“How do I make them want to…stop drinking, start studying, spend time with me, help me with the chores, be responsible with money, show up for work, take care of their health, talk to me about problems, help themselves or stop hurting themselves…?”
It’s a common question pattern. The less-often-stated, but more revealing, question is, “How can I get them to do what I want them to do? If they would, I would feel better.” Ouch.
People don’t generally make lasting change to make someone else feel better. When or if they do, it often leads to other problems, co-dependent or enmeshed relationships.
People are most likely to change when they experience acceptance right where they are at.
“I can not condone what they’re doing! I just don’t agree. I can’t just look the other way?” Acceptance can be offered without agreeing, understanding, or celebrating the behavior of another.
While acceptance isn’t easy to offer, it is possible. This phrase has helped me, “If it were so easy for them to change, they already would have. While I might think that it’s not that hard, I’m not them. They have all the information they need for whenever they choose to apply it.”
I’ve found that if I focus on changing my behavior toward the other person, it often creates an atmosphere where they can more freely choose to change rather than feeling controlled.
Change happens in response to acceptance.
When you feel controlled, the tendency is to try harder to get control. This leaves you being the person trying to control others. It’s very human. It’s not helpful.
Trying to get control creates power struggles. Power struggles poison relationships.
The challenge: be in control of yourself and your own behavior. Others will still be trying to control you, and you will still feel frustrated or attacked, but you will experience much less chaos and much greater peace.
Kid’s games provide a great image. When someone wants to play Tug-of War, don’t take the rope. When you’re invited to play Tag with someone, don’t chase them. When you find yourself on the teeter-totter with someone, just sit there with your feet planted firmly and allow them to dangle in the air — don’t push off. See the games for what they are, and don’t play.
Another great lesson comes from water. Warning signs at a beach with rip currents have these instructions.
Rip currents can kill. Learn how to identify them. If caught in a rip current, don’t panic. Swim parallel to shore until current weakens. Then swim to shore.
1. Don’t fight the current. 2. Swim out of the current and then to shore. 3. If you can’t escape, float or tread water. 4. If you need help, signal for assistance.
Try softer. Understand what you can control, change what you can, and pray for the wisdom to know the difference.