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Changing People

2012/11/14 - Author: Marco Neves

There is a saying I find interesting – “Men marry hoping that the bride don’t change, and she does. Women marry hoping that the groom change, and he doesn’t.”

The true is that both change, and both stay the same. It’s that we just notice what we want to notice, and ignore everything else.

Hope that others change is, more than a waste of time and energy, a dangerous attitude.

First because the things we would like to change are most of the time a small part of a bigger side of that person’s personality, and sometimes you can’t change one without changing the other.

Second because we only change on propose because we want, not because someone else forces change over us.

But, mos importantly, why would we try to change the others when we can change ourselves?

Most of the time what we don’t like on others is a reflex of something we may not like in ourselves or that we fell we don’t control. But if we can’t control ourselves, how do we expect to be able to control others?

Aren’t most forms of control evil or at least a waste of time?

Aren’t the parents who forbid the daughter from seeing any boys losing their time more than protecting their “child”?

Isn’t the state who forbids common behaviors losing time and credibility more than improving the life of those it should serve?

Trying to change others is a waste of time, specially because most of the time when we try to change someone we jump from seeing the behavior to trying to fix the behavior. And with that we miss the one step that would make us see that the behavior may not need to be changed or if it should change anyway, would help us understand how to change it effectively.

And that step is understanding the behavior, where it comes from, what makes it happen, why it happens and whether it is part of the other person personality or an escape  from some frustration or fear that may need to be addressed directly.

However, most of the time, more importantly than understanding the other person behavior, we should try to understand were our own need to change the other person come from.

Fear and unsatisfied desires are probably two of the most common catalysis for the need to change others.

Fear usually come from experience, often our own experiences, sometimes the experience of those around us, who we care(d) about and that had problems with what looks like similar experiences to those we try to prevent others from going through.

Sometimes we would, if we wished, be able to minimize the risks, instead of preventing the experiment, but for that we would need to understand where our need to change the other comes from, and most of the time we don’t know ourselves that well, most of the time we don’t know that well what is the driver of our actions – fear is quite good at hiding itself, of creating rationalizations for its choices.

If you can find really good reasons to change someone else, most likely your only reason is fear – it’s mostly fear that is really good at rationalizing behaviors.

When it’s your own unsatisfied desires trying to prevent other people from enjoying the same things you were not permitted, more than envy – that sometimes can exist – your reason to prevent others from doing what you were not allowed is the rationalizations you were given or that you created, and those are usually that complex.

Maybe that activity you wanted to do – ballet lessons, martial arts, equitation – was too expensive and you were not allowed to do it – maybe you were told that those were activities for rich people.

Or maybe in your family the activity you wanted to do was not acceptable for your gender – football for a girl or ballet if you were a boy – and now you’re projecting those same restrictions on your children, trying to avoid that they engage on an activity you learned was not right for them.

Maybe the activity was considered economically bad – artists of most types, writers, …

Maybe they are experimenting with their sexuality – god forbid it – and it is the wrong orientation (not yours), or the wrong age, or the wrong partner – or, hell no, partners…

Before moving on your crusade, now is the time to analyze why you feel the need to change the other person, and why you think it is important that the other person change.

If in the end you still feel that the other person should change, explain to the other person why you think changing is the best way to go, be specific about what you think the other should change, explain why you feel that way, and be ready to accept that the other person don’t feel the same way.

Make sure ahead of this discussion to think what is more important to you – your relationship with this person or the change you want to impose (you’ll be trying to impose a change) – and make sure to express that importance appropriately – never say that something is a deal breaker unless it really is – you may end breaking a relationship you want to preserve because of something that only annoys you a bit.

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