How To Encourage Others To Change.

“Understand that the person that comes to you with a problem is capable of making good choices.”

Courtesy of le vy

I have this problem…

Often enough, a friend or family member will come to you with a problem. He or she might express a concern or simply vent about something lacking in his or her life. You might notice something that person is doing wrong and hear some change talk. He or she might say things like, “I feel like I need to,” or, “I think I might want to,” for example. So, how can you support change?

Listen more than you talk.

Unless someone asks for specific advice, do not assume people want your advice. Listen. And do more listening than talking. The person coming to you with a problem understands more about the problem than you do.

Be sensitive and open.

Do not talk about what you think the problem is. Let the person you are talking to unpack all the complications and nuances surrounding the problem.

Invite exploration for change.

Do not jump to conclusions or possible solutions. Just because you think you have a solution does not mean you have THE solution. There is a difference. Why might that person want to change?

Invite exploration against change.

Talk about reasons a person may not want to change. Suppose a friend comes to you and says, “I think I might be drinking a little too much on the weekends.” That’s change talk. You instinct might be to want to save that person from themselves. Instead, explore reasons for not changing. What does that person like about drinking?

Ask permission.

Do not give feedback without asking. You might assume that someone that comes to you with a problem wants your feedback or advice, but that is not always the case. Ask permission to give feedback, and be okay with someone not wanting your feedback.

Not wanting change is normal.

Sometimes, people can notice a need for a change, but are not ready or willing to make a change in the immediate future. Accept and assure them that resistance or ambivalence to change is normal. “You notice you might be drinking a little too much on the weekends, but aren’t ready to taper that down right now.”

The past and the present.

Invite this person to explore previous times he or she successfully made a change in his or her life, and how those same successes might apply. “You made a change and quit smoking five years ago. Awesome! How might those same skills you used to quit smoking help you taper your drinking on the weekends?”

Seek understanding.

You do not need to try to convince anyone to understand your thoughts or ideas in relation to their problem. Their problem is THEIR problem, not yours.


Summarize what you think the problem is, and ask, “Do I have that right?” Be willing to be wrong. You might completely misunderstand the situation, and asking will give the person an opportunity to clarify any misunderstandings.

Value their opinion more than your own.

Do not simply give more value to your own point of view. There is a good chance that a person’s opinion about their problem is more valuable to them than yours.

Remind yourself of their capabilities.

Understand that the person that comes to you with a problem is capable of making good choices.

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