Nail Varnish : Change is Hard

While visiting Manchester recently to take part in the 2015 CIPD conference, I had my nails done. I wasn’t driven by anything in particular, beyond the simple curiosity of trying something different, so I booked myself in for a manicure and off I went. The woman who painted my nails did an excellent job (sorry I cannot remember her name but here’s a link to the salon), and as she worked we talked, and I learned that although plenty of men come in for a nail clean up – I was the first in 18 months who had asked for their nails to be painted. Job done – I left and almost immediately ruined one of my new nails. Looking after these bad boys is hard work! I dashed back and after a quick repair I went on my way again.

Purple Nails
Matching nails and conference bag – on brand 😉

As I headed back to the conference I began to feel extremely conscious of my new fashion accessories and I became aware I was hiding them from view. I checked myself and tried to act naturally, at least as naturally as the first client in 18 months to have a nail makeover can.

As people spotted my nails, I began to receive feedback. The first person who saw them looked straight down their nose, blasting me with a first class Paddington Bear stare, before exclaiming ‘What on earth did you do that for?!’ I fumbled some kind of embarrassed response and excused myself. Others told me I was ‘brave’, and some folk told me they thought my nails looked great.

I kept my nails on for a few days (well I had invested £15 in them) and I was really interested in how I, and others, continued to react. My own prejudices surfaced a few times when I hid my nails from view as, with no evidence, I judged how some people might respond, based on nothing more than a split second analysis.

Nail Varnish
Sunday breakfast – shortly before the demise.

My nails were returned to their former unglory a few days later – this photo above is their final outing. For me – what started as a bit of curious fun, turned into an observation of how we respond to change, and to difference.

My experience reminded me of this excellent story by Bob Marshall, A Difficult Message to Hear. His poignant tale is of his own Mum, who when faced with a need to change her lifestyle for health reasons, chose not to. Marshall uses this powerful example to illustrate just how hard change is, and yet we have come to expect, and demand change from people in an organisational context, almost as if it were as simple as flicking a switch, or turning a tap.

My own ‘lifestyle change’ was simple to apply and simple to remove, and as far as I know, has had no lasting affect on my health. The experience has had a lasting affect on my learning though, through the simplicity of a manicure I’m reminded:

We often rush to judgment
We often react suspiciously to difference
We often find change hard

Author: Doug Shaw

Artist and Consultant. Embracing uncertainty, sketching myself into existence. Helping people do things differently, through an artistic lens.

One thought on “Nail Varnish : Change is Hard”

  1. I’ve received a lovely comment from Donna Hewitson:

    Hi Doug,

    I totally get this post. It’s the same for me every month when I have my nails done. Not so much because I’ve painted my nails but because of the colour I have chosen or the shape I’ve filed them in. It is expected, by some, for us to wear a neutral colour (I’m not sure why), but anything “different”, be that a shade of purple, coral, blue, green, orange (I didn’t like this one either), black, glitter or quirky nail art generates a different response and, with that, varying attitudes. It got to a point that if I had meetings with certain people, I would tailor my colour accordingly.

    Until one day in September, I thought stuff it. Time to be me. So I dyed my hair purple (I had wonderful support from the twitter community, especially those in my field) and started to wear what nail colour I felt like that reflected more about my outlook on life. Some have responded with overwhelming positivity. Most haven’t. Maybe not the best timing considering I’m about to embark with my own business but, last time I checked (and thanks to Tim Scott for this) the colour of hair or nails doesn’t affect someone’s ability to be an awesome human being and brilliant at what they do.

    Be bold. Be you. Embrace it and let others adapt to the change in their own time. Or not.

    Looking forward to your next manicure already. Art for nails sake….it has a lovely ring to it.

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