You're stressed because you can't get him/her to change. You don't know why they don't change and it's driving you crazy. Well, here's the answer.
"Everybody thinks of changing humanity and nobody thinks of changing himself." Leo Tolstoy
Have you ever tried to change a person so that your life would be better? Maybe you wanted him to put the cap back on the toothpaste or to replace the toilet paper so that it unrolls in the right direction. Perhaps it was a bigger problem, like getting someone to be more considerate or to give up a bad habit.
Were you successful? Most likely, you were not. Changing others is very hard work. In fact, it may be impossible.
What is possible is changing yourself. If you change, very often others change as well. They change, not because you were trying to change them, but because they cannot remain the same in a relationship with you if you are now different.
Suppose others take advantage of your kindness. They want to borrow this or that. They always ask you to baby-sit. They want you to loan them money. You are reluctant but they plead or guilt you into saying, "Yes."
Later, you are angry and frustrated for having allowed yourself to be "used" once again. You might tell them that it can't go on any longer, but each time they ask, you say, "Yes." Your effort at changing them is not working.
What if you changed instead? What if you began to say, "No?"
Often we are in the habit of saying, "Yes," because we want to be liked. We don't want to upset anyone. But this hardly ever works. Eventually, it comes down to a decision of: "Do you want to be liked or respected?" Respect is usually the better choice. You can earn respect simply by saying, "No."
The problem is that if you have habitually said, "Yes," others may not even notice when you say, "No." At first, no one will believe it. They certainly won't like it. So, they will ask again. This is the critical moment. You must continue to say, "No." If you say, "Yes," just once, others will know that you cave under pressure.
Once others realize you have changed, they also will change. They will stop asking for so much and develop respect for you and your word.
So, it is possible to change others, but you do it by changing yourself. Focus your energy on what you want and take a stand. Change yourself and see what happens.
Dan Johnston, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and director of psychological services at the Medical Center of Central Georgia. He also serves on the faculty of the Mercer University School of Medicine. Johnston is the creator of the Awakenings Web site, offering lessons for living.
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