Pushing Change, Pushes it Back

Everyone has something they wish to change. Employees want to change the boss’s mind; leaders want to transform organizations and marketers want to change their customers’ preferences. In the book ‘The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone’s Mind’, Professor Jonah Berger outlines a compelling approach to change. He asserts the more we force people to change, the more they push back. It’s not about pushing harder; it’s about overcoming resistance by reducing friction and lowering the hurdles to change. By taking on a catalyst’s role, it’s possible to accelerate change in even the most resistant individuals.

I have had the privilege of being molded by many catalysts in my life. As a business leader and National Director of CorporateConnections UAE Chapter, I highlight the underlying reasons why people refuse change and in my subsequent article I’ll explain a few subliminal tactics to help people change for good.

Comfort zone

Most people are comfortable with the way things are — status quo. Even with irrefutable data and emotional appeals, it can be tough to alter a person’s mind as they’re attached to their long-held beliefs, opinions and habits, that act as barriers to change.


Attachment to the old, hesitance to tread the new, risks of uncertainty are negative reactions we come across when we cajole someone to change. Neophobia, fear of the new, is an underlying reason why people refuse to break-free from routine. We like to feel in control and steer our lives, that’s why when we’re advised to alter our deep-rooted beliefs, we feel out of control and outrightly reject the request.


People resist not just when they’re told to do something, but even when they’re told not to do so. A direct request not to support a cause may not be accepted straightaway if it’s against their value system. Being told impinges on their autonomy and causes a knee-jerk reaction to not oblige for merely being told.

Cost vs Benefit

When buying new things (phone or car) there exists switching costs of time and effort. While the costs are upfront and certain, the benefits are uncertain and unknown. This cost vs benefit gap makes the switch harder. Until people are convinced of the benefits, change will take its course of time.

For these reasons, it’s evident that when you relentlessly push people to change they’re least interested. Rather than bombarding push messages or threatening the consequences of not accepting change, the trick is to focus your communication on the benefits creating a pull towards embracing change. Stay tuned for my next article.