From Egad! to Glad – the Psychology of Change

By Greg Nathan posted March 15, 2024

Yesterday I sold my beloved Lexus IS 250. I remember years ago proudly driving this shiny new vehicle home from the dealer into the vacant left side of our garage, next to the family station wagon. I had chosen this exciting change to buy an extra car as it would give my wife, Ann, and me more autonomy. But like many changes in life, things were about to go pear-shaped.

I enthusiastically beeped the horn so she could join me for a test drive. Once we had adjusted the seats, I began reversing out of the garage while chatting about the various gadgets. The car started to move but then stopped abruptly. I pushed down harder on the accelerator, but we only moved an inch.

“That’s strange,” I said, feeling a little confused. Ann then pointed with a sense of urgency to the front right fender of the car, which was pressed hard against a metal pillar dividing the two sides of our garage. While I didn’t yell “Egad!” In shock like they do in the comic books, I did say something else that I won’t repeat. Because I had always reversed the station wagon from the other side of the garage, I had never needed to navigate this metal pillar.

From excitement to shock

The empowering change I felt when I chose to buy the car had flipped, and I was now experiencing a change that had chosen me - a very different experience. My excitement had turned to shock, and this was now morphing into a sense of loss. Not only had I lost face in front of my wife, I started thinking about the time and energy I would lose in getting the car fixed. I had also just lost my no-claim insurance bonus and my pristine new car, not to mention the thrill of my maiden voyage.

As I hunched forward, head in my hands, my mind started to search for answers. How could this happen? I looked across at Ann who was sitting quietly next to me. “Don’t even think about it!". She knew I was about to accuse her of not warning me about the pillar. Blame and guilt trips are unfortunate habits on my side of the family, and she quite rightly wasn’t having any part in this.

Moving from sad to mad to glad

I now moved from feeling sad to mad as I complained about my frustration at wrecking my new car, not to mention the inconvenience of finding a repairer and having it off the road. In her usual composed and logical manner, Ann reassured me that it was just a car, that we weren’t hurt, and we still had the other car to drive. She also pointed out that the damage was confined to a small part of the car. Her calm, helpful approach moved me from feeling mad to acceptance. And when she offered to organise a few quotes from some local repairers I even felt a little glad.

And that my friends is the typical sequence we all experience when a change chooses us, as opposed to us choosing the change. The latter is empowering and motivating, while the former can be frightening, depressing and frustrating. I call it moving from Egad! to Sad to Mad, and finally to Glad as we embrace the opportunities ahead. (These reactions are triggered by the brain's instinctual "freeze, flight, fight" response to threat).

Leading others through change

Having someone calm, empathetic and solution-focused can help to move us through these negative emotions to acceptance and gratitude. This is true leadership, especially when we must get others onside with a new initiative they have not chosen, which is likely to cause them inconvenience and loss.

In the world of franchising, the franchisor team usually chooses the change, while franchisees are often on the receiving end, and may need help to work through the initial Egad!, Sad and Mad emotions. I am enjoying teaching this as part of our new Getting Franchisee Buy-in to Change workshop, which I am delighted to say received a Five-Star rating at the recent IFA convention. If you’d like us to take your team through the workshop, please get in touch.

By the way, I bought a Volvo XC40 electric to replace my Lexus. I’m pleased to say it stops automatically if you are about to bump into something, and for that I’m glad!

Until next time,

Subscribe to Greg's Tips

Since 1990, thousands of franchise executives around the world have enjoyed receiving a regular email tip from FRI’s Founder, Greg Nathan.

These short stories on the psychology of business and everyday life have been likened to “mind brightening pills” as they open our thinking to fresh insights for improving wellbeing, business performance and franchise relationships.

Sign up now to receive your regular free tip from one of the leading thinkers in the world of franchising.

Start typing and press enter to search