It starts with US
The other day a client and I were in deep discussion about change, particularly the change she wanted to see from her loving husband of 10 years. She’d started with the tried and true “Strong woman, hear me roar” approach where she hit him with what she wanted to be different. When that didn’t work she’d tried a more gentle approach, asking questions in hopes of getting him to see things differently. (AKA, her way.) Not much luck on that front either.
Frustrated, with no other alternatives at the ready, my client pulled back from these difficult conversations, climbed into a nice little hole of resentment and focused on something she could control. WORK.
Here’s how I broke it down for her:
1) Our desire for forward motion and change is REAL. 2) We want those we love to come along with us. 3) AND once we’ve hit upon the change that needs to happen, we make it the other person’s job to do it.
We think, “I know exactly what my partner/co-worker/parent/child/friend needs to do. Just change this and this and this. Then you’ll be a better person and I’ll be happy.”
It makes sense that we want the other person to change because we view the realization that things need changing AS our contribution to said change. Honing in on that realization took real soul-searching and with the effort we’ve already put in we think, “I’ve done my part here. Your turn.”
Second, we often take our brilliant realizations as proof that we’re more enlightened so it’s the other person who needs changing more than we do.
And third, when we’re being truly honest with ourselves, change is fucking hard and our plate is full enough. Why can’t they just do it?
Here’s what I know, as an experienced coach and someone who loves the idea of other people changing so I can be happy.
It starts with US.
As the lucky people having these realizations, we’re being asked to take the next step and mirror the love, understanding, and connection we want from the people in our lives. We must go first so that they may follow.
If you’re thinking, “But Jamie, I always have to be the bigger, more understanding person. I’m doing the personal work and trying to make things better. They should have to change first at least once!”
Believe me, I hear you and it’s important to name our resistance and the resentment that can build when it feels like we’re the person doing the work and being vulnerable.
Here’s what I told my client about doing the work of personal growth and change.
The work is entirely for you so YOU can feel better.
This is not about someone else changing as much as it’s about YOU receiving clarity and relief and the only way to get that is for you to give it yourself first.
My client had been thinking for years that her partner needed to change before she realized the emotional openness she wanted from him was what she was being asked to offer herself.
So rather than trying to change the person in front of her, we worked to compassionately reconnect her to herself. By feeling her feelings, being gentle with her experience, honoring her truth and sharing it (without expecting him to change), she became the change she initially believed she needed from him.
Now don’t get me wrong. She still wishes he’d say “I love you” more, and he’s getting better. But what’s different now is that instead of hoping for rapid change, or change at all, she gives herself an “I love you” when she needs it and gives him one as well, mirroring the love and change she’s experiencing within herself.
And what’s really nuts is the more understanding she gives herself and offers out, the more he seems to reflect it back to her.
The next time you find yourself wanting someone to change, which will probably be in about 5 minutes, take a breath and ask these 2 questions:
“What is it that I want from this person?” “How can I compassionately offer it to myself?”
These are big questions that don’t always have quick answers. Sit with them, feel them out and see what comes up.
Lots of love and I cannot wait to hear how this shift works for you.
P.S. If you feel like things would just be better if someone in your life changed, let’s have a clarity session. During our hour together we’ll explore the change you want from others and see how to cultivate that change within YOU so you can feel better. Awesome, I know. Simply email me and we’ll get you on calendar.
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