Why You Can't Change Someone

Apr 19, 2022

Are you in some type of relationship (it could be personal or work-related) where you are trying to get someone to be or do something different? But that person isn’t listening, or doesn’t desire to change, or doesn’t want what you want for him or her?

If so ... it’s time to wake up and realize that you cannot change another person. YOU CANNOT CHANGE ANOTHER PERSON!

You cannot get someone to do something they don’t choose to do, or to be someone they don’t choose to be ... either because they can’t or because they don’t desire to.

Why? Because you can never take over another person’s freedom to choose. People are not robots. They are free to choose what they want, what they will do, and what they won’t do.

Once you realize this, you will stop trying to do what will never work, which is trying to change people into something they do not want to be or convince them to do something they do not want to do. It never works. While you can influence them, ultimately you cannot change them.

This principle applies to any situation or relationship you have with another person. Consider relationships that you may have with these types of people:

• An employee who is not performing up to standards 

• A business partner or coworker who is not matching your effort 

• A person who is not investing in a relationship 

• A significant other whom you wish would be different 

• An adult child you wish would grow up and make better choices 

• A critical person who withholds approval 

• An addicted person who refuses to get sober 

• An irresponsible person who does not do what should be done

We must respect the freedom of others to make their own choices. If we do not respect that freedom, we will do two things:

• We will nag or otherwise try to control them, and they will begin to resent us.

• We will continually frustrate ourselves as we demand that someone be or do what we wish for them when they do not want to. When they resist, we will end up being angry, shaming, guilt-inducing, or resentful—or all of the above. This path destroys love.

The hard thing is to be honest and clear, and to take responsibility for our own wishes, realizing that other people are free to do what they want. We can make our best case, we can even invoke consequences for their choices ... like letting go of an employee who doesn’t want to step up and get with the program, or saying goodbye to someone who doesn’t want to commit to a relationship.

Sometimes clear consequences are the only thing that will cause someone to make a choice — whether it’s the choice we want or not. But we can’t control whether they make a choice or what choice they make. We can only be the best we can, offer them the best we have, and then allow them to choose.