An overview of the 5 stages of engagement

In general, adjusting to change or coping with bad stuff follows similar lines psychologically. This is often illustrated by 'progression curves' in business management or psychiatry.

Alternative progression curves as defined by Kübler-Ross on change and more specifically on grief as shown below.

A Kübler-Ross Curve
Another variant of the Kübler-Ross Curve

Climate scientists and others working to fix our planet will recognise these curves from personal experience. Grief has many forms but the general process to cope is much the same. When you're at each stage, different ways of thinking or engagement work better. These are introduced below with more details discussed later in this section.

In psychiatry, getting people to acknowledge there is a problem in the first place can be the critical step. For example, the "Phases of Depression Management" are directly based upon the Kübler-Ross curve: 1. Unaware 2. Denial 3. Resistance 4. Flakiness 5. Acceptance. In this case, psychiatrists will use different language and engagement techniques to treat a patient. But they can't start unless the patient has agreed to at least talk.

This general process may sound very familiar as a general business change management sequence, where again acknowledging a problem or need for change can be the hardest part (examples here and here). Generally a business change process tacitly assume a desire for change has already been realised (e.g. by the new CEO) and any denial, anger or bargaining is to done by the affected staff. Indeed, a 5-part business change process is specifically designed to head-off the different stages of the Kübler-Ross curve. Few people or businesses like to acknowledge they might have got things wrong, or that the world has passed them by. The part of this book should help develop a mindset which supports you and might make an official work-place change management process redundant next time.

Structured analytical thinking can certainly help identify opportunities to engage with these 5 steps but by no means the only way - and not many people or company's do that instinctively.

In terms of a contemporary example of moving from stage 1 to 5, more-or-less, here's Josh Alexander's story in his own words.

But why might someone want to try and engage with something difficult in the first place? What's in it for them? After all, they might have (knowingly or subconsciously) avoided the issue for now.

The second part of this book provides some pointers for a change of mindset which might enable us to be better prepared to acknowledge (or even desire) the need for change and to go through the 5 change process stages, particularly when faced with uncertainty and risk.