Improving your relationships
If you want someone to change - stop trying to change them!
I’m not saying you are wrong to want someone to change. And it is true our desire for someone to change can come from our concern for others. We can worry about people for a whole range of reasons - maybe they drink too much, are not exercising, not eating healthily, are depressed - we want others to be ok.
Of course, often it is the case we find certain behaviour of other people difficult due to the feelings it brings up in us and we want them to change their behaviour so that we feel better. It might appear completely justified to want someone to stop being late, to put down their phones and listen when we are speaking to them, to remember dates that are important to us etc etc but the problem with wanting someone to change is that the other person will undoubtably feel under pressure and the thoughts that generates for them are likely to be negative. This begins a cycle of negative feelings and thoughts - and generally when people have negative thoughts and feelings it can be much harder to find the energy and positivity that enables change.
No matter the reason for us wanting someone to change, the fact is that we are not happy with them and they will feel defensive. If people think something they are doing is being judged, is creating disapproval it is likely the most immediate response will be to try and escape this uncomfortable attention.
What people often miss when they are unhappy with someone else, is their own immediate response will also be to try and escape this uncomfortable feeling and this is often done by trying to place blame.
The placing of blame in relationships only tends to increase conflict and reduce the potential for better communication. Solutions become less likely as people become more entrenched in their own views of where blame lies and put more energy into creating bigger and better arguments as a way of defending themselves.
So what is the answer?
Well assuming you are not in an abusive relationship then the answer can be surprisingly simple!
Remember it is you that has the problem. No matter how tempting it is to blame the other person, whatever is going on matters to you and therefore it is your problem. The very best way to deal with the problem becomes the following question to ask yourself:
“What can I do so that I don’t keep feeling upset with them?”
Increasingly nowadays the suggestion is that if you find someone difficult you should tell them how you feel. That is often helpful if there has been a misunderstanding but if you are trying to get someone to change their behaviour you run the risk of being experienced as saying your feelings are more important than theirs.
So if talking hasn’t been helpful then what can you do yourself to prevent situations reoccurring? - Make changes for yourself!
For example, if you have a partner who is always late leaving the house and you get stressed because you end up having to run everywhere then you might decide that the easiest thing to do is to leave the house separately. Or if your partner behaves differently around certain friends and you feel uncomfortable that you don’t join those events. Or if someone you know always says something that leaves you feeling bad then stop seeing them.
At this point I wonder if you are feeling irritated, whether your thoughts are something like “why should I change?” The answer is simple, if you start doing things in such a way that you feel comfortable it will take the pressure of the other person. As a result, with them not feeling under pressure they are likely to start to think themselves about whether they might like to change things. For example, if you have started leaving the house early your partner might miss travelling to places with you and they will change not because you want them to but because they have found a reason to change for themselves!