How Do I Change Other People?

nappy changeWhen people contact me with a view to hiring me to become their Life Coach, there’s about a 50% chance I’ll end up working with them.

However, when I get a call from somebody wanting to hire me to coach a friend or family member that conversion falls to under 5%.

In the past I would spend as long talking to such people as I would an inquiry directly from the person who wanted Life Coaching.

These days I won’t let the conversation go on for more than about 5 or 10 minutes before I’ll say something along the lines of,

“Get the person to give me a call and we can take it from there”

I rarely hear back and that was the case even when I’d spend up to an hour on the phone.

Of course they’d assure me that the other party was open to coaching and sometimes even that they’d asked for help, but it didn’t make any difference.

And the reason it made zero difference is because the person contacting me was more invested in the other person changing than the individual themselves.

In other words, change was being inflicted upon somebody.

Your brain hates having such impositions because it triggers the fight or flight response.

Sources of Stress

There are only two sources of stress and  every stressful situation or event that has ever happened to you can be traced back to a lack of choice and/or a lack of autonomy.

Note: If you want to know more about stress and how to deal with it, you can sign up for my newsletter at the bottom and I’ll send you my ebook on the subject.

This well intentioned approach removes both from the friend or family member and is highly likely to create severe resistance, even ironically enough, if the person can see the benefit in working with a Life Coach.

We all know people who we think should change and we all have our reasons for believing that, but it’s only a belief, it’s not reality.

No matter how much we insist to the contrary we really don’t know what’s best for other people, which is why the best Life Coaches don’t ever tell their clients what to do.

I’m sure at this stage you are thinking of examples where you really do know what is best for somebody and I feel sure you have found some.

  • Frank should definitely quit smoking – it will kill him
  • Emma needs to work harder so she can get into Yale and have a happy future
  • Gary needs to stop driving his motorcycle so quickly because he’ll end up in an accident
  • Sara ought to pay more attention to her appearance if she wants to get on in life
  • Bob needs to stop fondling small barnyard animals because he’ll get arrested

None of those sound unreasonable, but they all are.

If you can come up with any incident where the above didn’t happen, then all you are doing is creating a complex equivalence (click the link if you want to know what they are).

  • Maybe Frank enjoys smoking and never gets sick from it, many people don’t. Or perhaps he develops lung cancer goes through 3 years of living hell and comes out of it a stronger, happier and more resilient person and highly grateful for his experience
  • Emma could get into Yale and spend the next 30 years doing a high pressure job she hates
  • Maybe an accident will be a wake up call to Gary, or perhaps he never has the predicted accident just years of fun on his bike?
  • Sara might not want to ‘get on’. She may not want to yield to social stereotyping and feels that she either succeeds on her terms or not at all
  • Ok you may have a point with this one, although I’m sure in some States fondling small barnyard animals isn’t even illegal and who knows, maybe they like it?

You may be cottoning on to the fact that the headline was somewhat of a trick.

That not only can you not change anybody else, but more importantly you shouldn’t even try except maybe in the most extreme life threatening situations, they have asked you to help them or it’s a baby with a full diaper.

You Can Only Ever Change Yourself

And I say somewhat, because there is one important change you can make and that is to yourself.

You can alter the way you view the situation, you can commit to adopting a curious rather than a judgmental mindset and most importantly you can decide that you love the person unconditionally and not based upon some ideal mental construct that you have built.

Ironically enough, when you do the above, not only do you feel happier and more content, but others will often unconsciously notice this change and start to mirror it.