July 2012: If Only “They” Would Change

by Brad on July 1, 2012

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” — Mother Teresa.


Whether with friends, new clients or in casual conversation, perhaps the most common ‘wish statement’ I hear is this: “My life would be so much better if only he/she/they would change.” Sound familiar? In referring this way to managers, employees, coworkers, friends, spouses or children, people seem determined to “make others change.” If you’ve read more than one of my newsletters, you know my first take on this: you can’t make others change. Instead: your world will change when you change. By changing the way you see and think about yourself and others, you begin to accept the world around you. This doesn’t mean you agree or condone; you simply release the need to change other people. And as you do, you experience the calm and peace you had expected to find only if “they changed.”

But what about those times when someone else really does need to change? What can you do then? Examples coming to mind include poor performance at work, bad attitudes with co-workers or customers, abusive behavior of spouses, friends or family. What then? Even then, and especially if you’re in a position of authority, you still can’t make anyone change. But you can offer a “powerful invitation” to those who need it most. Here’s a possible “script” for such an invitation. It’s adapted from this month’s book recommendation, Fierce Conversations.

You don’t have to change (your style, performance, attitude). You don’t have to change anything, period. No one does. If you want to stay here, you do need to change, but if you’re not willing, then you can leave, take another assignment, get on with your life. If that’s your decision, so be it. Perhaps you’ll get this same feedback down the road. On the other hand, you could decide that now is as good a time as any to work on yourself. Give it some thought; if you’re ready to take it on, I’ll be here to help. If not, we’ll part ways, no hard feelings.

As you can see, this is amazingly simple yet extremely powerful language. When you use language in this way, you need to be able to do so in the spirit of calm invitation, and at the same time be willing to back up what you say with action. Perhaps this is why I lean so heavily on changing yourself (your ways of seeing & thinking) before you try to change someone else. Because if you’re not in a place of self-acceptance and self-trust, you’ll not be in a place to either offer, or uphold, your invitation if the other person responds with yet more unacceptable behavior. Worse, if you’re not in that place of self-trust, it’s possible that it may be you who’s in need of changing. How can you know?

Exercise: Changing Your World, part I – Heal Thyself. Think of someone you believe needs to change. Instead of focusing on them, examine your thinking in the matter, the only objective being to learn. Name the specific behavior you find bothersome. Does he/she exhibit this behavior only with you, or with others, too? What assumption might you be making as to the cause of said behavior? What evidence do you have for the cause (not the behavior)? What feeling do you envision having if the person did change? Envision and name one other way in which you could experience the same feeling even if she/he did not change.

Exercise: Changing Your World, part II – Be a Powerful Instrument for Change. After practicing part I above for some time, you’ll find your need to change others begin to fall away, despite their behavior not changing. Now, think of someone who you believe still needs to change. Name the behavior(s) that doesn’t work for you. Name the impact the behavior has on your work/relationship. Name an ideal future state. Name steps needed to move things toward the ideal. Practice the ‘script’ from above in your mind. When you’re ready, have the conversation you need to have.

The ideas and exercises offered here are both significant and powerful. Most people are intrigued by ideas, yet struggle putting them into practice on their own. I am here to help; I love this kind of work. You are 100% capable of becoming all this article suggests. If you’re ready to reclaim your potential, I invite you to contact me. Together we’ll explore the thinking that holds you back and chart a course into an extraordinary future, no matter where your starting point may be.

A River Runs Through It  [Life lessons offered by nature]

Nature creates her own change – in each and every moment. Change is a continuous process. Rivers change the entire face of a landscape, yet do so with neither judgment, fight nor pretense. Canyon walls don’t resist being worn down, but rather sparkle from the polishing. For their part, rivers don’t lose energy arguing or pleading with the rock, but rather thrive from the meandering courses that result. With neither winners nor losers, all life benefits from the process. Plants now grow in the soil created from the breakdown of the rocks. Wildlife thrives in the shade and food offered by the plants.

Nature offers neither rewards nor punishments. If something works, nature creates more of it. If something doesn’t work, she invents something new. The wooly mammoth was perfectly adapted to its time and place. When time and place changed, the mammoth could not adapt. No hard feelings, Mr. Mammoth.

Our planet is in a continual state of change. Much of the current change is change we created. In response, our planet is asking us to change. As with our personal relationships and with our workplaces, the choice to make those changes is our own. If we decline the invitation, yes, there will be consequences. But hey, no hard feelings, right?


Openings to New Possibility


An invitation to bold possibility: As noted in this month’s article, I love to write about life-changing possibility, yet I am fully aware that most people will not, all on their own, integrate these perspectives into their lives. I’m here to help you. Good ideas are just that – good ideas. They become your own good ideas only by developing personal felt experience of those ideas, a process we rarely implement well alone. If you’ve noticed that despite the reading, workshops and programs you’ve done that your life still falls short of your dreams, consider a “guide for the unexplored personal territory” of your future. I’ll meet you wherever you may be on your path. Together we’ll challenge the thinking that holds you back, discover what matters most to you, and chart a course into the territory of your potential. Contact me, and begin to shift forever your view of what’s possible.

The Road Not Taken website: Visit my website, www.RoadNotTaken.com. You can now gain access to more articles, blogs, and newsletters, so you’ll find “new stuff” on a regular basis. This newsletter is found as a blog entry (under the category Purposeful Wanderings), along with several back issues. I welcome comment on anything you read; this kind of dialogue is an example of how we may all learn together. Oh yes, the commitment I made for June didn’t happen on schedule. Here it is again, revised for a July debut. Coming in July: The Road Not Taken Community, a subscription offering free of charge, giving you the opportunity to stay connected, to be challenged, to interact, to learn and to grow. Also coming in July: my first book, A Field Guide to Life, to be offered as an e-book as well as a series of blog articles you can subscribe to.

Book of the month Fierce Conversations, by Susan Scott. This book offers practical models for having the conversations you know you need to have yet don’t know how to have. In a way, it’s its own invitation to conversation. The book is not about conflict, but about the seeds that often blossom into conflict when ignored. She suggests that when you find yourself avoiding a topic, changing the subject, and being imprecise in your language, you’re being offered clues to having a new conversation. 


Download July 2012 pdf

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Dorothy Torrey July 2, 2012 at 7:03 pm

Hi Brad,

Thank you for your newsletter.
I read your following statement and it spoke loudly to me: You simply release the need to change other people. And as you do, you experience the calm and peace you had expected to find only if “they changed.” Thank you for this wonderful tool. I will make a conscious effort to observe myself and who I am trying to change, since I do welcome more of calmness and peacefulness. Blessings to you, Dorothy


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