Una's Blog


Una’s little world 47. How to change other people

by Una Hearne.

Will ye give over ye lunatics, you can’t change other people. Stop that nonsense.

I seem to be seeing a lot of people in misery at the moment because of what others have said or done. Most of their stress is because they think the other person ‘should’ behave or think the way they do themselves. Here’s the problem with that – everyone’s mind and experience are unique. Have you ever met a person who genuinely thinks exactly like you? In every situation? About every issue? Of course you haven’t.

Other people are aliens. And that’s ok. The misery comes when we attach ourselves to the idea that they are wrong and we are right. We think they should change.

Think about this for a minute, suppose you are dealing with someone irrational or downright mad in your opinion. How likely is it – from your experience of life – that they will change what they think and do because you think they should? Changing our thinking takes work and time. Nobody does it because someone says they should. You wouldn’t.

For your own sanity and blood pressure it is worth accepting at some point, that your feelings are your responsibility. No matter what madness other people are going on with. The stress reaction you feel is happening inside of you. Even if it is all their fault, even if they are wrong. Continuing to hold onto the thought that they should change actually just keeps you trapped in misery.

The best possible thing you can do is accept people as they are. They are doing the best they know how. Just like you.

Now breathe.

This gives you choices. Acceptance means you can stop banging your head against the wall trying to make them change. You can put your energy where it should be, into choosing how you respond. You do not have to agree with their position. You do not have to feed their madness. You just have to be clear about your position and boundaries – what you will and will not tolerate.

When setting boundaries or communicating your position, speak with compassion. At the same time remember you are not responsible for other people’s feelings and they are not responsible for yours. You mind your manners and your feelings and let them mind theirs.

And breathe.


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