The Secret to How People Change
Wouldn’t it be great if we could just snap our fingers and all that we do not like about other people would suddenly change? The thing is, while you are snapping your fingers, other people may be snapping theirs trying to get you to change!
Most of us spend time trying to figure out how to get other people to change. The reality is that we cannot… make… them… change.
Maybe you have tried to get others to change by being demanding and authoritarian, hoping people will change by brute force. This approach may achieve short-term results, but long-term sustainable behavior change will most likely not occur.
Another idea is that people will change if they suffer enough. Over the years, I (Donna) was sure my teenager’s grades were going to improve if he was scared enough about not getting into the college of his choice. That strategy did not work well.
Researchers who study why people stop smoking were sure they would stop smoking if they knew the gruesome health facts. The success rate of smoking cessation through this approach was almost nil.
Long-term change simply does not occur if suffering or force is the motivation.
However, if we understand what motivates people to change, we can have a positive influence on them and be a catalyst for change.
Here is the secret: change occurs when people connect with an intrinsic value—something they deeply care about. When they get in touch with what matters most to them, they will invest in personal change efforts.
The challenge to intrinsically motivated change is that many people are very practiced at knowing what they don’t want. Few people are really clear about what they do want.
When we support them in focusing on what they do want, it evokes their deep passion and connects with what has heart and meaning for them.
That is also why organizations must be able to communicate and constantly reinforce an inspiring vision, mission, and purpose in serving the needs of its customers (internal or external) and stakeholders. In such an environment, people are most empowered when their values align with the organization’s.
Here are a few suggestions that can encourage a person to change their behavior:
- Support them to see that change is a natural phenomenon of nature (just observe the weather and the seasons). Learning to be comfortable with change, in general, will assist someone who is resisting change.
- Be part of their support system that believes in them and inspires them to change. Show empathy for their feelings associated with change, while not reinforcing the reasons for resistance.
- Help them see the benefits—“What’s in It for Me?”—of the change. Reflect upon what is motivating them and what they will gain from the change effort. This must be based upon what they really care about, not what you have told them they should care about.
- Continue to listen openly for what has meaning for them, as you support them to take steps toward what they can control and create.
By following these suggestions, you will inherently be approaching them as Creators—rather than Victims to the old behavior. Now you are supporting them as a Challenger and Coach and empowering them through the TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic)® roles.