I've been thinking long and hard about my own change resistance. After all, I've never really considered myself to be change resistant.
- I'm usually happy to test out new versions of software
- I'll ocasionally find new music that I like
- I'll generally take to a new car quite happily
What could I be change resistant about?
The funny thing is, that the more I try to find things that I'm not resistant to, the more I discover that I am actually very resistant. It turns out that change resistance isn't some giant misstep at all but rather a series of smaller resistances which build up over time.
The Big Examples
It's easy to find big examples of change resistance in my life because they're the things I feel strongly about. What is interesting though is that they're not all "sensible" things. In fact, often my change resistance overrules the sensible alternatives.
Recently we "moved house", actually since we did a knockdown-rebuild, we moved house twice. I was initially quite resistant to the idea but pressure from my wife eventually wore me down. We had looked around at houses and although we found some which were passable the thought that kept going through my mind as we looked was that there was too much change at once. The house, the area and perhaps even the kids schools. I wasn't sure that I could cope.
When the decision was made to knock down our old house and build a new one on the same site, I relaxed somewhat. It was good to know that we'd be keeping the same location at least. I probably should have shed a tear over the passing of the old house but instead, I was far more concerned with the temporary move (one year). I had a lot of problems dealing with that move - and so did the kids. The move back, once our house was completed was a bit easier but by then I'd accepted the change of location and become resistant again.
It was a stressful time for me and my family. We had some fierce arguements and it's only now that I can see how big a part my change resistance played in those arguements.
I'm coming up to ten years in my current job and I've been asked on several occasions by my wife, colleagues and friends, why I don't leave. Sometimes I'm treated well at work and sometimes I'm not. I'm quite often saddled with blame for other people's mistakes because I'm fairly accepting of blame. I'm always willing to assume that I've made a mistake, even when I know that I haven't, because it's preferable to the emotional games that other people play when they don't get their way. Similarly, I quite often have others claiming credit for my work. Since we don't get output-based bonuses at work (there are bonuses but the real reason for their allocation escapes me), there's no issues there, so I don't bother fighting for it. The confrontation isn't worth my effort. If that's not enough, I tend to work close to 50 hours per week, sometimes more.
In short, sometimes work is a nightmare but I won't leave because I'm resistant to change. It would take a major upheaval at work for me to decide to brave the change and move to another job. In fact, in my last two jobs, I only left when all of my colleagues did. In both cases, the entire IT department left within one month of eachother. The first time it happened, one of my best colleagues had been given a redundancy which he wasn't happy about taking. The fact that the entire department left bought him about five more years of work.
I'm usually happy to upgrade from one version of software to another and I tend to be quite open about trying new things. Non-competing things that is. Until very recently, I wouldn't consider a mac or linux environment at all. I was a DOS/Windows person and everything else was "evil". It's a sign that Microsoft's latest moves are seriously irritating me that I've started seriously considering the alternatives. In terms of email and workflow packages, I've used IBM Lotus Notes/Domino heavily in my last three jobs. I'm not a fan of the alternatives and will generally give a distasteful expression whenever they're mentioned. I've often said that I woudn't take a job that didn't involve these systems. It's not that I couldn't easily learn the alternatives but simply that I'm so resistant to change, that I wouldn't accept them. If they decided to change at my workplace, it could be the catalyst that makes me seek employment elsewhere.
The Small Examples
The smaller examples of change resistance aren't so obvious but they have far more impact on my day-to-day life than their larger cousins.
Ever since I was a kid going shopping with my mother, I can remember being quite accepting of clothes provided that they met one simple criteria. They needed to be identitical to clothes I already had in my wardrobe. New styles, patterns and colours were never readily accepted and would sit in my closet for years until I either outgrew them or ran out of clean clothes and got desperate enough to wear them. After a while, my mother learned this trick and would make rules. "We can stay in the shop all day long but we're not leaving until you've got a new shirt and new pants". Eventually I'd give in and get what was, in my opinion, the best of a bad bunch.
My mother would then wait for a few weeks and then stop washing my clothes. She would engineer the reason I needed to wear the new clothes. Once worn, though sometimes it would take several "wears", the clothes would stop being "new" and I'd be able to wear them anytime.
My mother was very clever when it came to outwitting the aspie mind. Another clothing trick that my mother used to pull was to buy several copies of the same clothes with different colours or patterns. Sometimes it didn't work but most of the time it paid off. Once I liked one shirt, I could wear others of the same brand and style. There was a period in the eighties where I had just about every shirt you could possibly get with a crocodile or penguin on the pocket. Looking back at old photos, I can see what I dag I looked like then but at least I had "new" clothes.
Like many progressive companies, we had "casual Friday" at work each week. When our new CEO came in, about four years ago, he changed the rule to allow for casual clothes every day except when we were involved in outside meetings. The result; even now, I wear a shirt and tie every Monday to Thursday despite the fact that I almost never have meetings. Every Friday, I wear casual.
In fact, I've been so consistent in my behaviour that most of the staff have since forgotten the "everyday casual" rule and started to follow the same pattern. It's probably because the rule hasn't been reiterated recently and because I've been there longer than most.
My life is full of old routines which stem from change resistance.
Unexpected gifts cause lots of problems for me. I'm generally not a "brand" freak but I'm very particular about what I want in terms of features. In particular, if I've already got something that I love and it breaks, then usually I want the replacement to be exactly the same (or have a few new features). I have a really hard time accepting things that other people choose for me. I'm also aware of just how insulting that lack of acceptance can be. This sets up major dilemmas. People often get confused by my lack of enthusiasm over gifts but it's usually because I'm trying to reconcile my natural change resistance with the politically correct version of acceptance that I'm supposed to project.
What's worse is that my confusing facial expressions at this point lead them to ask directly whether I like the gift or not. This makes matters worse because it sets up a secondary internal struggle between lying (which I can do, but hate doing) and being honest but hurting feelings. It doesn't take much of this to send me into a near meltdown state particularly when the unanswered questions are repeated, which due to my deafness and failure to answer, occurs frequently.
No. I have a major problem with gifts although money and gift vouchers usually do the trick nicely because they neatly avoid the problem.
The last part of my change resistance deals with pattern breaking. Patterns mean a great deal to me and I'll often buy something specifically based on a pattern. Books and DVDs are a great example of this. When buying books, I tend to focus on a specific cover pattern and try to buy all my books in the same edition. This makes them look nicer on the shelf. There are a bunch of things that really irk me about this though.
- When authors have two regular publishers and therefore NEVER have a single pattern across all of their books (Stephen King, I'm looking at you).
- When the pattern is inconsistent, with some covers being white and some being black (but with roughly the same pattern).
- When authors bring out a book with an extraordinarily long title which can't be done using the existing pattern and require a font change.
- When a change of publisher's logo forces the spine to be printed higher up and the pattern doesn't line up with the other books/items in the series.
I'm not sure if pattern changing is a change resistance thing or not but the effect is certainly similar. Sometimes I'll spend years wanting to read an easily obtainable book but not doing so because I want to get a specific patterned version. Sometimes, a sudden change of pattern, particuarly when it's the last book in a series, manages to elict a cry of frustration from me.
If that's not change resistance, I don't know what it is. (obsessive compulsion maybe).