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Do people change?

December 17, 2008

A blogger recently asked, “Do people change?” in the context of relationships.

I was confronted with this question before but in a different context, specifically in talent management.

And this  was my answer.

I am a disbeliever of the concept of non-change so yes, I believe people do change.

They change when expectations keep disappointing them.

They change when they learn that different attitudes give them more of what they want or less of what they don’t want.

They change after a personal tragedy hits them.

They change when they win a million dollar lottery.

They change when they discover that they cannot control the world, as babies do when they grow up.

There’s a story to this. One of the companies I worked for paid big bucks for a pre-employment test kit that supposedly takes an accurate reading of a candidate’s psychological profile. This test, according to its promoters, can prove that people NEVER change their stripes.

Hmmm. That’s a mighty big claim I thought, to suggest that a toddler’s psychological makeup will stay frozen until death half a century later but that’s the claim they made anyway.

We didn’t really think about it until one of our staff took the test for a second time. He had just recovered from a family tragedy and requested for a department transfer so per standard procedure, we tested him to determine where to put him. That was when we discovered significant differences between his new and old test results.

It wasn’t just the test that said so. His colleagues noticed it too. He used to shout at his subordinates and flex his muscles at his peers. Not any more. He became less abrasive and more conciliatory. It took everyone off guard. As far as the test is concerned, he had done the”impossible.” He had changed.

I recall a debate about masks, that people put on different masks at different times and that deep down, a leopard never changes its spots. Really. Well show me the data and I’ll reconsider.  How is it that we haven’t died off a million years ago by being rigid unchanging creatures at the core quite frankly confounds me.

So I do believe people change, maybe not in the way we want them to but they do change. And as far as I’m concerned, you don’t need expensive test kits to prove that.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. LC Teh permalink
    December 17, 2008 3:50 pm

    Yes, people do change. But it’s not what others do to him, but what he does to himself, for himself. And best time for change is when he sees his life flash before him. Even the atheist would say, Oh my God!!! when that happens.

    Yes, in life and death situations the desperate choice to cling to life will require some adjustments won’t it. Unless one is a supporter of the mask theory who would say he’s just putting on a mask to fool the bear and deep down he’s still an atheist.

  2. December 17, 2008 4:08 pm

    People do change, just like everything else in this world. Nothing last forever, that is what I believe in – not your egoistic self, not your genius friend, not your high paying salary, not your billion dollar profit per year business.

    In fact, a change might be the only thing which can help you retain what you want most.

    I’m told that women always complain that men never change, LOL. I think men do change, just not in ways women want them to.

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