Wanting other people to change

Most of the ways in which we try to change others, backfire. Photo by Uday Mittal on Unsplash

We all like to live comfortably.  And part of being comfortable is being around other people who fit in with our lifestyle.  We make friends who are good company, or who fit in with our ways.  We stay closer to family that looks after us, and maybe stay away from family that is a pain to us.

Even so, we find ourselves wishing that those closest to us would change.  Perhaps we wish our friends would listen to us more.  Or we wish that our partners gave us more attention.  Or that our bosses or clients were kinder.

And yet we can’t magically change anyone.  Wishing doesn’t make it happen.  Neither does complaining.  When we complain, others just tend to take umbrage and get offended.

We don’t sit and look at our fridge, and wish that it contained better food.  Eventually, we work out that, if we want better food in the fridge, we had better go and make it happen.  In the same way, if we want a better experience with our nearest and dearest, we had better go and make it happen ourselves.

There are four ways of changing other people: complaint, manipulation, education and example.  Complaint causes a big fuss.  Manipulation causes bad feeling.  Education and example are the only things left.

We can only educate others if they respect us, and if they consent to the process.  This is easier if we have a role as their teacher.  But it is almost impossible if they don’t consent, and are sensitive to being told what to do.

Most of the time, we are reliant, therefore, on setting a good example, and hoping that others will follow.  The best way to encourage change in those around us, is to set about demonstrating our ideal behaviour.  If we are lucky, they will start to follow our example.  (Most of the time, though, they will ignore our example, and continue along their chosen path. )

Today I will be patient with other people.  I won’t complain at them.  I won’t try to force them into any particular behaviour.  If they respect me and ask for my input, I will do my best to help them improve things.  Whatever the case, I will try to live well, so that I am demonstrating the behaviour that I believe in.