Many of you will be familiar with the model above which is my adaptation, there have been many, of the theory offered by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her 1969 book, On Death and Dying, that people go through various stages of grief when dealing with terminal illness and other highly stressful situations.
The Kubler-Ross model has its critics, not least that the stages she identified aren’t always linear and certainly not equal in time or intensity – but to my mind this is where there’s both a powerful lesson and a process for change, indeed I think the real value comes from understanding how this model can be applied to many situations, not just the most extreme that life throws at us.
Let me take a couple of recent events at work to illustrate. Last year one of our members highlighted how someone was ripping off one of our models and in the same week another organisation launched an event with the exact same title as one of ours, it was just blatant plagiarism of the phenomenally successful programme we’ve run for the last four years. My first response was “how could they?” (shock), followed by “that’s not right” (denial), then “how dare they?”, (anger), and next came “that really hacks me off”, (upset). I then pondered options such as taking legal action but quickly moved to understand that this sort of thing, wrongly, goes on in business, (understanding), and then I thought, “well imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and anyway”, (acceptance). I then brainstormed ideas with our team, (exploring) which resulted in developing a brilliant new membership programme (details here) so clearly we’d moved on.
In the past I’ve been persuaded by the idea of getting to acceptance as fast as possible, however I now recognise that each of the preceding stages have their part to play in helping making the exploration phase more effective and thereby moving on more positively. So now I suggest an appropriate amount of time needs to be invested in each. The key here is an “appropriate amount of time” – if the issue is relatively minor, getting too angry or upset really doesn’t help and can hinder progress, but equally, not allowing these more negative emotions to be properly vented might dull the passion and desire that’s so valuable when exploring new options.
The lesson is to consider this model every time you’re in a situation that shocks you and appreciate that each of the stages you will pass through is going to be helpful. By applying this approach to more minor matters, when something big occurs, you will have trained yourself to be able to deal with the situation knowing that each stage is a useful step towards a better outcome.