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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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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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