Slapped Around the Ears by Change

Kim LaFever in PDX

Photo by Carlo Delumpa

Warning – this blog post contains mild swearing and strong emotion. Tread lightly.

This morning, my husband headed downstairs first when we got up to see if our cat was still alive. Fortunately, she was. She’s fourteen and while not young in cat years, she’s spent the last 13 years making sure not to wear out any of her parts. If you’d asked me a week ago whether I thought we might lose her this week, there’s no way I’d have said yes. She had a small, in-home accident (the worst kind, right?) and her decline has been sudden and worrisome. She’s hanging in there though. Last month my mother-in-law passed away. Six months before that our other cat died. It’s been a tough year of loss and grief and now this comes along.

As a change expert, it’s been interesting to notice my own reaction to the losses of the past year. The extremes in my language have been funny: everything is shit! Shit is not that bad! At times I feel sad and wonder if my quota of grief has been exceeded and other times I’m just super grateful for having known them at all.

Sometimes changes come fast and you don’t see them coming. This is pretty typical of what we see in workplace change, too. When we feel grief, stress, or frustration, our language often becomes distorted because it’s hard to explain what’s going on for us. When a colleague says, “It’s so unfair what’s happening” it is pretty unclear how many thoughts they might have rolled into one statement. If we want to help them, we might start by asking open-ended questions that start with who, what, when, where, or how and to get clear on their specific concerns. It’s much easier to help someone with specifics than vague, distorted, or generalized statements.

We might ask, “What specifically is unfair or what is happening?” As you get more information, you can start asking questions that may guide them toward ways to help themselves, get support from others, or see things from another perspective.

When I asked myself a series of questions, I eventually came around to something I know deep-down is true and rarely think about: there is a cycle to life and nothing lasts forever. Just going through the process of asking questions felt useful and helped change my state from just moping to hopeful – at least for now. Hopeful: I think that’s a 2015 resolution worth making.


What are some “bundles” of change going on in your life?

What questions could you ask to help you see them in a new light?

What questions might you ask a colleague who is struggling with change right now?