Did you ever try to change someone, but they were unwilling to do so? While you probably thought it would be easy, it was like pushing a boulder up a hill. You pushed, they resisted. You pushed harder, they resisted more. Frustrating. Right? What’s wrong with them? you wondered. Why are they so stubborn? Why don’t they see the situation like me? Did you ever consider that you may be part of the problem? The truth is, you can’t force people to change.
The more you try to pressure or intimidate people to change, the less likely they are to do so. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a loving parent, a concerned friend, or a determined leader, you can’t force people to change; they must be willing participants.
People don’t resist change; they resist being changed.
Go Ahead, Make Me
Let’s step back and examine the forces at play. From your perspective, you think your guidance should be welcomed. After all, it’s in their best interest. Right? So you expect compliance without delay. Of course, if change doesn’t occur immediately, you lose patience. The truth is, while your recommendation may seem like a no-brainer to you, it’s not that obvious to everyone else. After all, some folks are afraid of failure, while others fear the unknown or are simply set in their ways. That may explain why the harder you pushed, the harder they pushed back.
In addition, while some folks dig in their heels and cry foul, others go silent or shut down. While you think you’ve made headway, their silence says everything. The best you’re likely to achieve is compliance. But you may also create animosity, anxiety, or resentment, or possibly damage trust along the way.
Just because a person is silent doesn’t mean there’s no message.
A Better Way to Introduce Change
It doesn’t matter whether you’d like someone to live a healthier lifestyle, break a bad habit, or implement a new business strategy — forcing people to change is a losing strategy. While it takes more time, upfront, to introduce change correctly, it’ll save you a lot of aggravation in the long run.
People change only when change is their choice.
What can you do to encourage change? Here are 10 guideposts for your consideration:
Establish intent. Demonstrate that you understand everyone’s situation and you’re acting in their best interest.
Build up trust. People are more receptive to change if they trust and respect you rather than if change is demanded. Knowledge, experience, and credibility go a long way toward that end.
Educate. Share your knowledge rather than assuming that everyone’s on the same page.
Justify. Explain your assumptions and the rationale behind your thinking. In addition, allow time for people to absorb the information. Rushing people is heavy handed.
Involve. Create an environment in which you encourage change rather than demand it. If you ram change down people’s throats, you’ll choke on the results.
Create a sense of urgency. Present the benefits of moving forward and the consequences of sitting idle.
Set realistic expectations. Adopt reasonable objectives rather than shooting for the moon.
Build momentum. Set achievable, short-term goals. Small wins will keep everyone motivated as you pursue your long-term targets.
Establish ownership. Encourage all involved to own the process and be accountable for results.
Reinforce. Set milestones and measure progress along the way. There is great truth to the saying “What gets measured gets done.”
Make Change Their Choice
If your modus operandi is abrupt, if you make threats or bully people to change, it’s time for you to change your tune. Ask yourself four questions. “What’s the case for change? How do people benefit? What’s holding them back? And why should they begin today?” If you don’t know the answers to these questions, neither will they. As Lao Tzu, the ancient Chinese philosopher, said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Encouraging change is a step in the right direction.
Do You Force People to Change?
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