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12 Ways to Help Someone Change

12 Ways to Help Someone Change

We’ve all been there. Someone we love is in trouble. The solution seems obvious and yet paradoxically unreachable. How do you help someone change without making them feel judged, disparaged or criticized?

1. Recognize that This is Not Your Decision

Accept and honor the agency of the person you love. Ultimately, the decision to change rests in their hands, not yours. You can open the door, but you cannot force anyone to walk through it.

2. Accept Imperfections

Resist the urge to ignore or deny your loved one’s human frailties. You may not be able to condone specific choices that they’ve made, but you can learn to talk about those choices in a matter-of-fact way, as events that have happened.

If your loved one expresses the conviction that they are broken, damaged, or that something is otherwise wrong with them, don’t respond by insisting that everything is fine. Acknowledging that there is a problem creates the possibility that, someday, perhaps it can be fixed.

3. Modulate your Own Emotions

When we feel the expectations of others too keenly, they sometimes drown out our own impulses. A person on the crux of change requires enough emotional space to consider his options – without being weighed down by the shock, sorrow, and anger of the people who love him.

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Create the opportunity for change by removing your own emotional baggage from the picture. Talk to close friends or relatives. Seek therapy if necessary. It is appropriate to express your feelings to your loved one, but don’t allow it to become a constant psychological bombardment.

4. Listen

If your loved one’s choices are completely unintelligible to you — if the things she is doing seem to make no sense at all — then you are not yet properly equipped to help. Learn to understand your loved one’s perspective. Listen, ask questions, and refrain from interjecting your own opinions. You may not agree with their reasoning, but you must learn to understand it.

5. Change Yourself First

Relationships are like a teeter-totter. They settle into balanced states, with each person providing counterweight to the other. Imagine two children who have settled to equilibrium: they sit motionless in mid-air, perfectly balanced on opposite ends of the beam. If they wish to reach a new equilibrium, both children must move. If only one of them shifts position, the balance will be broken and one side of the teeter-totter will drop to the ground.

Help your loved one by creating the option of a new equilibrium. Shift your expectations, change the way you speak and behave; move to a new place on the teeter-totter. You may be surprised at how quickly he moves to compensate.

6. Be an Example

People tend to emulate the behaviors, attitudes, and life outlooks they see around them. Exemplify the lifestyle you hope your loved one will choose. Hold yourself to the same standards you expect her to fulfill. Become living proof that the path you believe in is possible.

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7. Avoid Criticism

Nobody likes to be told what to do. We like it even less when someone tells us the things we’re already doing are wrong.

Resist the urge to offer correction at every turn. This does not mean pretending you approve. It does mean limiting your expressions of disapproval to a manageable level.

8. Use “I” Statements

Consider the difference between these two statements:

a) “You are so rude and obnoxious”
b) “I feel uncomfortable when you say things like that”

The first statement is accusatory. The second opens the doorway to communication.

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When dealing with sensitive subjects, try to begin sentences with “I” rather than “you”. It shifts the focus from a value judgment of the other person’s behavior and concentrates instead on the way his actions have affected you.

9. Find the Courage to Speak

When trying to help someone change, we tend to succumb to one of two fallacies: (a) the compulsion to speak too much, or (b) the fear to say anything at all.

If you’re in the second category, recognize that your loved one cannot begin to change until she knows how you feel. Think carefully about what you want to say, and how. Recruit a friend to help choose your words, and perhaps to stand at your side while you say them. If a personal confrontation feels too intimidating, consider writing your thoughts in a letter.

Be aware that people almost never change their minds (or their lives) at the drop of a hat. Expect your loved one to resist your assertions, argue forcefully, and perhaps even storm off in an angry huff. This doesn’t mean that the conversation was a failure. It simply means that your loved one has been confronted with a difficult situation and needs time to come to terms with it. Try to stay calm and stick to “I” statements. Remove yourself from the situation if you sense physical danger.

10. Express Unconditional Love

Few feelings are worse than the fear that we have become unlovable. Take time to show your loved ones that you care about them. Be sure to communicate that you will continue to care about them no matter what happens.

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11. Hold Firm to Your Convictions

It can be hard to stand firm against the emotional buffets of a loved one’s inner storm. Not every issue is worth arguing about, so choose your conflicts carefully. Stand firm on the issues that matter most, and remember that while you cannot control your loved one’s actions, you can control your own. Do not be afraid to take action, even drastic action, if the circumstances warrant.

12. Be Patient

Change is an arduous and time-consuming process. You would not expect a tiny acorn to sprout into a towering oak tree overnight, so don’t expect your loved one to make progress in leaps and bounds. Instead, watch for subtle indications of growth — a new way of speaking, or a willingness to broach topics that were previously taboo. Trust that these tiny adjustments may someday lead to significant change. And don’t give up.

Featured photo credit: anitapeppers via http

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Last Updated on July 18, 2019

How To Be Happy Alone and Enjoy Life

How To Be Happy Alone and Enjoy Life

Loneliness is a feeling I know very well. I live in an apartment with no one but my dog, and I don’t get a whole lot of company because most of my friends have moved to another town, got married and had a family, or simply lost touch due to life happening.

As someone who considers himself a loner, I loved the peace and quiet at first; but I found myself feeling very lonely within a few months. My space went from clean to chaos, my productivity crashed and burned, my thoughts took a turn for the worse, and I couldn’t find much interest in anything more than watching movies on Netflix.

After living a few months in a haze of sloth, I realized I had a serious problem and decided to learn how to be happy alone and enjoy my life. This article tackles 6 key things I learned along the way.

1. Take Care of Your Home

When you’re not around other people, it is easy to lose interest in tidying up your home. You might find yourself with a sky high pile of dishes and mountains of clutter everywhere you turn if you’re not careful. Even if you don’t have a roommate or company that frequently walks in your door, it is in your best interest to clean house at least once per week.

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If your home is a disorganized wreck, expect to feel stressed out as soon as you walk in the door. A clean home free from clutter will help you feel happy and organized.

2. Find Beauty in the Ordinary

If you don’t see beauty in your world, you’re not looking hard enough.

If you’re home alone and feeling down, walk outside and spend some time with nature. Watch the birds fly and admire their elaborate flight formation. Listen to dogs barking at each other in the neighborhood and think to yourself, “I wonder what they could possibly be talking about?”

Look at that big, old tree that is the size of a giant (and if you’re feeling limber, why not try to climb it?). Plant some flowers, a vegetable garden, or a small tree in your back yard.

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Go to the park, walk on a nature trail, clear your thoughts, listen to the sounds of the forest, and be in awe of the beauty that’s right in front of you.

3. Watch Out for Noisy Thoughts

Your thoughts can be your best friend and worst enemy. Have you ever noticed that if you find yourself thinking even a single negative thought, it inevitably spirals out of control until you have a nasty chorus of Mental Monsters taking over your brain?

If you find yourself thinking, “I feel so lonely right now,” it’s easy to keep that thought process going in the wrong direction until thoughts like, “I will always be alone,” or “no one will ever love me,” creep up on you.

Be aware of what you’re thinking about and stop your negative thoughts before they grow into Mental Monsters that are much harder to control.

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If you find yourself stressing out, do something that relaxes you. Light some candles or incense, take a nice hot bubble bath, perform some gentle yoga poses, or play soothing music.

4. Reduce Mindless Consumption

Being aware of world events is totally okay, but becoming addicted to the news is a sure-fire way to sink your mood.

Limit your news consumption to a small handful of articles per day because there is no reason to bury yourself in depressing news stories for hours on end.

Watching television is fine in moderation, but spending all of your free hours in front of the tube will do nothing to help you grow or feel better.

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Read a classic novel you adored in high school, go to a local community theater to enjoy a racy comedy or Shakespearean tragedy, and exercise at least every other day to keep your mind and body at the top of their game.

5. Create Something of Value

The best way to feel happy alone is to spend your time creating something that brings you joy. You could write a novel or self-help book and self-publish it on Amazon, start a blog about a topic that fascinates you, go the the park and paint a landscape to hang on your wall, or learn a new language, like German or Spanish.

Sometimes, it is hard to motivate ourselves to get to work creating at home; so if you’re feeling a lack of inspiration, pack up your notebook and laptop for a field-trip to a park, coffee shop, or downtown bench. A simple change of scenery can do wonders for your productivity.

6. Treat Yourself to a Hot Date

Who says you can’t go to a movie or eat out by yourself? I love treating myself to hot dates because I can choose to go wherever I desire without considering anyone else’s opinion.

Going out by yourself will help you become comfortable with being alone.

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