Change, Healthy Behaviors

Change your REaction

We’ve had several questions about how to get ‘other people’ to do things that we want them to do, things that may be in their best interest, sometimes for the sake of their health. There are so many extenuating elements around this particular query that it would be impossible to effectively address them in one post. As such, I’ll start out with the first step… what is the first thing you need to consider when you want someone you love to change behavior?

YOU CANNOT CHANGE THEM! They must be willing and able to change themselves!! – I cannot stress this point enough. In my counseling practice, I say this repeatedly; several times daily. We know it in our intellect but we (human nature) continually move in the direction of trying to effect change in other people. When it comes to other peoples behavior the only thing we can change is OUR RESPONSE!!

Once again, you only have control over – you can only change – your own response to another’s behavior. If you are asking the question, then I can almost assume that what you have tried in the past hasn’t worked… stop going down that road because more often than not the only one frustrated is YOU. So, what CAN you do? How do you change your response?

Step 1: Figure out what you are feeling.

What feeling do YOU have when your partner/loved one behaves in the way you wish he/she wouldn’t?  Ignored? Un-valued? Unloved? Disrespected? Embarrassed? Communicate the feeling to your partner / loved one in this way:

“I feel ___________ when __(this)___ happens and I don’t like feeling ____________”.

Notice I did not use the word YOU… This particular sentence only addresses how YOU are feeling. You are not accusing and are less likely to receive a defensive response. Please don’t make the mistake that IF your partner / loved one LOVES you he/she will change their behavior because they care about you. Chances are – they DO care about you – but are too caught up in their own “stuff” to make the change that you are asking for (otherwise it would already be changed).

Step 2: Decide what YOU have control over and what your REaction will be whenever the behavior occurs.

For example:  “If you become intoxicated when we go out, I will leave the party.”  Notice again that I did not tell THEM how they should or should not behave or what they would have to or not do… I only stated what I had control over.

Step 3: Follow through and feel good that you stood up for yourself – (This is often a clear example of setting boundaries and holding them)

It is important to think through your feelings – your actions – and your REactions here. Don’t make threats, don’t speak from a vindictive heart, and practice compassion.  The goal is not to be stubborn but to clearly communicate your feelings, calmly state the desired outcome, and your REaction if the boundary (limit) is breached.

Look for a post in the near future on Understanding Resistance to Changing Behavior


“Honey, I realize that I had a certain vision, an expectation of what retirement would look like for us – I thought…. … … and I am feeling really disappointed that we haven’t been able to spend that kind of time together.  If you are unable to commit to sharing these experiences with me then I would like to make alternate plans because they are important to me. Can we put something on the calendar?”

“Honey, I am really concerned about you because ……. … ….. and I am afraid of losing you. I want to be supportive in any way that I can – how can I help?” (people have to WANT help in order to help)

“Honey, I’ve noticed that I’ve had to repeat myself frequently, as have our friends when we socialize and I’ve noticed that I am raising my voice to talk with you, which is uncomfortable for me. I’d like you to see a doctor about your hearing but that is up to you. In the meantime, I will be talking in my normal voice and will I will let you know when I become frustrated with having to repeat myself. I don’t like that feeling so to deal with my frustration I am going to end the conversation and find something else to do. I love you and I hope that we can grow old together without yelling at one another just to share our day! “

Photo credit: <a href=””>Asten</a&gt; / <a href=””></a&gt; / <a href=””>CC BY-NC</a>

1 thought on “Change your REaction”

  1. Great comments Leslie and very helpful to us right now in trying to help Rick’s youngest daughter through some emotional struggles.

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