When we see someone going through a struggle, the solution to their problem often seems obvious to us. We think, “They should just do it this way . . . and everything will work out OK.”
I used that approach years ago. When I saw a better way of doing something, I would go to that person and make my suggestions. I thought I was doing them a favor, and expected them to be excited and grateful.
They weren’t excited.
They weren’t grateful.
In fact, they were usually a bit irritated. I meant well, but they took it as criticism.
I now realize that you can’t force anyone to change.
So, is there anything we can do?
My wife, Diane, loves hydrangeas. They’re a striking flower that grows in spheres of color, usually shades of pink or white. They can also be a beautiful shade of blue – but not naturally.
Diane wanted blue flowers. She had two alternatives for trying to make that happen:
- She could use force. She could grab the flower around the stem and say, “Look, if you don’t bloom with blue flowers, you’re going to find yourself on the rough side of the compost bin.”
- She could use influence. By applying a carefully measured amount of aluminum sulfate to the soil, the blooms will usually be blue.
It’s true with any type of gardening. We can’t force plants to grow. But we can influence their growth with water, nutrients, cultivation, and other forms of care. If we provide the right environment, there’s a much better chance of healthy growth.
Relationships are the same way. We can’t force people to change. The more we try, the more frustrated we’ll become.
But we can influence them.
That doesn’t give any guarantees that they’ll change. If we make it our mission to change them, we’ll probably be frustrated.
Expectations always lead to pain when they’re not met. It’s better to have expectancy.
With expectancy, we don’t know what’s going to happen. We can be honest about our concerns and acknowledge the desire to have someone change, but we’re not demanding that things turn out a certain way. We don’t know how things will turn out.
Instead, we’re watching to see what happens. We don’t take responsibility for whether they change or not.
We can’t force change. All we can do is influence, and leave the change up to them.
Would you agree? Leave your thoughts in the comment section.