One of the questions I hear a lot is, “how can I get them to change?” Whether the person is talking about a friend, a parent, a partner, or a co-worker, when we are unhappy with someone we usually want them to change.
Sometimes change is easy. You don’t like your clothes? Change into something more comfortable. Don’t like your cereal soggy? Eat it faster. We all encounter something we want to change that is distinctly more complicated than that. When the problem is within a relationship, our natural tendency is often to avoid it.
Dealing with conflict in a relationship can be nerve wracking. You may not be sure how the other person will respond. Will they be angry? Will they understand and change? If you never express yourself, you may not be respecting yourself. There is definitely a wrong way to effect change.
Here are some tips to being effective at changing others:
- Know exactly what you want to change, and stick to that topic.
- Have some evidence. You will need a couple examples that illustrate the problem.
- Know your role in the problem too.
- Attack the problem, not the person. Use “I” statements and say what you mean.
- If the person doesn’t change, change your thinking.
Here is how these steps might play out, say, if you want your friend to stop showing up late:
- Know exactly what you want to change, and stick to that one topic. Hey, I want to talk about when you were late.
- Have some evidence. You will need a couple examples that illustrate the problem. Yesterday when I invited you for game night we had to wait an hour for you to start the game.
- Know your role in the problem too. Maybe I didn’t really explain that I wanted to start at a specific time, and I’m sorry for that.
- Attack the problem, not the person. Use “I” statements and say what you mean. What can we do to work on this? Is there any way I can help so that we start on time next time?
- If the person doesn’t change, change your thinking. There is no benefit to being angry, it doesn’t help any of us. Maybe I will have to invite this person over earlier next time. We could start the game without him. We could adjust our schedules so it doesn’t matter if we start later. We could meet at my friend’s house instead.
Changing your thinking isn’t easy! Learning to challenge your own thoughts in order to feel happier is a skill you can learn to benefit yourself and those around you.