Most of us spend quite a bit of time trying to change others. Is some relationships this can become the primary objective as one party or both strive to get the other to change, rather than adjusting their own attitudes and behaviour.
It isn’t fair or realistic to believe that we can change other people. We can get them act differently – through threat, fear or emotional manipulation for example – but change is another matter.
People do change, of course. Life is all about growth and development, and inevitably we all change as we grow up, and with age. Some more than others, it has to be said, but trying to force someone to change is a non-starter.
Whatever the type of relationship – whether an intimately personal one or in the workplace – if you find yourself wishing you could help another person ‘see the light’ and change in some way that you think would be better for them, here are some golden rules to bear in mind:*
Change is voluntary, not mandatory. Assuming that the target of your best intentions is not doing anything harmful or illegal is it your business to help them change (wishing something could happen doesn’t make it your business)?
Are you a good model? If you want to influence someone you need their trust, are you ‘walking the talk’? Do you act in a way they can aspire to? Does your own life demonstrate the wisdom in your advice?
Even if they accept your guidance, do they have the wherewithal to do as you suggest? For example, if you want someone to act with greater confidence, or behave in a certain way, do they actually know how to do it if they decide they want to?
How do you talk to them? Is your style the finger-wagging ‘I know best’ approach, or do you adopt a more coaching-feedback style? Remember that you may not sound to them quite like you think you sound, especially if you have been giving the same ‘advice’ for some time.
*Actually, they are neither ‘golden’ nor ‘rules’, just things I think you should do (if you take my advice, which any sensible person would because I probably know best even if I’m not actually saying it).