Five Reasons People Change
As a practising therapist for most of my career, I considered myself in the change business - helping people break problem patterns of behaviour. But anyone who works with people knows that not everyone sees the need for change or is motivated to take action. I am thinking of parents I knew whose adult son spent his waking hours smoking cannabis, watching TV, and who had apparently given up hopes for a better life. What could they do? How could they influence change? I believe that when change does occur, there are 5 main factors contributing ...
As a practising therapist for most of my career, I considered myself in the change business - helping people break problem patterns of behaviour. But anyone who works with people knows that not everyone sees the need for change or is motivated to take action.
I am thinking of parents I knew whose adult son spent his waking hours smoking cannabis, watching TV, and who had apparently given up hopes for a better life. What could they do? How could they influence change? I believe that when change does occur, there are 5 main factors contributing.
1. They want to change. It is always easier to work with people who see the need for change and are ready to do something about it. This doesn't mean that change will come easy, of course. We are all creatures of habit and can often find change difficult, but at least wanting to change is a good start. If you work with people in a helping role, at least find out what people want and see if you can link this with the behaviour you or others would like to see.
Many of the young men I saw who were suspended from school often wanted the school or their parents off their back. The school and their parents typically wanted to see better behaviour. Funny enough, the strategies for getting their school / parents off their back required the same changes that others wanted to see. By finding something that people want or are motivated for, changes can come a little easier.
2. They want to avoid negative consequences. Life should not be like this. But the truth is that human beings are motivated either by pleasure or by pain, sometimes both. But here, the consequences or pain has to be motivating for the person concerned. It is no good suspending a student if they really don't care about this.
However, I do know of a student who was motivated by the thought of his mother being silly enough to sit in the back of the classroom if his behaviour did not improve. The key is to find what person concerned cares about and how this can be used as a reward or negative consequence. In the prior example, the young man cared about not looking foolish in front of his friends.
3. The environment around them changes. The environmental factor we have the most control over is, of course, our own behaviour. Often as we change our part of a relationship, others will change as a result. This is also true in team relationships. As they see others have a more accepting or positive attitude to a workplace change, they may well exhibit a less negative attitude.
Other times, it is the physical environment that has to change. One teenager I knew who was travelling to a shopping centre late at night to hang out with his friends quickly had this behaviour changed when he was required to go straight to his grandparents' home straight after school, some good distance away from the shopping centre.
4. Their physiology changes. When my young sons misbehave, one of the first things I do (when I am thinking) is to ask myself if they are tired, hungry, or unwell. When these needs are responded to, often their behaviour improves. The same is also true for other people who are tired, hungry, are unwell, or have a medical condition of some sort.
If you are in a position to address any physiological causes, you may well see better behaviour. You could try slipping a Valium in your boss's coffee - but I suggest leaving the diagnoses and treatment to the experts.
5. They become more ready for change. I believe there are two different types of readiness for change. There is physiological readiness. Certainly parents see this with their children. As a child's brain develops and they reach new stages of their development, they become better able to make the changes we would like to see them make.
There is also psychological readiness where people become more prepared to change by becoming more uncomfortable with the status quo or motivated by how they would like things to be. Sometimes others have to allow the status quo to become more uncomfortable before some see the need for change. Maturity can also contribute to a higher level of psychological readiness. I often used to see people who had struggled with addictions for many years reach their late 30's and then say they were too old to be carrying on the same way and then start working hard on their recovery.
Sometimes it is a combination of the above that influences others to change. And then there are those who never change. I console myself with the thought that even Jesus, when he was around, did not succeed in getting everyone to change. People still have choice. We can influence others to change, but ultimately their behaviour is out of our control.
Although we all struggle with change, there are some with diagnosable conditions, Asperger's Disorder or personality disorders, for example, who find change especially hard. For those who find change very difficult, we are faced with the choices of coping with their behaviour, distancing ourselves from them perhaps, or managing their behaviour as well as possible.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ken Warren, known as â€˜The Doctor of Difficult Peopleâ€™, is Australiaâ€™s leading speaker on the topic. He can show you how to turn difficult customers and co-workers into pussycats, make great teams even better, and achieve better outcomes with challenging clients. Check out his free resources at www.positivepeoplesolutions.com.au