Three Principles To Facilitate Change
We all know someone whom we’d like to “change.” By change I mean, you’d like to see their behavior or habit change. This could be someone at work, like your boss, or at home, like your spouse or child. Everyone has habits that may annoy you. You may see these habits as destructive or unhealthy, or simply frustrating. But no matter the person and their relationship to you, these three principles will get you well on your way to change someone’s behavior nicely.
Principle #1: It’s not personal
From the start, it’s important to remember that this habit or behavior that you don’t like isn’t about you. They don’t keep doing it after you asked them to stop because they want to annoy you, don’t love you, or find you unimportant. It won’t be just because you asked them to stop that they change their behavior either. No matter what their attitude or habit, remember that in their eyes it serves a purpose to them. And that purpose has nothing to do with you.
While you can support them and give them love throughout, the actual change has to come from within them. The power of their current behavior is so strong that they haven’t found a way to make the change you suggested, and they have learned this behavior early in childhood, which makes it even more difficult to live without.
The best thing you can do is to remember that it’s not personal; it’s not about you. Instead, put all your focus on and listen to them. You have to become a detective here and through listening to what they talk about and bring up; you’ll get clues into why they continue with their behavior and both how and why it works for them. 9 times out of 10 the behavior was learned in childhood, and because of their experiences through life they’ve learned to behave a certain way. Here you should listen, ask questions, and pay attention to their answers. It’s not personal, the focus should always be on them and you’ll get closer to understanding the basis of their action. Once you start to understand this, the rest will become clearer.
Principle #2: Giving up control is scary
When you’re trying to help someone improve their lives it’s not the change that scares them, it’s giving up the control. In order for someone to be able to change, whether it’s a little habit or a big one, they have to feel in control throughout the process. You can help them feel in control by working on the timing of when you bring up the change. If you bring up change during a conflict, everyone will be in a defensive mode. Think about when you were in an argument with a friend or spouse and they suggested you do something differently. You were probably defensive and immediately against whatever they said. Instead, bring it up after the argument has cooled off. Try when both parties are calm and relaxed. Then they’re more open to anything being said. If someone feels loved, supported, and is in a calm state, they’re more likely to discuss making a change with you.
When bringing something up, make sure you keep the focus on yourself and your feelings, not the other person. One example in a marriage is the early bird and tardy spouse. Instead of yelling during the time you’re running late, wait until a calm positive time and discuss how it makes you feel. You could say something like, “It makes me feel very uncomfortable when we’re late. I know you’re trying and it means a lot to me when we’re on time. It feels like you care about my feelings when you make an effort to be on time.” By keeping the focus on you, you explain how you feel and why you’d like to see the change without anyone becoming defensive.
It’s just like that Gandhi quote: “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” If you want someone to change, you must show an effort to change first. You have to talk about what you want to change in yourself and why. This will set a good example for the other party to become more open about change and will create a foundation for their opportunity to change.
So if you want to see someone change, start by changing yourself. Inspire someone to change by talking about how you want to improve. Discuss the things that you want to do. And talk about it when the timing is right. When someone feels good about themselves. When they feel happy, loved and supported.
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