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Getting People to Change

There has never been a relationship in history in which one person did not want to change something about the other. Even in the closest, healthiest relationships, our nature is to want more.

So when it comes to relationships, whether they are romantic, platonic, or professional, how do we get people to change?

First a disclaimer, it is important to examine your desire to change someone and what that reflects about you. Additionally, it is crucial to remember that it is often easier to change ourselves than to change others.

With that said, there are circumstances where change needs to happen - partners are not meeting each other's needs, team members are not building psychological safety, for example.

So how do you create change?

The key issue with change is that it is often driven from a place of dissatisfaction. So most people continue this reasoning to the change process. They approach change from a perspective of what is wrong.

Yet, people do not change effectively from being told what not to do.

Telling someone to stop doing something does not tell them what to do instead. Rather, we need to evoke a concept from Yale professor Alan Kazdin, called the "positive opposite".

Positive opposites create actionable goals.

"Stop texting" becomes "Stay engaged"

Positive opposites require you to know what you want, not just want you don't want.

So now that you've identified the positive opposite, the next component of behavior change is reinforcement. Look out for any time someone is engaging in the positive opposite and reinforce this behavior with gratitude or praise. The feedback does not need to be over the top, but genuine positive feedback goes a long way.

What's most interesting is that we can also utilize this process on ourselves. The common method of motivation for most of us is the stick approach, we think we can critique or worry ourselves into change. Yet, change is more effective through the positive approach.