I’m sure we’ve all had someone in our lives whose attitude or actions made us frustrated or annoyed, even angry. It could have been a family member, a loved one, a friend. In fact, it could have been anyone. Possibly even someone you only met once.
They were probably doing or saying something you just couldn’t understand. Possibly even something destructive and not just to themselves. Maybe you couldn’t fathom how someone with an apparently logical and reasonable human mind could seem to rationalise their contradictory attitude or actions. How they could be so blinkered to reality.
It’s easier understood for someone with an addiction. Like an alcoholic for example. They can be keenly aware of the issue they have but that impulse, that drive to drink, seems to override that common sensibility they have where they know what they are doing is harmful, even destructive, not just to them but those around them also, but they just can’t control themselves when it matters the most.
When it is a belief system you might be challenging. That’s something else entirely. Especially if it is a belief that has been ingrained since childhood. Where the person has basically been indoctrinated into thinking a certain way. Firstly by their parents, then their friends, then the society in which they live. I think there is no hope of changing that.
You see whilst it is possible to educate, encourage, influence, even inspire someone. It is impossible to change them. You cannot change the way a person thinks with words or actions. You cannot change a person at all. Change can only come from one place and that’s from within that person.
I had a heated debate with someone this week. I allowed myself to get frustrated at the fact they were completely unwavering in what they believed. Even when presented with a logical argument. It was like the thought that argument presented wasn’t even considered. Like they had their view on the matter and that was that. End of story. The shutters were closed. Elvis hadn’t just left the building. He was on another planet.
In my head I went off on a rant about how that is one of the problems with this world. How people have the ability to completely shut out anything that might make them question who they are, what their belief means to them, what actions they take, and how it affects the people around them.
Then I remembered my soon-to-be ex-wife. All the times she wanted me to change certain aspects of myself. All the times I simply ignored her. Even when I knew she was right. Coincidently all the things I have since changed about myself. By myself.
It made me realise that even though someone might be trying to explain something to us which in our own best interest, to encourage a change, a change for good, that influence is not necessarily going to make it happen.
Change can only come from within despite any efforts you make with that person. They have to want that change. They must seek it out for themselves. They have to have their own reason why such a change is actually what is best for them. No one can do that for someone else.
In reality the only person you can change is yourself. There’s no point butting heads with anyone else trying to prove otherwise. You can debate, or inform, or encourage, all you want. At best they might listen to your words or see the actions you take. They might let some of that sink in or ignore it completely. They quite possibly won’t even give it another moments thought. Their response can range from apathy to ire.
They most certainly won’t make a change at your insistence. If anything that may only reinforce their belief or idea, no matter how antiquated it may seem, especially if it is an idea their entire foundation as a person is based upon.
All you can do is politely put forward your case in a measured way. Getting frustrated doesn’t help, neither does raising your voice. If anything the more energy or forcefulness you put into your delivery the greater the barrier you will encounter. To hope for someone to recognise what may be easily seen for most requires subtlety, a softness in approach, where an idea isn’t forced upon someone but allowed to formulate in their own minds.
Then all you can do is hope that someday that idea will grow into an action. That they will recognise the need for change themselves. And then make that change.