Metathesiophobia: Fear of Change

Whether we like it or not, we all must evolve—especially in the business of learning and development.

The essence of our learning and development work is helping others to succeed through the acquisition of new and updated information. How is this accomplished if change, or at the minimum, some level of evolution, isn’t present? That begs the question: Why do humans resist evolving and the natural progression of things so much?

Some experts say the resistance comes from either confusion or the perception of the loss of control. With one, or both, of these conditions present, fear is often the result. But fear of what, exactly?

Maybe you’ve experienced the following:

  • You weren’t consulted before a change was made.
  • You feel you’ve lost control of a project.
  • The way you previously were involved appears to be different.

Your possible reaction:

  • But I am always a part of this! Why am I being left out?
  • Who put them in charge?
  • We always do “it” this way.
  • Who do they think they are to take this initiative on their own?


What’s dangerous is not to evolve.”—Jeff Bezos, Amazon

Like it or not, we all must evolve—especially in the business of learning and development. We must constantly be on the lookout for new ideas, updating our skills and staying current on trends—especially with respect to technology and ways of learning. Staying current shifts our thinking and keeps us open to new possibilities and (it is OK to sing along) cha-cha-cha-changes.

Not being open to new and different is a conscious choice. Being open to and willing to try new methods is also a choice. So what to do to begin to be better able to handle cha-cha-cha-changes?

  • Choose not to react in the moment. Sit with it for some time before responding. It might look quite different a few days from now. (Upon reflection, for example, you might be pleased to have something removed from your already too full “plate.”)
  • Assume positive intent. People don’t typically choose to go out of their way to do things that cause discomfort in others. That said, it is helpful to have a conversation to understand the “why” behind the change and to express your position on the change.
  • Know your why. Ask yourself what you’re reacting to and whether your reaction is based on true circumstances or a story you’re telling yourself.
  • Consider. What if you did nothing—meaning take no position about it all and see how things unfold?

The ball is in your court. What will you choose?

Dawn J Mahoney, CPTD
Dawn J. Mahoney, CPTD, is the program content manager for Training magazine. She also owns Learning in The White Space LLC, a freelance talent development (“training”) and instructional design consultancy. She is passionate about developing people through better training, better instructional design, and better dialog. E-mail her at: