Creating Change in Others: Part V
5) The approach of using personal behavior to create change in others, isn’t limited to tangible goals, such as cleaning houses. It’s more difficult, for instance, for a spouse to become frustrated if the other spouse has a calming effect. However, being calm alone may not be enough. Creating a calming effect requires more than just relieving nervousness. It requires people to actively promote calmness to stressful situations. This is done by calm people, in their conversations with others, highlighting their own behavior and the advantages that being calm brings to them.
If calm people don’t actively promote calmness in the life of other’s who need it, one of two things may happen:
a) The people who aren’t calm may learn to “coast along”, shifting some of their responsibilities to calmer people and may not even attempt to become calm. Many people, certainly the more flustered ones, don’t take note of their surroundings and how those around them act. They’re actually unaware that those around them deal with the same situations as they do, but more effectively. If they do notice the behavior of others, they don’t notice how those behaviors are the result of the other’s decisions to live a calmer, more effective, life. They rationalize that, “it just didn’t bother them” or, “they had it easier than we do”.
b) Some people notice their surroundings and the people around them, but choose to avoid thinking about them. If they would, they’d see that the others are much more effective in what they do than they are, and therefore they may feel badly and, possibly, even guilty. The problem becomes one of how to handle this guilt. Some people will turn their guilt feelings into positive motivators. They’ll strive to emulate a calming person’s responses. For others, the guilt has a negative effect, reinforcing their negative behaviors.
Other people don’t even notice the positive behaviors of those around them and therefore, it becomes important to bring to their attention the effective behavior of others. However, if one mentions it to them in a critical manner, they may focus their energies on being angry. What one should do (similar to cause and effect), is to “highlight” what’s taking place without offering any complaints or punishments.
Let’s assume that a husband becomes unnerved very quickly in crisis, while the wife remains calm. If the husband is unaware of how the wife effectively reacts to crisis, his wife should say to him, “I know that you’re stressing out and I understand it, but I’ve found that dealing calmly with this situation always makes things better.”
If the husband is aware that the wife is calm but takes advantage of the wife’s calmness, then her response should be, “Please consider that I’ll do my best to handle the situation, but I can’t help you if you become stressed out. Things may become better, but you’ll still be stressed.”
People can usually help others with anything or anyone besides themselves.
6) Creating change in others can also happen through the lessons of life. Many parents want their children to wake up on time for school and they’ll try a wide range of approaches. They’ll reward, punish, and beg. What may work better is to let the children wake up late, come to school late, and realize that, in the real world, if you don’t wake up on time, you’ll miss school and suffer the consequences. Such an approach assumes that the children enjoy school (to whatever degree possible).
However, there are other situations in which parents will intervene (since they aren’t confident that their children will do the right thing), even though allowing life to take its course would more effectively create change in the children. For example, if teenagers don’t get haircuts before job interviews because they’ve met the potential bosses and “knows that the bosses likes them”. Or, a teenager arranges a ski trip for a group, “lays out” the money for the entire group, and “ends up” having paid for some of the group who aren’t in a rush to pay back the money.
7) The last point I want to discuss is the concept of creating “momentum” for the change. When people are in “growing” modes, they’re more receptive to further growth even in unrelated areas. When they’re in “down modes”, it’s more difficult to get them to do anything.
Therefore, before creating change, the ones attempting to create the changes, should focus their energies on creating the proper momentum. Good will and minimizing resistance should already be obvious to the reader. However, there are two more important guidelines:
a) It’s much easier to increase existing patterns than to create new ones. For example, if children don’t help with household chores and the parents would like them to help, they should do the following. Instead of asking the children to help in an area that may take time, effort, or require them to do something that they really don’t want to do, get them to help for five minutes with something that they don’t mind doing. Whether those five minutes will, or will not, help is not important. Getting them to help for those five minutes will begin to set a pattern; the children will help. Once the pattern is set, it’s just a matter of increasing the existing pattern, not of creating a new one.
This type of approach may require a great amount of time before the help (the change) becomes significant. However, the change will have become internalized and not superficial, making it well worth any possible delay.
b) Since creating positive momentum is so important, it’s better to start with “easier” areas of change, even if they aren’t the most important areas.
Although this series of articles focused primarily on parents and spouses attempting to create change, this approach is just as effective with co-workers and even bosses. The readers must keep in mind that creating change in others requires patience, creativity, and knowledge of that person’s personal database. (described in a previous article). Any previous article will be sent to you upon your request.
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