Dealing with difficult people can be extremely frustrating. Trying to change them can be even worse. Understanding why people find it so difficult to change can provide some insight and relief. Although changing another person is out of your control there are some things you can do that can help. This may be absolutely necessary if the difficult person in your life is your spouse, your child, your boss, or anyone else who you have close contact with every day.
Understanding why people find it so difficult to change is the first step. Here are three things you should know.
1) What we see in other people is very obvious because we can observe it objectively. This perspective is huge. Understanding that what we see is not as obvious to them is vital. Communicating our perception in a fair manner is the first step.
2) We have all been “programmed”. A lot of our emotional habits are formed in early childhood. It took us a long time to perfect these habits, so to just “change them” permanently is not always easy. If you have ever tried to quit a bad physical habit like smoking, eating sweets or biting your nails, you’ll know that at first it is really hard to just stop. Emotional habits are even more difficult because they are not as obvious. Self-awareness is the key.
3) Sometimes people are aware of their annoying habit or behavior but still don’t change. This happens when the “payoff” for staying the same is higher than benefit of changing. Think about the person who is notoriously late. What kind of payoff can someone get from being late all the time? Here are a few payoffs that may be keeping them stuck. “I can get a lot more things done during the time I could be early or on time”. “I feel in control”. “Being late is fashionable, I wouldn’t want to appear over anxious or too eager”. “If I’m early I may have to wait for someone else”. Although these payoffs are double standards they are often overwhelming. The obvious positive payoffs that we may perceive, like “appearing more professional”, “improved relationships” and “reduced stress levels” may not even cross their mind.
So what can you do? Here are some tips to making lasting changes:
1. Change yourself first but state your needs clearly and respectfully. You can only change yourself. This may include letting others know that your needs are not being met and telling them what you require from them. You can say something like, “I have to let you know that when you are late I feel disrespected. My time is important too. In the future, I require that you be on-time or let me know in advance that you’ll be late. Is that something you can do?”
2. Get some perspective. Self-awareness is the key to change. You can’t change what you can’t see. If you require a new perspective on yourself take a look at your life and see what’s not working for you. Then, with the help of some objective and truthful friends, ask them what they think you’re doing to create this situation. If someone else seems to be unaware of a behaviour that is affecting others, ask a specific question like, “Are you aware that when you ________ it is hurtful?”
3. Uncover your history to discover your current mystery. Patterns and habits can be deep. Look at your early childhood experiences. Are you a people pleaser? Why? How did this start? Are you shy and withdrawn? How did this start? Finding the root of your emotional habits will equip you to make different choices. Conscious choice is incredibly empowering.
4. Figure out the “payoff”. Leverage is needed to change a habit. There has to be a bigger reason to change than to stay the same. Looking deeper is often the key. Honestly list all the reasons why you may be unconsciously resisting change. Then list the benefits of changing. Seeing both sides of the picture is the only way to “get it”. If you are dealing with another person ask them why they think they don’t change. This will help them process why they may be stuck.
5. Do the “21-day habit change”. By changing an emotional habit for 21 days you will be well on your way to permanent change. Just 21 days. Track it, journal it or create a spreadsheet. If you can get through that the rest will be a breeze. Hang in there!
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Debbie Roberts and Werner Hofstatter are personal and business coaches and founders of AIM Coaching. “Selfhelp4Life” is a dynamic, personalized course that will have you living the life of your dreams in 8 weeks or less. Learn more and receive their free e-book “Complain To Fix the Pain” at: http://www.Selfhelp4Life.com