Make Them Change

Bill Abbate

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Have you ever tried to "make" another person change? It's not an easy thing to do, is it? Yet there is a way to make other people change. Let's look at this secret that helps you change others.

Making them change

You have heard it a thousand times, "You can't make other people change." After all, you have no control over them or their behavior. You can't even make them change their minds or want to change. Only they have the power to change themselves if they want. I bet you wonder, "How is it possible to change them then?:

While you can't force another person to change, there is a way to create change in them, essentially accomplishing the same effect.

Helping People Change

During my career and life, I have helped many people change. Some of them did not want to change initially but change they did. I gave them little choice because of the secret!

I bet you have helped people change as well.

Instead of the futile attempt to "make" them change by force, let's examine a better, less direct way to "help" them change.

Changing "make" to "help" modifies the equation significantly!

Using an indirect approach results in change that would never happen otherwise.

Direct vs. Indirect Influence

The foundation of the secret to helping another person change is indirect influence. Direct influence through coercion requires force or threat; indirect influence requires neither.

The difference between the two is summed up as follows:

  • Direct influence – an attempt to make someone change through coercion. This requires them to change to be effective.
  • Indirect influence – an attempt to help someone change through persuasion. This requires you to change to be effective.

The Secret to "Making" Other People Change

Underlying the secret to making others change is shifting your perspective from "making" to "helping." Helping a person change is the result of indirect influence since the onus is on you to change yourself first, to affect them later.

Incorporating an attitude of helping with indirect influence creates the secret.

The secret: When you change, they change.

Another way to say this is change in you will create change in them! Any time you change something about yourself, the other person will change in response to your new behavior.

"I can't change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination." Jimmy Dean (1928-2010)

Making it Practical

It's true, everything in your life is affected when you change, including other people. You are the variable. Changing your behaviors - how you act, speak, who you are, and what you do changes your world and everyone it touches. Those closest to you will be affected most.

"Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself." Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910)

Let's look at a couple of practical examples of how the secret works in life.

Example 1 – Changing how others treat you

I learned this first lesson as a young man. I had a foul mouth until I became a Christian at 25. When they say someone "cusses like a sailor," believe me, I cussed worse than a sailor. The funny thing is, I had served in the US Navy, but that had little to do with my foul mouth!

The change in me was so profound its effect was far-reaching. It influenced my younger siblings, family, and friends. Merely changing the words that came out of my mouth changed my life and everything in it.

Those who knew me noticed the change, and it, in turn, affected them. I changed so radically that others quit cursing around me, and if they slipped, they would apologize. They knew I had become a Christian and witnessed my change, which changed them when they were around me.

Their change came through understanding who I was becoming and by observing my new behaviors.

The key to changing another person is for them to see you alter your behaviors. This happened because of that indirect influence mentioned earlier. I changed, then they changed,

Despite learning this lesson in my mid-twenties, it did not stop me from trying to make people change. That transition happened later as I advanced in my career.

"Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change." Wayne W. Dyer (1940-2015)

Example 2 – Changing your spouse or a friend

How can you change a close friend or spouse? Again, since you can't make them change directly, you must ask yourself, "What can I change in me that will produce the result I want in them?"

A frequent yet straightforward thing plaguing many marriages is the loss of closeness and intimacy. Most of us know that making or forcing our spouse to change is impossible.

Since all change "out there" begins in you, what can you work on changing in yourself to help your spouse change? You successfully created closeness and intimacy when you first met and married. Take a close look at who you are now and how you behave. Then, compare this to who you were back then and how your behaviors have changed.

Face it, you have both changed, but let's forget about your spouse for a minute; this is about you, not them.

Think back to the early years when you met and married. Like most couples, you could not spend enough time together. You would have done anything for her/him. As the old song says, you would swim the deepest sea, climb the highest hill, and all that kind of stuff.

It is easy to figure out what you need to do to change. The doing is the difficult part. You have likely built habits and patterns affecting who you are in the marriage that will take some effort to break.

Imagine the effect it will have if you can remember the value you had for your spouse back then and once again begin to appreciate him/her like that. Even a small change in yourself, such as paying attention to every word they speak, can significantly affect them. It's the change in you that results in the change in them.

Start with something small. Keep changing, and don't stop! Your marriage will reawaken, and your life will improve dramatically. If you are willing to change, that is!

"A wise man changes his mind, a fool never will." Spanish Proverb

Final thoughts

There you have it. You can create change in anyone you are close to if you are willing to change yourself.

Examine what you want in life, changing who you are. Your world and everything in it will change as a result.

There are countless opportunities to change yourself to facilitate change in your work and personal life. Choose one small behavior to experiment with, and watch those around you change as you change!

I leave you with a final quote and ask you to consider how it applies to your life.

"Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself." – Jalaluddin Mevlana Rumi (1127-1273)

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA
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