2. Change is brought about by changing ourselves, not the other!
When my professor was writing this characteristic on the laminate beaming onto the white sheet at the front of the classroom through the overhead projector, she had first written:
“Change is brought about by: insisting the the other person changes–NO! Changing ourselves, not the other!”
A common misconception people have in relationships is that we can change the other person. I know I’ve thought it plenty of times myself in previous relationships. One person may be disrespectful to another. One person may say hurtful things to another more often than not. One person may be needy or clingy to the point of driving the other person absolutely crazy. And for some reason, a lot of people think that they can change the other person. Or, they can “make” them change. Unfortunately the only person responsible for our actions is ourselves. Oh how I wish I could have controlled some people’s actions in my past, but I can’t. At the end of the day, only I am responsible for me, and the other person is responsible for themselves.
It’s a hard thing to accept, when you’re faced with a challenge in a relationship where someone is doing something to make you upset, to make the relationship difficult, or whatever the case may be. It’s hard to accept that all you can do is try to communicate your frustrations to the person and tell them politely how they can help fix the situation. It’s almost like thinking, “okay, if this person really cares about me and the relationship, all I can do is tell them how I feel and hope that they change.” After you’ve expressed your “side of the story” so to speak, it’s really up to them to decide how they will act from that point.
Then comes the hard part that all of us stubborn, strong-willed people cannot stand to hear. The other person needs to communicate with ME and tell ME what I’m doing to hurt them or the relationship. (It’s literally like nails on a chalkboard, isn’t it?!) One thing I’ve learned is that it doesn’t matter if I am intentionally doing something to hurt someone, make them upset, or put stress on the relationship–all that really matters is that the other person feels some sort of negative emotion based on MY actions and therefore, I MUST change. But, at the same time, there is no way anyone can know they’re upsetting someone else (or whatever the case may be) unless they communicate it. Once it’s communicated, my thought at that point is: if the person and their feelings means anything at all to me, I will change. So hard to hear, so hard to admit, and so hard to do, believe me. It’s how we are as humans. Criticism and being told we’re wrong or hurting someone is never an easy conversation.
But it’s necessary.
All we can do is communicate with each other, tell each other point blank what the other person can do to change, and then control OUR actions of OURSELVES. Because it’s true, we really cannot change another person.