Rabbi Shmuel Gluck is the Director of Areivim, an organization that offers counseling, crisis intervention and referral services for teens and their families.
Creating Change in Others: Part 2
If the two rules mentioned in the first part of this series were understood, one is now able to create specific change. However, there are additional understandings that one must be aware of before attempting to create change in another person. These are:
1) There must be a clear understanding of the long term goals before you begin. Creating change in others will cause them to have internal stress. The more change that you create, the greater the internal stress. Obviously, it’s important to cause as little stress as possible. The less stress that you put on those that you’re trying to change, the more receptive they’ll be to further change.
People that want to change others must ask themselves, for example, whether the goal is to keep the boy in Yeshiva or to teach him to get along better with other people. If it’s to keep him in Yeshiva, then the focus should be on class attendance and school work and not on other existing issues (such as how he interacts with his siblings). If the goal is to promote the girl’s interactions with her friends, then her poor homework skills should not be discussed.
2) There must be a clear understanding of the order in which the goals should be addressed. Many well meaning people look at others, feel badly for them, and try to do what they can to make things better. Their approach is usually sporadic and impulsive. However, when you wish to undertake someone that you care about as a project, it’s not enough to do “a little here and a little there”.
Deciding what the first step should be is more complicated than most people think. Since change is stressful, it’s important to make every move count. Mistakes may be made, but the fewer mistakes the easier it’ll be to succeed.
3) There must be a clear understanding of what the person you’re trying to change is capable of doing. Often we attempt to change others without taking their abilities into consideration. Who says the boy is capable of doing what we’re asking of him? Staying in Yeshiva may seem like a normal goal, but it may be premature for this boy, and smaller steps may be more appropriate.
People trying to change others shouldn’t forget that what they’re attempting to do, is to make the others become the best people that they can. The goal isn’t, and can’t be, to create clones of yourself. That’s called manipulating. Manipulating others has a negative connotation as it assumes there’s a selfish motive. When it’s a selfless act and the manipulator’s only goal is to make the others “better”, then the proper description is influencing, not manipulating.
4) There must be a clear understanding of the root of the behavior that one is trying to change. Once the root is understood, the focus should be on changing the symptoms, or, to be more specific, the behavior. For instance, in the case of a boy who Davens Shacharis at home instead of in the Yeshiva, the focus should be on his actually going to Shacharis, not on explaining to him the importance of going to Shacharis.
The reason one must focus on the behavior is because of the boys’ unwillingness to be proactive in their own lives. Since we’re unable to force them to change their actions by command, the goal is to orchestrate their surroundings so that they repeatedly make the right choice (in this case, Daven Shacharis in Yeshiva). Repetitions of this positive behavior, can make it become second nature to them. If necessary this behavioral change can be followed up with related conversations, with the goal of internalizing these behaviors even further.
For example, you know a boy who goes to Yeshiva but generally Davens Shacharis at home. He tells me that no one seems to notice when he doesn’t come, and that many other boys also Daven at home.
However, his parent’s attitude is different. They believe that he should go to Shacharis because it’s the right thing to do. They know that when he doesn’t Daven in the Yeshiva but Davens at home, it only takes him only five minutes. In addition, since they’re busy, they find it difficult to keep adjusting their schedules to their son’s ever changing “wake up” times.
In order to resolve the situation, they must understand why he’s reluctant to go to Shacharis in Yeshiva. Is it the long Davening, the long day, his unhappiness with the school in general, or that he’s the only one of the family not home during that time? One, or a combination, of these reasons makes the advantages of staying home exceed the disadvantages. Any additional information they can gather about the boy and his motives is important, even if in the end, it doesn’t seem to make a difference in the approach. It’s important, even if it only makes the parents realize that the situation is more difficult than they imagined.
These types of questions and answers will often challenge the assumption that it’s worth attempting to create change in the other person. For some boys, the willingness to go to Yeshiva is enough of a “gift” to the family, that it’s not worth risking this by insisting on his going to Shacharis.
If the day is too long for him, or he’s not happy in Yeshiva, and the Hanhalla is willing to overlook his lack of attendance at Shacharis, then let him Daven at home. Limit any attempts to create change in areas that may increase the risk of a ripple effect if the change isn’t made. Forcing him to Daven Shacharis in the Yeshiva may create a negative ripple effect by making him unwilling to go to Yeshiva.
To Be Continued…
© 2009 Rabbi Shmuel Gluck, all rights reserved
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