In a phone conversation with a potential client I asked what I have found to be the pivotal question in determining whether I can be of help.
“Is there something happening in your life right now that is so bothersome that you are willing to change what you are doing?”
He is obviously a smart guy and he laughed in recognition that this is his issue. He would really like to find a therapist that is so good that the therapist will teach him how to get others to change.
The problem is not that we want others to change. Of course we would like them to be different. The problem is that we put our energy into getting others to change. We have a very low chance of success with that. If they want to be different in just the ways we want them to be different we will see what looks like success. But if they don’t want to be who we want them to be, or can’t be, or want to thwart us more than they want to please themselves… for any one of a dozen reasons they may not be who we want them to be. This does not stop us from trying to changing and–for our trouble–what we get is frustration. We feel helpless and hopeless.
As futile as this is there is a more dire consequence. When we focus our attention on getting others to change we divert our attention from transforming our own behavior. We take our attention off of what would create safety and satisfaction for ourselves and instead waste our energies on doing the impossible. So ask yourself…