Have you ever felt frustrated when trying to help other people change? Whether it is your partner, your kids, or your co-workers, it can be very difficult to help another person change their behavior.
Here are some strategies you can employ when trying to facilitate change in others:
- Re-evaluate your own motivations for encouraging change in someone you care about. For starters, you need to need to really think about what it is that you want to change and if it is a valid ask. If you are trying to change an unhealthy habit in your children, that may be reasonable. If, on the other hand, you are challenging your partner’s political beliefs, that may require more insight from your end.
- Lead by example. This one is simple. If you want your children to brush their teeth before bedtime, do so yourself! When you lead by example, your actions will serve as a source of goal contagion for those around you.
- Avoid persistent nagging behavior. Instead, make use of amicable and informed discussions. For example, explain to your children that by not brushing their teeth at night, they can end up with cavities. Explain to your team that by coming in on time, they can prepare better for client meetings.
- Give positive feedback. When people are starting to change their behavior, positive feedback can serve to help them feel a greater sense of commitment towards the goal they are trying to achieve. As these early stages of behavior change can be a fragile time, it is helpful to reinforce commitment to change. Praise your children for having brushed their teeth without needing a reminder.
- Change takes time. If you are trying to modify someone’s presentation skills at work, give bite-sized, constructive feedback. Know that you cannot expect a perfect presentation at the next try. Be patient and be compassionate.
Changing behaviors is challenging for anyone. Being the person who is trying to motivate that change is also not easy. Behavior change happens in changes, according to one model of thought. A person first goes from not even thinking about changing their behavior to thinking about it. They then start planning the change before acting on their plans. From that point, they can maintain the change or revert to their previous state. So, you see, it’s not meant to be easy!
The next time you start to feel frustrated at not being able to bring about change in someone’s behavior, think about what stage of change they may be at. Think about what strategies you are currently using and how you can modify those strategies to more helpful ones. Ensure frank and friendly discussions. And, most importantly, give it time!