The first thing you should swallow with a glass of ice cold water is the fact that you can’t change anyone. You can only change yourself.
I’m sure you’ve heard this before. Changing someone should never be your intent unless you enjoy anxiety and resentment. But if you focus on changing yourself, in an honest way, the dynamic of any relationship that you're in will automatically change. And by changing the dynamic, you become a catalyst for someone else’s change.
So here’s how to change someone without setting out to do so:
1. Do the opposite of what you usually do and see how things shift.
If doing the opposite of what you usually do leads to a healthy change, keep doing that.
Most people react instead of respond. When someone does or says something hurtful, we react without evaluating the consequences of our reaction. When we react, it triggers the other person to react as well. Now we have two people reacting. Reactions don’t create change or growth. By contrast, a response requires metacognition, the ability to think about how thoughts and actions will affect others. This is emotional intelligence, and it's what so few people possess.
Change comes from breaking unhealthy patterns, so try doing the opposite of what you usually do. If you shut down, speak up. If you steamroll someone, shut up. If you verbally vomit, try listening this time. Then see how that effects the other. Many times doing the opposite will disengage the conflict and shift the dynamic instantly. When you notice this, keep doing it consistently and the relationship will also slowly shift.
2. Take responsibility for your part.
Most people blame. It’s rare to encounter someone who takes full responsibility. This is skill and it only encourages growth. Taking ownership means you must look at yourself and your unhealthy patterns in thought and behavior. The more you do this, the more you will have room to improve, evolve, and grow.
Blaming stunts growth. Owning promotes it. But what’s powerful about taking responsibility is that it encourages the other to do the same as well, hence being a catalyst for change. When you see someone taking full responsibility for their actions, the first thing you think about is your own.
3. Express what's in your heart instead of trying to get someone else to feel something.
No one can argue with how you feel. It’s your job to express your emotional state. If you don’t, it’s not fair to the other person. You're leaving them in the dark. Then when they don’t do or say what you expected them to, you can’t get angry because they didn’t know. It’s called communication and without it, there is no chance for a healthy relationship.
Making an effort to show someone the true you will encourage them to do the same. This transparency will build trust and strengthen your bond. It will leave you feeling powerful instead of powerless.
You have more power than you know. If you can’t or won’t use it, you have to ask yourself why?
And if that why is worth being unhappy.