone, tell them.

Expressing admiration — some might call it appreciation — seems to be one of those magical, universal lubricants to ease friction and upsets. If we can find something to praise in those around us, it is amazing how much more receptive they will be to our points of view. Age does not matter. This works well with everyone from children to seniors.

Here are some examples.

“You know, Trisha, I can see that you really take care to ensure all pieces of the project have been clarified so there is no confusion or questions for us. I appreciate your efforts. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help as it makes a difference.”

“Fred, I can hear how you use word repetition to ensure your ideas are really heard and understood. That has made it easier for me to hear what you are stressing as important. Thank you.”

“Great job, Mariah, on your recent A in English. I glanced at your paper and it is obvious you did some deep research on that topic before you submitted your ideas. I’m proud of you.”

Of course, expressing admiration or appreciation must be done sincerely. Most people can easily spot phoniness or insincerity.

2. Give Hope

All of us need hope. Those who have lost hope will stop trying. It is that simple. If team members or co-workers don’t feel they’ve been heard or listened to, after a while it’s natural for them to think a problem can no longer be resolved. They will stop seeking solutions or working with you.

A few months ago, someone asked me for something and without thinking, I blurted out: “I’m too tired to care.” It was the truth, because I was just exhausted.

It was an important reminder that the longer we’ve been under continuous change — planned or unplanned — the more those mouth filters thin out. A lot of change is stressful. It’s hard to keep our bearings. That was at the heart of the problem for me. I was too tired to care anymore. I needed rejuvenation and a new perspective. I needed renewed hope.

Worldwide change management leader Prosci advocates placing hope at or near the top of tactics to mitigate resistance to change. People respond favorably when they are hopeful that change will bring about an opportunity and prospect for a better future. This has never been more true than right now. We must give hope. If you don’t have enough hope yourself, that’s where we start.

There are many ways to give hope. The right script will present itself at the right time. But you must first believe it yourself in order to give hope.

3. Be Courageous

Change takes courage. In fact, just living in this day and age takes courage.

Facing fear can start with this daily mantra: “I am courageous.” That is an important first step in pushing through and confronting the amount of fear flowing around and through us. We must achieve a mindset of being courageous.

A friend recently told me a story that may help illustrate. He was on an international flight and noticed a young woman seated nearby. Every time the plane would hit any turbulence, she would startle and jump. She was desperately trying to cope by listening to her headphones and gripping her seat. Finally, he caught her eye and mouthed the words, “You’re scared.” She took off her headset and nodded yes and expressed how much she wanted a drink to help her cope. She told him her story of how she lived in South Africa, attended a university in Turkey and had a boyfriend in Miami. Yet, even with all that frequent long-distance flying, she was terrified each time she got on a plane.

After they had talked for a few minutes, he told her, you don’t need to drink yourself numb to cope with your fear. You can simply say aloud, “I am courageous.” He made her repeat it a few times until she was really saying it with intention and purpose. Then he told her to say it every time she was startled by a bump of the plane and to do so until she believed it.

After the landing, which was always the most terrifying part of every flight for her, she told him she had begun to manage her fear because she knew by then she was repeating the truth — that she was and is courageous. The action had led to a realization of the truth and had changed her life for the better. She was elated.

No matter what our fears may be — and we all have them — we can overcome them with positive thought leading to strong and courageous action. We can also celebrate moments of courage in others, especially those who are facing fear caused by change. Courage is the primary ingredient fortifying people to deal with change.

Defeat the Enemy

The speed and force of change is our enemy, not necessarily the change itself. Every part of life involves change. It is natural and never-ending.

The key to defeating the enemy lies in mindsets and attitudes. These three steps — expressing admiration, giving hope and being courageous — can help teams find their way forward.

As one final piece of advice, I believe we should avoid using the word transformation as a euphemism for change. It is one of those words that has become so overused it has lost its meaning. What does transformation really look like? Just like when we say “birthday cake” — and everyone forms a different mental image of their own most recent birthday cake — we all form different mental images of transformation, based on some personal experience. Perhaps it was an abrupt or even tragic transformation stemming from a job loss or death in the family. Perhaps (and hopefully) a recent transformation was less emotional. The point is, the word covers too much personal territory, particularly today.

Instead, let’s start thinking of change in terms of a transition toward a defined destination. If you can only use one word, then perhaps choose other terms such as “transition” or “improvement” or “refresh.”

Let’s work toward that destination with hope and courage, while expressing admiration for those on the journey with us.


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This is the fourth in a four-part series examining change management and its effects. Check out our other topics:

Dana Houston Jackson is the lead principal change adviser at 1898 & Co., part of Burns & McDonnell. A straight shooter and advocate of new thinking, Dana prides herself in simplifying the complex in a “box-poking,” 25-year career in organizational development and change management. Some of her clients include energy, utility, technology, manufacturing and construction companies, government and academia, and nonprofits.