If you missed it, be sure and check out Part I.
When it comes to change within a person, let’s face it, we usually identify how we think others need to change before we look inwardly at ourselves. Yet, many times you hear others say, “You can’t change someone who doesn’t want to change.” Or “You can’t change people, so you should only focus on changing yourself.” But is that the whole truth?
I was working with a company many years ago. They had a top-notch sales guy who generated significant results. However, no one else in the company liked this individual. He was arrogant and did his best to make sure everyone knew he was the smartest person in the room.
As I met with this company’s partners, I asked them if they wanted to keep him. Their answer was “yes.” However, after I explained what it would take to help this young man change, they immediately responded with, “We don’t have time for that.” So, I recommended they let him go.
A few weeks later, in a follow-up discussion, I asked if they had let the sales guy go. They ended up changing their minds and decided to try implementing my suggestions. Six months after that, it was like working with a new person. One person in the company initially said to me, “I have never disliked anyone in my life more than I dislike him.” Within those six months, those two individuals became friends and hung out socially.
We cannot change others regarding who they really are, their personality traits, or DNA. But we can change how others engage with us or other members of our team. And in reality, we shouldn’t be trying to change who people are on the inside. Our focus should only be on changing unproductive communication and actions.
If we believe people can’t change unless they want to, why do we still try to change them? If you don’t think you do this, you might not be aware of how you respond to others’ ineffective behavior. In reality, your response is often an attempt to change them.
In some instances, individuals can be so arrogant and stubborn that nothing you do will ever help change them. However, sometimes, people don’t understand aspects of who they are or how they come across. In this case, with help from others, it is possible for them to incorporate real change.
Another issue: people are impatient. You might try to get someone to change (to stop being part of who they are), but real change takes too long, so you give up with the assumption that “They will never change.”
Let’s discuss the biggest mistakes we make when trying to change others. Next month, we will dive into more appropriate actions.
MISTAKE ONE: GET ON THEIR CASE
Many times, our initial reaction to someone’s unproductive behavior is to get on his or her case. By getting on his or her case, I mean that you get frustrated or hurt and respond out of frustration to others’ behavior.
The other way we get on someone’s case is by poking fun at him or her for whatever the behavior is. We use this approach to avoid an argument hoping that making “light” of the situation will encourage the other person to change.
Long term, this never works. It might produce a short-term result because the individual also doesn’t want to argue. Or they get embarrassed or hurt for being called out. But again, long term, this NEVER works. It does not produce real change.
MISTAKE TWO: IMPROPER EXPECTATIONS
If we begin taking the right approach to helping someone else change, our expectations are the next issue that gets in the way. Usually, this is a time expectation. But of course, other expectations will creep in.
People learn and grow differently. It takes different amounts of time to go from being one thing into something else. If we expect people to just “get it” after a few conversations, we will most undoubtedly fail.
Some expectations might be appropriate, especially in the workplace. But generally, keeping expectations to a minimum works best.
MISTAKE THREE: REFUSAL TO LOOK INWARDLY
People are different. And that’s okay. As I stated earlier, we usually see what needs to change in others before we look inwardly at what we need to change in ourselves. We cannot expect people to go from where they are all the way over to where we are. We have to learn how to meet in the middle.
If we cannot accept what needs to change within ourselves, we will fail at helping others change. Mistake three does have to do with mistake number two, as often it is an expectation on others to adapt to us fully. But, more appropriately, it is our unwillingness to also adapt.
MISTAKE FOUR: GIVE UP
The most common mistake we make is giving up. We aren’t willing to put in the effort and time it takes to help someone change. Sometimes, that’s just life. We can’t take on every person. That’s impossible.
Usually, giving up means we stop addressing the behavior, and we just accept it and deal with it the best we can. Sometimes, it means removing someone from our life. But, if the person is important enough to us, we have to learn not to give up. Change IS possible.
Keep in mind, the mistakes above work differently in the workplace than in our personal lives. The mistakes, in general, apply to both. But they come out a little differently depending on the environment.
Also, this does not apply to neurodiverse individuals or individuals who struggle with addiction. Seek professional help when appropriate and necessary.