Has it ever felt as if you have told your partner a thousand times to stop doing “x” or to start doing “y”? Does it seem as if you have endless conversations about the same issues again and again, yet nothing changes? If so, you’re in good company. Many people have the same conversations, about the same problems, in the same way, with the same results, for far too long. The reason there is no change, however, may not be what you think.
If you’ve been addressing issues head-on for a long time, but change is not happening, the problem likely lies in one of the following:
1. Approach: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity (as you may have heard). This principle is equally true for conversations. Repeatedly complaining about the same thing is not going to get you any different results. Stop repeating yourself and do something differently. Talk less and act more. Set a limit, change your behavior and make sure your actions match the words you’ve been speaking forever. For example, if you say that you hate driving with your partner when they’ve been drinking, then take your own car, use Uber or go with a friend. Stop complaining about his or her driving and start acting on your complaint.
2. Clarity: Are you throwing in the kitchen sink every time you’re trying to discuss a certain issue? Discussing ten issues at once muddies the waters. Stick to one issue at a time and state very clearly what the problem is, how it’s impacting you, how you want it to change and what you’re going to do about it if it happens again. Get clear. Stop crying, begging, pleading, yelling, screaming or complaining and instead get grounded and clear about what you want to be different and how.
3. Fear: Often people have the same conversation a thousand times because they’re too afraid to do something differently. Doing anything differently from the way you have been doing it is likely to be scary. How will the other person respond? What if they get mad? What if they end the relationship? If you decide to take some space and leave the house—what will happen next? Chances are, if you keep complaining without taking an action, you’re likely fearful about something. Take the time to tune into the role that fear is playing in this dynamic and make a point of gradually taking small, low-risk steps to change the conversation and your approach to the issue at hand.
4. Character: If you have not only had conversations about a particular issue, but you have also set limits, followed through, got outside help, etc., but to no avail, it could be that the other person has a character issue or they do not want to change. Either way, if someone refuses to change their behavior, the solution then rests solely on your shoulders. You will have to determine whether or not this behavior is one you’re willing to leave for. If it is, tell them so and move on. If you’re not willing to leave, then learn to accept it.
Most people blame others when things don’t change. This disempowers you and places your control in the hands of others. If change isn’t happening in your life or relationship, stop blaming others for your circumstances. Change your moves.
Challenge: Stop waiting for others to change what they’re doing and instead be thoughtful about changing what you’re doing. There is no reason to have the same conversation a thousand times. Change your move.