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The Comfort Zone and Resistance to Change

The Comfort Zone and Resistance to Change

Author: marlene johnson

At the end of this tutorial, the learner will understand the concept of the comfort zone and how it impacts conflict resolution

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Video Transcription

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Why is change so difficult? Sometimes we can have the answers right in front of us. It can be clear to us what we need to do.

Yet we cling to our comfort zone. We cling to what's familiar to us. Well, I'm Marlene. And in this tutorial, I'd like to talk about change, our resistance to it, and how that can impact conflict resolution.

So the comfort zone, when I say that, it conjures up feelings of a place that's comfortable. But that's not always true. The comfort zone is the range of situations and feelings that a person is accustomed to. So it's simply something that we've grown used to. It doesn't mean that it's necessarily comfortable.

In some cases, it is. In some cases, it may not be. In fact, we may resist moving out of a situation that is quite uncomfortable just because we have a fear. We have any number of fears about what change or what something new will look like.

I'd like to talk to you about some of the kinds of fears that can get in the way and keep us in our comfort zone even when we know somewhere inside of ourselves that it will be good to make a change. So this first fear is the fear of upsetting others. The fear of upsetting others, that is a perception that one's actions will cause pain to others and thus cause emotional harm to the self.

So for example, we may be in a relationship. Maybe it's a relationship we've been in for years. And we are uncomfortable and unhappy in this relationship. But we share friends. We do things together. Perhaps there are children involved.

So we don't leave. We don't consider making a change, because we're afraid of hurting others. And so we stay.

This could be true even in terms of where we live. We may be living somewhere where we can't find work. We grew up here. It's our hometown. In many ways we like it.

But it's just not working for us. But we're afraid to leave. We're afraid to move out to somewhere larger, maybe a larger city where we could find work, because we don't want to upset those other people in our lives.

You know, our family lives here. We have friends here. We don't want to upset them. So that can be a strong fear that keeps us in our comfort zone.

Now, we can also stay put, either in our town or in the relationship, because of a fear of the unknown. So a fear of the unknown is a perception that undertaking a task will expose one to threatening situations. So take a moment and think about that in terms of the relationship.

If I leave this relationship, what's going to happen to me? I haven't been on my own for years. I don't know if I'll be able to take care of myself. You might have a fear of what the unknown will look like. Somehow staying in the relationship, dissatisfying as that is, feels safer than jumping into what you don't know.

The same may be true about moving out of the town you live in, wherever it is that you live, maybe moving across country, because you're not sure if you're going to expose yourself to some threatening situations. I don't know what it will be like to live in a larger city like this. I don't know if this will work for me. So fear of the unknown can keep us in our comfort zone.

Now, there are a couple of other fears I'd also like to look at with you. I'm going to put this one over here next to fear of upsetting others.

This one is a fear of failure. And that's a perception that not succeeding, not succeeding in a task, will harm the self in tangible or emotional ways, so we have a fear of failure. So perhaps there's a new job we would like to apply for. But we think, oh boy. I don't know if I can do this. I'm afraid I might fail.

And then what? I'll be embarrassed. And it just won't work. I don't think I have the skills. We're afraid we might fail, so we might do that in our work life.

We could do it in just our social life. Say we have a number of friends who like to go skiing. We're afraid we'll fail at this. We're not very good at sports. What if I break my leg? I'm afraid-- this is fear of the unknown as well.

But you might be afraid of being embarrassed failing trying out this new sport. So you say, no. I'm not going to try. So in our social life, in our work life, fear of failure can hold us back. We don't want to look embarrassed.

Now this next fear is the very opposite of fear of failure. It's fear of success. Fear of success, that's a perception that actually succeeding at something will harm the self in a tangible or emotional way. Fear of success.

Now, we might think, well, why would we be afraid of success? Isn't that what everybody wants? But if you step back and think about it, fear of success is not that unusual.

Take this new job. We imagine we're going to get the job. Now what will our lives look like? Well, there's going to be a lot of new responsibilities, new challenges.

I'm afraid of this success. Am I going to be able to keep up? Will this change my social circle? Am I good enough for this? Can I really do this? Sometimes the fear of success and fear of failure kind of teeter-totter together here in a situation like this.

Fear of success can also exhibit itself among young people. You might have a child who's very bright who's just not studying and getting good grades. Well, the child knows that to get good grades and study, they might be looked upon as a nerd or a geek. And they don't want to be associated with the kids who are the smart kids in school. So because of peer pressure and because of their perception that succeeding will in some way harm them emotionally, perhaps in their friendships, they prefer not to succeed.

So those are a couple of examples of how fear of success can get in the way of change. So I'm going to add this here to our list of fears. And any of these, fear of upsetting others, fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of success, can come into play in a conflict resolution process.

When you're sitting at the table with someone and there's a solution on the table, there could be a fear actually of the unknown if you're being asked to make some sort of change, or a fear of success, failure. Perhaps the change or what's on the table is going to affect others. You're afraid of upsetting them.

So when two parties are hesitating because of a decision that's been made, an agreement that is in the process of being discussed, the role of conflict intervener is to ask questions, perhaps acknowledge the fears, paraphrase what you see is happening here, ask if they can talk more about what this looks like to them. So there's a way to draw people out to look at the resistance that might be happening here in the conflict resolution process because one of these fears or maybe a couple of them makes the comfort zone seem more comfortable than making the change.

So I've enjoyed being part of this tutorial. And I look forward to next time.

Terms to Know
Comfort Zone

The range of situations, feelings, etc that a person is accustomed to.

Fear of Failure

A perception that not succeeding in a task will harm the self in tangible or emotional ways.

Fear of Success

A perception that succeeding at something will harm the self in tangible or emotional ways.

Fear of Upsetting Others

A perception that one's actions will cause pain to others and thus cause emotional harm to the self.

Fear of the Unknown

A perception that undertaking a task will expose one to threatening situations.