5 Reasons Why Trying to Change People Hardly Ever Works

In any relationship, it is human nature to want to 'improve' the other person, particularly when we perceive their behaviour, actions or words to be hurtful or 'not what we would do'. Many times we stay in relationships, hoping they will get better on the basis that we can sand down their faults or change their ways. However, this only works when the other person wants to change.

While we can always influence each other and help those in our lives to become the best versions of themselves, it is ultimately up to them to change what they want to. When we don't accept that, we usually just set ourselves up for disappointment, and cause the other person to feel there's something wrong with them at the same time. 

Here's 5 reasons why trying to change people hardly every works:

1. They're usually the way they are for a reason.

Most people develop serious relational/social faults because of bad experiences, a difficult childhood, or some other damaging circumstance that caused them more pain than we probably realise. Trying to change them only enforces the negative concepts they most likely already have of themselves, and it does nothing to heal old wounds. Instead, love, patience and understanding are more helpful in freeing them of any barriers they have put up, as once people begin to feel accepted for who they are, they will find it easier to become the person they want and were meant to be.

2. They have to see the need for change themselves.

Many have made the observation that people can't be helped until they're ready to be helped. Addicts, for example, are notoriously in this category, but the same goes for those who find relationships difficult. No matter how many times they're told there is a problem, for them to change, they will first have to recognise and accept it within themselves.

3. It may not be the best time for them to change.

Some people develop certain traits as a coping mechanism, or they may be in a situation in which they truly are powerless, frightened or lost. Trying to force them to change can sometimes just add to the pressure, particularly if what they truly need is support.

4. You may not have a place in their life to suggest change.

Most of us won't take advice from people we don't respect or who don't have a consistent place in our lives. In these cases, many people simply take offence, or a 'you don't even know me!' attitude. If we want to have a positive influence in their lives, we first have to develop a true rapport with them and make sure we have a thorough understanding of where they're at in life and why. Only then will they feel we're qualified to have an opinion on what's going on with them.

5. People don't want to (and shouldn't have to) change simply to keep us happy.

Most of our friends and family would respond better to love and acceptance than pressure to be something they're not. Sometimes we have unfair expectations on others to be more like us or something else, but at the end of the day, we need to appreciate them for who and what they are, and why. It's not up to others to keep us happy, but we can make an effort to see and value their strengths.

Changing Our Response to Them 

If someone is behaving in a way that is hurtful and they refuse to change even after the problem has been brought to their attention, there comes a point when we must make a decision. We can't change people; we can only change our response to them. For example, we often can't stop a bully from being a bully, but we can change our response to them so their techniques don't work on us. That in turn may cause them to change, but even if it doesn't, it still protects us. Or, it may help us come to a point where we need to leave the relationship.

By realising that we can't change people, we free ourselves to leave toxic relationships and invite healthier ones in. And for those we want to keep in our lives, we also free them to be themselves, accepted and loved for who they are.