Time and again I watch men and women constantly pointing their fingers at the other person. They spend all their time and energy trying to change what the other person is doing. Both men and women believe that if the other person would just be kinder, talk more, stop raging, complaining, controlling or (fill in the blank) then everything else would be fine. They then spend the next ten years trying to get their partner to make those changes.
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that this seldom — if ever — works.
Trying to change another person will never work. In fact, it can’t work. It can’t work because no one has the power to change someone else. We can ask, plead, beg, bully, rage, try to force them to do what we want them to do, yet in the end they get to decide. In the end, they decide what they will do and how they will do it. No amount of pleading or screaming will change the fact that they choose their behaviors.
And, likewise, no one can make you change either. Only you have the power to change yourself. Only you decide what you will or won’t do. Even if your partner is bullying you, raging and in your face threatening you—ultimately you still decide. You decide if you will cower, give in, stand your ground, stay, go and everything in between. You decide.
Although this is a frustrating concept for many people to take in, the truth is, it can also be very freeing. After trying to change your partner, parent or friend to no avail for years, it’s empowering to realize that if you turn your focus on you instead, those relationships can in fact change—and with much less effort.
I’ve worked with many men and women who are with verbally abusive partners. Many of them wish their partners would stop raging and spend much of their lives trying to figure out ways to not “set” their partners off. Most of these men and women cower when their partners rage and hope the ragers will calm down.
These men and women have it backwards. Instead of hoping to not set the rager off, they have to stop cowering to their rage. They can’t control the rage, they can, however, control their cowering. They can set a limit, end the conversation, put their relationship on the line, seek professional help, leave if the rage continues or they can give an ultimatum—such as saying either their partner gets professional help or they separate. They can’t, however, stop their partner from raging—only their partner can make that choice.
In life, when you are struggling in your relationship with your lover, boss, friend or child, stop and listen. Do you hear yourself blaming your behavior on the other person? Do you excuse your moves because of the moves of the other person? If so, you are not helping yourself. Take control of your life by taking control of yourself. You have options that are far more effective than trying to control someone over whom you have no control.
Look at yourself. Change your steps and you force a change in the system. Get your eyes off the other person and become way more effective in your relationships. You have the power to change you, so get started.
Challenge: If you’re struggling with someone in your life and hear yourself blaming that person for your difficulties…stop. Look at your moves instead. Pinpoint what you’re doing that is not helpful and change that…and see what happens.