Can You Really Change Someone Else's Behavior?

Is there someone in your life who you desperately want to change? A partner, friend, coworker, boss, child, or parent? If you are constantly thinking, “Ok, if I approach them this way or say it that way, then they will react the way I want," you are in the midst of a huge energy suck and a delusion. We can’t change people that way and we will waste our precious internal resources trying.

So, does that make us the victims of other people’s moods and whims? Absolutely not. When we walk on egg shells and engineer all our interactions to try to manage someone else, the only person changing is you...and not for the better. You are letting your desire to change someone else control your mind and your actions. You think you are controlling the situation by planning exactly how and when to say things but, really you’ve lost all control over yourself at that point. And your energy and joy are being sucked away.

So, how do you change someone else’s behaviors? Change yourself. Stop letting others change you (your actions, feelings, and mood) by putting you into reaction mode 24/7 and focus on becoming your best self. Take all that energy you are directing at them and face it inwards. 

You have a finite amount of time and emotional energy. Be wise about how you spend it. Let’s say you have 100 units of emotional energy today. If you spend those 100 thinking about what you can say and do to make others react to you in a certain way, you’ll be lucky if you get a 10% return on that energy investment. In other words, you are wasting your life force. If you, instead, you spend those 100 units of energy making the changes you want to see in yourself, you are guaranteed a return.

 If you want to change how others treat you, change how you treat you. 

If you want to change how others treat you, change how you treat you. 

Sound selfish to you? Then consider two things:

1) Investing your energy to change someone else isn’t noble. Even if you believe your way is truly better for that person. At the core, it is an effort to control. And when we do this from a place of neediness (because that is where we will be if we neglect ourselves) then we are making our relationships transactional not loving. Unconsciously, we will expect others to reciprocate our energy and effort, which will make them feel unfairly obligated and will make you feel resentful.

2) When you spend the time and energy investing in yourself, figuring out what you are passionate about and what your purpose is, you will flow goodness into others from an internal overflowing cup of love. You will be kinder, more generous, and will be able to enter relationships from a place of abundance and altruism.

So how does changing yourself change someone else? In two very powerful ways: 

1) As humans, we are all interconnected. Each relationship is like a mobile that hangs over a baby's crib. There is a delicate balance.  When you change yourself, your whole relationship system is thrown off balance and others will have to adjust to restore equilibrium. In a dysfunctional relationship system, they might hate it and resist change in an ugly way. You may even lose some dysfunctional relationships along the way. But changing yourself will inevitably change your relationships.

 When you start to love and invest in yourself, the abusive people in your life will act up. But, they will eventually change or disappear. 

When you start to love and invest in yourself, the abusive people in your life will act up. But, they will eventually change or disappear. 

2) The vast majority of our communication is nonverbal. So even though you are practicing in your mind the just right thing to say to someone else, your nonverbal communication is undermining all that effort. You are probably sending out one message verbally (“You need to treat me better!”) and a hundred messages non-verbally (“I don’t deserve better.” “This isn’t going to work.” “I spend more energy on this relationship than you, so I love you more than you love me.”) The other person will react to your non-verbals. But, by really investing in yourself, you align your verbal and nonverbal messages and become a very powerful force. Then when you put up a boundary, it has force behind it. And you have the internal strength and resources to follow through. 

Stop wasting your precious energy trying to change others. If you’ve spent a lifetime doing this, it can feel scary to try to change yourself. You may have been wasting time trying to get your needs met by others because, at your core, you don’t believe you can meet your own needs. But by investing in yourself, you will regain your power and your voice. Becoming authentic and self-compassionate changes your relationships radically. 

So, pay attention today to where you focus your energy. Make an effort to stop reacting to others and start investing in your own wellbeing. Change yourself and you will change your world. 

 The way you treat yourself sends out powerful messages to others about how they should treat you. So, if your relationships with others are tough or toxic, look inside for change.

The way you treat yourself sends out powerful messages to others about how they should treat you. So, if your relationships with others are tough or toxic, look inside for change.