Change is hard, and it’s near impossible if we are trying to change others. That’s saying a lot considering I have made a career of helping people improve through change. With that said, here is what I have learned about change.
We cannot change others. What we can do is be there for them. In a world where likes, hearts, and smiles are emojis shared over text rather than emotions we express in person, our craving to feel needed and known, and especially to feel desired is only growing.
Our responsibility as friends is to listen to the people we care about and empathize with them. Attempt to understand what it is like to be in their shoes then take those shoes for a walk. Empathy is how we see the world from another perspective. You cannot begin to understand what a person is going through without first empathizing with them. Then, if you’re lucky and you have spent enough time with your friend, you may understand the story under their story, their true self.
Affirm with them what you think is their story. Share how you view their experiences through their eyes. Then let their responses guide the conversation. Don’t jump in with a story about yourself, ask a question that will dive deeper into their thoughts. Once you better understand your friend, you can help them improve through change, and this is where it gets fun.
Helping someone improve by changing who they are now to who they want to be does not happen by telling them how much you care and having sympathy for them. It happens by making them more courageous. It takes courage to change. Life is a pattern of habits, based upon a deeper pattern of beliefs. We find safety and efficiency in reliving these patterns daily. Sometimes, these patterns get us stuck in a devastating loop of quicksand, dragging us down deeper and deeper into a muck which we feel we cannot escape. Constantly seeking more information about our situation and replaying potential outcomes that never happened.
When we encourage our friends to engage in activities beyond their comfort zone, we are not taking away any of the scariness of life. People do not become less afraid, they become stronger. We stack courage and bravery over their fears, helping them bury fear with possibility. We are teaching our friends that yes, the world is a scary place and yes, life is hard, that is true and will never change. Regardless, you have what it takes to prevail. The proof of your eventual victory is in the actions of your life. The patterns you recognize as your habits and actions you live by. This is why it is invaluable that you live by positive values that support your aim and build a strong character that will stay true to those values regardless of what you face.
The friend’s role is to help instill these patterns. Show them a new perspective by empathizing with them and making them stronger. You can’t write a friend’s story for them, but you can help them write a better story. Remind them that their past is only one story arc, what’s to come next is up to them, the player in control of their game.
Helping people change does not happen by telling them they need to change. People will change when they are ready. In the meantime, it is our role and responsibility as friends to remind them we care and invest in them by challenging their current limits and nudging them toward a better life.