We all have this mental model of what the people in our life should be like. We want a certain type of friends, a certain type of romantic partner, and a certain type of boss.
However, many times the people who end up in our life don’t particularly match our model. And when this happens, the most common reaction we have is to try and change these people to fit our model.
We attempt to correct what we don’t like about them, to get them to change their behavior and to turn various traits of their personality around.
Unfortunately, this attempt is typically doomed to failure. Working as a coach, something I learned very clearly is that people change quite hard and slow. And that it’s practically impossible for you to change another person if they do not really want to change.
Our Attempts to Change Other People
I coach people who are highly driven to change and (I believe) I use some of the best coaching techniques for personal change in existence. And still, in all honesty, most of my clients make relatively slow progress. It takes a high degree of commitment and consistency to achieve a visible and lasting change in your behavior, skills or attitude.
Now imagine a person who isn’t even truly driven to achieve this; a person who only feels the occasional incentive to adjust their conduct because you nag them or because they don’t want to upset you. Plain and simple, this person will never realize more than small, temporary tweaks in their conduct. For the most part, they will stay exactly the same.
The problem is that most of us get educated to believe that:
- change is very easy and
- we have great power over other people.
And as a result, when someone in our life doesn’t fit our ideal, the course of action we choose – and we frequently stick to stubbornly – is to try to change them.
There Is A Better Way
I would like to suggest that there is a much better alternative to trying to change others. And that alternative is to substitute them.
This means that when a person is far from fitting your desires, instead of seeking to change them, which is a lost battle, you search for someone else who fits your desires much better. You focus your efforts on finding someone better, not on converting the person you already found.
I know, it may sound cruel and impersonal, but trust me: it is by far the most effective and civilized solution you have.
The good news is that, although personal change is quite hard and slow, there are also a lot of people in this world and there are many people near you. This means that even if what you’re searching for in others is quite ambitious or odd, it’s very likely that there are many people near you who fit your model. All you have to do is find them.
Since change is hard, but your substitution options are numerous, it makes sense to capitalize on these options rather than trying to change people. And indeed, the people I know with the best relationships are not fixers, they’re searchers.
When they discover a person in their life is far from being the way they would like them to be, they don’t try to mend that person. Instead, they look for someone else who is a better match. The previous relationship then either takes a backseat or undergoes a change in nature.
This is very astute because a relationship that is founded on a naturally good match requires only moderate maintenance, it runs much smoother, and it provides a lot more satisfaction for both parties.
What This Alternative Implies
There is one practical challenge though. In practice, many of us have lost the habit of being social and constantly meeting new people. I say ‘lost’ because I believe being social is part of our nature as human beings.
Thus, we only hang out with people we’ve known for a long time, we don’t get involved in new activities, we don’t go out that much, and even when a new person appears in our social environment we may instinctively disregard them because they feel unfamiliar.
On the other hand, the searcher behavior implies constantly getting involved in new activities, being outgoing, actively seeking to meet new people and trying to get to know them better.
This ensures that new individuals constantly come into your life and your extended social circle regularly gets refreshed. And when this happens, not only are you more likely to meet people who suit your preferences very well, but you will also feel like you have a lot of options in your social life.
This empowers you and gives you confidence. It makes trying to drastically change someone seem like it’s not worth the effort anymore and it motivates you to simply let them go instead and move on with your life.
Get Started Using This Better Alternative
For this reason, if you’re not fully happy with the people in your life right now, the most important action you can take is to go out, get social and meet new people.
Think about it: is there at least one person in your life that you’re trying to change but you keep failing? This is a good moment to start considering the alternative. Life is too short to fight losing battles.
About the Author
Eduard Ezeanu teaches others how to be more talkative and, when it’s appropriate, how to not care what people think of them, and assists them in developing worthwhile, win-win relationships. You can find him on Facebook and Twitter as @artofconfidence