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If Your Goal Is to Change Everybody Else, Think Twice

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Because everybody you try to change will likely avoid you.

August 22, 2021

 

Ever spend time around someone who is out to change the world, and that includes you?

Byron Katie, a present-day philosopher and author, says, “There are three kinds of business in the world: God’s business, everybody else’s business, and our business. She says that unfortunately, many of us spend ninety-nine percent of our time and attention on God’s and everyone else’s business, leaving one percent to manage ourselves.

There are many reasons why we keep our attention everywhere except on ourselves. Lately, I’ve been paying attention to how easily I come to anger about the state of the world. I often have a powerful desire to scream. I’ve been sitting with that, trying to figure out what triggers it. I’ve discovered that I’m often disappointed and afraid of how we treat each other. And I think anger is one way I’ve avoided feeling the fear, disappointment, and sense of impotence.

How to Spot People Who Want to Change You

We all know people who are obsessed with a cause and seem to be angry all the time. They think it’s their job to save the world, but since, of course, they can’t, they want everyone else to be just as angry as they are — about everything that makes them angry. Anger can drive positive change. But it can also sometimes give us a false sense of power. Feelings of fear and disappointment can make us feel vulnerable and powerless.

There are also the folks telling us about the newest miracle product, suggesting it will change us, or our lives . Not only will it cure cancer and thicken our hair, it will help us lose fifty pounds in three weeks without exercising. And they have a book to prove it. And by the way, they sell it or know someone who does.

And finally, there’s the proselytizing do-gooder who wants to make sure we have ever-lasting life right along with them. So far in our new home, no one has come to the door to save us, but we’re waiting for them to find us.

We tend to avoid people who want to change us, be they partners, parents, or best friends. And we gravitate to people who keep their attention on managing themselves.

How to Find People Who Manage Themselves

People who manage themselves tend to talk less than some of us, but when they do, we listen.

They don’t try to convince us of anything.

They behave in ways that are consistent with their values and don’t try to make the rest of the world follow suit.

If you ask them a question, they will speak from personal experience, and when they don’t have the answer, they are comfortable saying I don’t know.

In therapy, I have the privilege of connecting with my clients in an emotionally intimate way. Sometimes they’re disappointed when I explain that I don’t have their answers. I clarify that any answers I have would reflect what might work for me if I were in their situation. So I’m here to help them see the innate wisdom they already possess that allows them to make the changes they decide will be in their best interest.

When we practice managing ourselves, it’s easier to see that there is no perfect way to be, no ‘one size fits all’ answer to what might ail someone else.

We’re also better able to see that we are all more alike than different despite our uniqueness — an awareness that encourages us to connect rather than divide.

To Sum it Up

I have never left an interaction where someone has given me unsolicited advice without having the thought that they just don’t get me.

So, if you want to push people away, try to sell them a miracle cure; obsessively vent your anger at our imperfect world or endlessly proselytize about the benefits of your beliefs.

If you want to connect with others, talk less; listen more. Help others find their own answers and their own way. Live from your values, not for approval. And when you don’t know, say, “I don’t know, what do you think?”

When we work on managing ourselves with greater clarity and integrity, we may play a more meaningful role in helping to change, or at least influence, the world in productive ways.

Much love,

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