There’s a great saying which goes “The reasonable person adapts to the world. The unreasonable person tries to adapt the world to them. But all progress depends on the UNreasonable person!” I love that idea.
The unreasonable person tries to adapt the world to them. But all progress depends on the UNreasonable person!” I love that idea.
And so sometimes, maybe, we should make a stand and try to make the world a better place and try to change how others behave. We may not have a right to do this, but certainly we have a right to say we’re not happy and to ask them to change how they behave towards US. And this option is shown in the lower branch of the following tree diagram.
It’s a harder road to go down than the first branch, and it’s not guaranteed to work, but maybe it’s worth at least giving it a try. Even if the person doesn’t change, at least you have registered your feelings with them, and if they hear the same from a number of people it might start to dawn on them that they really do need to change what they do.
So if you look at this second branch of my diagram, you can see that the first question is “Are they aware of what they are doing?”.
I think many difficult people aren’t really aware of it, they just do what they do and wonder why it doesn’t always work. So the first step is to MAKE them aware of it
– perhaps ASK them if they are aware of it: e.g. “Have you noticed that you are nearly always late?” Have some proof ready if you need it – “Yes, you’ve been late for seven out of our last eight meetings”. “Have I? I never realised I was THAT bad!”.
And you can make them aware of it more powerfully by telling them how it makes you feel, perhaps the effect it has on you and also the effect it has on them – their reputation, their ability to get things done, whatever the effect is of their behaviour.
Sometimes even when you didn’t plan to tell them or try to change them, your coping strategies can lead to them becoming aware of their behaviour. Seem my extra arrow, the stripey one:
– maybe in the case of your friend who comes into the house with muddy boots, putting down a massive doormat would not only solve the problem of the mud but could also make them think “is there a problem with my boots?” – or you bringing lots of alternative work to the late meetingmight make them think “They all KNOW I’m going to be latedon’t they? Have I got a reputation for that? Is it a bad thing? Hmm, maybe I need to change…”
It’s not as good as confronting them but it can be an additional positive spin off of developing a coping strategy.
So now they are definitely aware of it, if they weren’t before. The next question, the final branch on my diagram, is Do they CARE about it? Do they WANT to change – but maybe think they CAN’T change – or is it that they just DON’T want to change – they don’t see their behaviour as a problem. Maybe they think it doesn’t do much harm to anyone, or that it harms OTHERS a little but doesn’t affect THEM so it’s not worth trying to change.
For example, I think people who are frequently late might be like this –
“I know I’m often late and I’d like to change but I can’t, it’s just how I am” or they think “I know I’m often late but it doesn’t do much harm does it?” – and maybe a very small number of them think “I know I’m often late and it annoys other people but who cares, it doesn’t affect me so why should I change?”
So I think the essence is first to make sure that they are aware of what they are doing, and that they can see that it’s a problem to others – and then, once they are aware, to make them WANT to change. What’s in it for them?
What would be an easy path to follow that would lead to a more effective way of working? Make them aware of the problem, and then get them to want to change – if you can do that then you’ve succeeded. You won’t succeed every time, but it’s often worth a try.
So do you think your difficult friends and colleagues are aware of what they are doing? Could you imagine making them aware? And how could you then make them WANT to change?
Onwards and upwards!