Monday, July 28, 2008

The Change Frame

Do you ever find yourself in a situation you don't like? Most of us find ourselves in difficult situations in our professional or personal lives from time to time.

In a tough situation you can adapt yourself to the situation, adjust the situation, or avoid the situation entirely. This 'change' frame is a great way to think about how to handle difficult situations when they occur.

  • Adapt. Adapt yourself to the situation by changing your approach or your mindset. If you are in a situation you cannot change but don't want to leave then this is your best choice.

  • Adjust. Adjust the situation to better suit you. Many times an intractable situation can be adjusted to become more bearable. If you are in a tough situation which would require you intolerable adaptation to make right and you see that there is a possibility of adjustment then this is your best choice.

  • Avoid. Sometimes the best choice is to run away. If the situation is intolerable, you cannot adapt to it, and you see no possibility of adjustment then this is your best choice.

  • Here is an example to make it more real:

    Imagine a work situation in which your manager gives you incomplete or vague direction. When you follow this direction you often end up getting criticism that you completed the task incorrectly. As a result you end up repeating work in what feels like a wasteful cycle. You may feel that your manager is mistreating you and that you cannot succeed in the situation.

    Here is how you could apply the 'change' frame:

  • Adapt. Change your work habits to ask for feedback more often so you can correct your course quickly and have more confidence in your work. Change your mindset to see the situation as an opportunity to learn how to be more effective at working with uncertainty.

  • Adjust. Speak with your manager and explain your need for more specific direction. Provide positive feedback to your manager when he provides you with the specifics you are looking for.

  • Avoid. Look for another job.

  • I think most people have a tendency to fall into one of these strategies by default. Some people tend to avoid too often, depriving themselves of opportunity. Others tend to adapt too easily, bending themselves when the situation should be changed instead. Others tend toward rigidity and will work hard to adjust a situation when a small adaptation on their part would have accomplished more.

    I tend to adapt more often than I probably should. What do you do?

    Special thanks to JD for teaching me the 'change' frame and blogging about it first.

    No comments: