You can teach people how to be better by leading by example, but you can’t change people. If you could, everyone would have become exactly what you wanted a long time ago – and we all know that hasn’t happened!
What Tends To Happen In Relationships
I’m talking about all relationships here. Parent/child, friendships, lovers, and even co-workers. One person always feels like they need to change the other.
For instance, in romantic relationships, too much time is spent trying to get the other person to be ‘better’ in some way. And whether you are trying to get him or her to talk differently, behave differently, or believe differently, it usually doesn’t work out.
If it does, they may try to change for a while. They may conform to what you think they should be like, and they may suppress who they really are for a while, but eventually they will start to go back to their old habits, beliefs, and behaviors, because that is who they are.
Think about it – change is really hard. Even with serious health warnings, many people will not change. Change requires persistence, desire, and awareness as to why they really want to change, and someone being forced to change is lacking the desire and awareness.
So, when nothing changes, frustration and anger set in. Eventually you stop trying to change them and throw your hands in the air in disappointment. “They will never change, so why bother?” is often said. And that leaves you feel like a victim. You get stuck in a relationship with someone who is not living up to what you think they should be, and ‘poor you’ has to deal with it in some way.
The relationship suffers.
The relationship becomes unhappy.
Breakup or divorce occurs.
The Alternative To Trying To Change Others
There is a better way! It’s called accepting other people for who they are. Hard, but beneficial.
To be clear, I’m not talking about accepting the fact that someone hurts you or uses you or walks all over you. That’s not okay, and you shouldn’t stand for it.
I’m also not talking about stifling your opinion when someone is hurting themselves. For instance, if someone is doing drugs, and you are worried about their health, you absolutely should let them know how you feel and try to help them get off the drugs. But, you still can’t expect them to change. You have to live with what they are doing and the choices they are making or leave the relationship.
I’m talking about choosing to accept someone for who they are as an individual, which includes their beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, and habits.
Let’s take the romantic relationship again. If you accept the fact that your partner is just not as romantic as you, then you can reduce the frustration that comes with waiting for your partner to do something romantic by understanding that it probably isn’t going to happen in the way you picture it.
Once you accept the fact that you will never come home to a romantic supper, then you can see the other qualities that your partner has. For instance, you can see their kindness, desire to please you, honesty, or silliness.
You remove your focus off what your partner is lacking (according to you) and on to what your partner has in abundance.
This can be applied to any relationship, and it will make you feel better about the other person and your relationship with them.
Parent/Child – Appreciate that your parents have lived and experienced things the best way they knew how. And parents can appreciate their children are trying to do the best they can too. Chances are beliefs and attitudes may never line up in this relationship – because they are developed from peers, current events, and life experience; however, that doesn’t mean that one is more right than the other. It is just different.
Friends – For the most part we make friends with people because they are similar. But, as time goes by, beliefs, attitudes, and habits can change. One person may develop a passion for spirituality while the other chooses to become an atheist. These are the types of changes that can break a friendship; however, by choosing to allow the other person their right to choose, and focusing on why you are friends in the first place (having fun, similar interests, or someone to talk to), you can move past the judgement and focus on the good aspects.
Co-Worker – This is a hard one, but it is essential to accept people for who they are at work. The best thing you can do is let them be who they are and try to focus on your own job. For instance, if you work with a lazy person, you are not going to change them by telling them not to be lazy. It just isn’t going to happen. So, focusing on your work instead of their laziness will benefit you. Let whatever happens to them happen to them and keep your head held high as you do your best.
Seeing Life From Other People’s Point Of View
It is also important to put yourself in other people’s shoes for a while in order to cut out judgement and allow people to be who they are.
For instance, that jerk at the supermarket may have a lot of problems at home. They may get yelled at, abused, or taken advantage of. Looking at it from this point of view, you won’t demand they will change to suit your needs. Instead, you will have compassion for what they are going through and remove the demands you have over them.
Try to imagine yourself as them and you will see that they are doing the best they can with what they know and have.
The Bottom Line
The point is this: Unless someone is hurting themselves or you, stop trying to change other people. It won’t happen. It will make you miserable. It will affect your relationships, health, and happiness. And there are much better things you can do with your time.
We are all different. Understanding and accepting that will go a long way. Appreciate others for their differences and you will become less judgmental and more compassionate.