Kübler-Ross model

Over the weekend we reflected on some of the stories posted last week: increasing levels of methane from melting permafrost; the rising costs of climate change events; the fact that investments in renewable energy last year passed those in fossil fuel energy; and the fact that companies can now make plastic cups out of plants.

We realised that each of these stories brought out a different emotion in us. So this week we’re going to start with a review of the “Kübler-Ross model”.

We’ll summarise it briefly and then focus on the implications for permabusiness and you.

Elizabeth Kübler-Ross was born one of triplets. Against her father’s wishes she studied medicine and is best known for identifying the five emotional stages that all human beings seem to go through, when they are confronted by a major change they do not want and cannot control.

The five stages are:

  • Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance,

and they can be visualised like this:

The time taken to move between the stages varies from person to person, and situation to situation. But the usual response when confronted with any major unwanted change is Denial, followed by Anger that the change is happening.  Anger then moves into Bargaining to try to reverse or reduce the change. Then comes Depression, as Bargaining fails and reality sinks in. And after a time, Acceptance of what cannot be changed brings a renewed eagerness and ability to engage with the world.

What does this have to do with permabusiness?

First, it is a reminder that each of the stories we encounter creates an emotional reaction in us. We are all at different stages along the path, and different stories will trigger different reactions. For example, the story about permafrost methane prompted anger and then depression in us. The story about rising costs of insurance prompted anger and bargaining. The stories about renewable energy investment and plastic from plants brought acceptance and enthusiasm to get on and do what needs to be done.

Different people will have different reactions, and this is fine. And this also shows that our emotional reactions are not reality — they are only our individual emotional reaction… to reality. And this brings us to the third insight.

Whenever we encounter a change (and there is a lot of change happening in the world right now) the response we bring to it has a lot to do with where we are on the Kübler-Ross cycle in respect of that change.

If we can recognise this, then it can help us move more quickly from the first four stages (anger, denial, bargaining and depression), which are the most immediate reactions but which also tend to keep us stuck in wanting to go back to the way things used to be, to the fifth stage which is about ‘acceptance’ and the desire to reengage.

‘Acceptance’ does not mean ‘agreeing’ with the way things are. It means deciding (as Jack Welch used to say) to “accept reality as it is, not as it once was, or how you would like it to be.” And then from there deciding to engage to create the kind of results you want.

‘Acceptance’ is about the idea contained within the Serenity Prayer:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.”

‘Acceptance’ is about realising that every time the situation gets worse it also brings an opportunity to make things better again. (Or the opportunity to get angry, deny, bargain or get depressed.)

‘Acceptance’ is about realising that every time an old business model becomes ‘impossible’ or too expensive, it means that there is a new marketplace opportunity waiting for someone who can find a new way to deliver the old product/service, or the benefits it offered.

‘Acceptance’ is about realising that every time a decision is taken that makes the situation worse, there are more and more people who are willing to stand up and fight with you to reverse that decision or push for other change.

Acceptance is about the realisation that it is often the brink of disaster that spurs people to take the action that is needed. It is the realisation that however difficult it might become for you to carry on doing what you are used to doing, at the same time there are increasing numbers of people who are facing similar changes and who are crying out for the new services that you could offer.

Finally, acceptance is what this TED speaker used to turn disaster into opportunity:

If you want more detail on the Kübler-Ross model there is lots on the Internet, including a wikipedia entry here, a table that describes more detail of each of the five stages here , and several more detailed versions of the process including as this one (diagram below).



Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *