How to Get Others to Change
“How can I get her/him to change or make different choices?”
This question is useless because we cannot control other people. There is no answer to it.
It has to be replaced entirely by something like: “How can I change myself so that I can become a better role model and offer choices to invite cooperation?”
Another type of inappropriate question is called “What if,” as in, “What if it doesn’t work?” “What if” questions reveal an underlying pessimism and insecurity.
Insecure people have no basis for predicting successful outcomes, they can only predict disaster in the future. They do not focus on solving problems in the present. They are obsessed with bad things that haven’t even happened. They act to prevent, plan, and control potential, future pain.
Insecure people cannot see what is wrong with preventing disaster. They persist in seeking control, despite a lifetime of failing to prevent the next disappointment. They do not see that their self-prophesied disasters are pessimistic expectations fueled by their feelings of inadequacy to cope with life. They fail to understand that they cannot prevent the future by overreacting in the present. They do not know how to solve problems as they arise and deal with them as best they can in the present. That takes confidence.
All of this occurs below the level of conscious awareness. Insecure people need to become conscious of these vulnerabilities so they can change them
Here is another wrong question: “Why does this always happen to me?” This is the wrong question because it implies that we are guilty at the outset, and we invalidate ourselves in advance without even knowing it. We cannot reach an understanding of the situation if we have just knocked ourselves out of the box.
When we ask, “Why did I let it happen?” We imply that we are specifically guilty of the crime of “failing to prevent it.” In addition, it implies that we are responsible for preventing bad things from happening, and when they do, we are guilty of the crime of irresponsibility.
These mistakes are based in turn on our definition of “control.” We may have learned as a child that “bad things happen when I lose control.” To five year olds, it appears reasonable to conclude that they can keep themselves from being hurt by preventing these bad things from happening. They appoint themselves the sole responsibility for doing so. When something bad happens, they have no one but themselves to blame, they “let it happen.” If they only knew how they failed, they could prevent it from happening again.
In the meantime, they are feeling victimized by this turn of events, and they compound their distress by faulting their strategic defense system. They are blaming the victim — themselves.
It is all a childhood misperception that should have been outgrown but was not. It is a mistake to define control as preventing bad things from happening. It is a useless good intention that we have for ourselves. We are so busy controlling in this absurd and inappropriate way that we are, in effect, out of control in the real world.
It is nonsense because in an imperfect world bad things happen every fifteen minutes. They cannot be prevented by standing sentry duty at the front door. That is not living, that is preventing, and it is a full-time job. It leaves no time for happiness. We had put ourselves on guard duty twenty years ago and forgotten to take ourselves off.
Self-confident people do not make these mistakes. They take reasonable, realistic precautions, of course, but they do not devote their lifetimes to such negative, life-destroying ambitions as preventing bad things from happening. They take the ups and downs of life as they come and do the best they can with them. They do not imagine that they have the power to prevent a child from skinning his knee or a spouse from falling ill. Their worth as a person is not at stake, so they do not take these misfortunes personally at all. These events are regrettable, but they didn’t let them happen. They had no power to prevent it in the first place.
Tags: Anger Management, Archive