The new normal
Written by Christina Mārie Tay, Resolution Practitioner
Change, as we have often heard, is a constant. Be that as it may, it can be one of the hardest things for humans to accept, as I have discovered in my area of practice as a Resolution Practitioner.
Change can encompass so many things. A change in organisational structure, change in physical location owing to the need to strengthen buildings following an earthquake, change in a personal relationship or change in the status of one’s role in a work setting. With change can come the sense of loss, a sense of ‘what if’, a sense of ‘why me, why this, why now’. As practitioners in the field of dispute resolution we are often called to sit with people as they transition through a sense of change from what was, to, what now is, and on to, what does the new normal look like for me and for us?
In my experience, people will rush to force change as a way of soothing the pain and the grieving for what was, be that a personal relationship, or an alteration of an existing business partnership or a working relationship with a colleague that has taken a turn for the worse.
My role in dealing with our clients is to honour them and where they find themselves, working alongside them as they move into the path of change and to support them as they transition to the new realm and whatever that looks like. I have on more than one occasion, asked my client/s to please slow down and let the change unfold. A couple that has been together for say 20 years find themselves having first time and not before conversations about a new partner and what that means for them as individuals and for their roles as now separated partners and parents. I gently remind them that they haven’t had to have these conversations before and that they are hearing about the inclusion of a new person for the first time in 20 years. To try to rush through the discomfort of this new normal doesn’t allow them to fully embrace all the new feelings this brings up and that we don’t have to resolve this immediately. I offer them the opportunity to make space for this experience in their life and to sit with the discomfort with peace and ponderance, if they can.
In this day and age of constant change in workplaces, the same thing. I work with clients who find their world turned upside down when they learn their role has been disestablished and they feel as if they may have done something wrong or perhaps not done enough to be considered worthy of retaining a role through a restructure. For those in the older age group it is quite a frightening experience as they recount to me their knowing about ageism in NZ and how they will have to try and start over after many years in the same organisation. My role as an Employee Liaison Service (ELS) practitioner is to listen with empathy, work with them in a way to try to lift their spirits and reinstall a sense that change can be a great gift if we are willing to see it in that way. It is an absolute privilege to work with these individuals and to be given the opportunity to support them in a holistic sense while they step towards and acknowledge change in their life. It takes tremendous amounts of courage for our clients to share their vulnerability with us as practitioners and I honour each of them for having the desire and willingness to make contact but moreover for being open to suggestions and possibilities. I often marvel at the human capacity to understand that change is inevitable as much as it is uncomfortable and sometimes necessary.
My 14 year old niece and I often say to each other, “What is the definition of insanity…? Doing the same thing but expecting a different result.” She was mouthing this saying to me in the back seat of their car on my last trip to her homeland of Tonga when her dad was trying to reverse into a carpark space on Tongatapu and he did the exact same manoeuvre six times and got the same result… Thankfully he had to go into the bank because we ended up in a laughing fit the moment he stepped out of the car…
Change, it is a constant, whether we like it or not.
About the author
Christina is a Resolution Practitioner with Fair Way.
She holds a masters in mediation and conflict resolution from Strathclyde University in the UK. Prior to completing her masters, Christina gained accreditation as a restorative justice facilitator. She is a member of the NZ Media Council which adjudicates on complaints against the media.
In 2019 Christina was awarded the New Zealand Law Foundation Young Practitioner Scholarship, a Scholarship towards a Master's Degree in Peace and Conflict Studies through Otago University, and she became an AMINZ Membership Admission Assessor.
If you would like to get in touch with Christina, please contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org