How to Change Anybody
Proven Techniques to Reshape Anyone's Attitude, Behavior, Feelings, or Beliefs
By David J. Lieberman
St. Martin's Press Copyright © 2005 David J. Lieberman, Ph.D.
All rights reserved.
Can You Change Someone Who Doesn't Want to Change?
Who wants to be a jerk? Who wants to have bad relationships, be sloppy, not care about anyone or anything but themselves, or pursue meaningless goals?
Everyone wants to be better. No one wants to engage in self-destructive behaviors. Nobody wants to be abusive, sustain a baseless hatred of others, have limited beliefs, be emotionally unstable, be obnoxious, and so on. None of these behaviors make us feel good. We want to change them, but we're unable to do so. We feel emotionally blocked from doing that which we know at some level is right for us and for our relationships.
Most people desperately want to change. We know this to be true in our own lives. When we are able to rise above our "baggage," we feel good about ourselves. Sure, there are people who say they are happy the way they are and don't want to change. But they are not being so truthful. Human beings are real pros at lying to themselves; in fact, it is when they lie most convincingly.
So can you change someone who doesn't want to change? The question is irrelevant because this person does not really exist. All of us want to be better, to be fulfilled, and we are desperately seeking to use our potential and become something more. It is how we are made.
The psychological strategies presented in the following chapters allow you to navigate a way through a person's emotional blocks to create lasting change in almost any area. They allow you to make anyone a better person.
Beliefs and Values: A Brief Introduction
To a large extent, beliefs and values are set in motion to justify our past, rationalize our current behavior, and make sense of events and circumstances in our lives.
Two types of values are mean values and end values. In order to accomplish an end value — happiness, for instance — a person places a priority on a mean value that will help him achieve his end objective.
For some this gateway to happiness may be money; for others, marriage and raising a family. Money becomes important because happiness is important, or family is important because happiness is important.
Now, if the underlying belief that connects the equation — this will give me that — is changed, then the mean value becomes unnecessary and it falls away. To change how a person feels about something, you reshape the belief that connects the two values. For instance, if a man believes money leads to happiness and then discovers that that is a false belief, his priorities change, as does his subsequent behavior.
Our psychological solution is to break down the belief, severing its emotional hold. For example, statistics show that there is a 90 percent likelihood that a woman who is highly promiscuous and who is engaged in rampant casual sex, prostitution, or both, was sexually abused as a girl or young adult. In order to make sense of what happened to her, she is forced, albeit unconsciously, to reduce the significance of the event. This is done by diluting the value and sanctity of sexual relations. Her willful promiscuity makes what happened to her less significant. So the value of what was harmed, of what was taken from her, has been reduced. Otherwise she would be forced to reconcile something much more traumatic. Therefore, she does what so many of us do, and takes the path of least resistance. Devaluing the sex act, diluting it to the point of insignificance, reinforces her belief that it doesn't matter.
Through a series of psychological techniques, you can change the unconscious calculation whereby it's simply easier on the psyche to believe differently, and so the person naturally chooses a different path. If you remove the need to hold on to a belief, no matter how deeply ingrained, the behavior attached to it melts away.
Make Anyone More Moral and Ethical
Do you know someone whose moral compass is malfunctioning? If you are tired of someone's subhuman values, then it is possible for you to do something about it. Whether your daughter is sleeping around, a coworker is stealing office supplies, or your spouse is cheating at the weekly card game, you can use the following psychological techniques to instill a greater sense of morality in them.
Technique 1: The One-Million-Dollar Test
It's easy to believe in something if there is nothing at stake. Take, for example, a businessman who will not hire a minority to work for his company. If you were to tell the employer that this person can bring a million dollars into his business, the man now has a conflict and, therefore, must make a choice. Research shows that the best bet, statistically, is that he will hire this person. Therefore, the employer has to readjust his views of minorities; otherwise he has to consider himself a greedy fiend who sells his soul for money. It's much easieron his ego to conclude that maybe "they" aren't that bad. Either way, you begin to break down his belief system.
It's easy to have values when you don't have a conflict. Just like this businessman. But if you create a conflict — between what he believes and what he wants — you throw a monkey wrench into his thinking. In short, something has to give. Let's see how this works.
EXAMPLE: Bill thinks it's okay to walk out of a restaurant without paying for the meal.
What is Bill's belief? The restaurant didn't provide the service he deserved? Other people do it, too? The owner is a mean guy? They'll never miss his couple of bucks? Clearly these are rationalizations. If Bill thought about it, he'd realize that not paying the check is wrong — but he doesn't want to think about it.
Bill's wife introduces information that creates a conflict between Bill's belief and something that he wants. One of these will give. She says, "You know, Bill, little Jimmy is getting old enough to understand these things. And he thinks that if you do something, then it's okay for him to do it, too." Now the stakes have changed. The equation is no longer about a stolen meal without a guilty conscience. Rather it becomes, Stolen meal = Corrupting son. This conflict helps to change Bill's behavior in the short run, and in conjunction with the other techniques, he will in time come to reevaluate his belief.
Technique 2: Backdoor Consensus
Studies show that when we vocalize an opinion, whether or not we believe it to be true, in time we usually come to support it. For instance, in a class assignment, students were chosen randomly to take different sides of an issue. After mock debates, the students overwhelmingly accepted — or at least sympathized with — the position they had to defend, even when they did not initially believe it to be true.
EXAMPLE: Parents of a promiscuous teenage girl want to put a stop to her behavior.
The parents should have the girl speak with a younger sister, female relative, or neighbor about the importance of waiting until marriage or committing to one person. (A younger person is preferred because it puts the daughter in a position of responsibility and authority.) The parents can also arm their daughter with "talking points" by giving her readily available statistics showing, for example, that teens who sleep around have a higher rate of suicide, and drug and alcohol abuse. Ideally, these should be regular talks, and in time the message will begin to take root.
And if you want to, it is fine to give her some type of external reward — money, a special privilege, a present — as an incentive to speak with this other person. However, after the first few times, ask her to do it without any compensation. When she agrees, you'll know she's turned the psychological corner and has begun to embrace the very ideas you have been espousing.
(Note: If you believe that this person is the victim of past or current sexual abuse, professional help should be sought immediately.)
Technique 3: Image Consistency
When someone sees us in a flattering light, we often strive to maintain the image that he has of us. When others think well of us, it helps us to think better of ourselves, and so we are often unconsciously driven to not let them down.
Interestingly, the more fleeting the relationship the more we may try, because we do not have to sustain our efforts for very long. Do you know someone who would bend over backward to help a person he hardly knows, but when it comes to his family, he won't lift a finger? Did a friend of a friend or a distant relative ever comment that you were so nice, a great cook, very handy, and so forth? And did you then find yourself jumping through hoops in order to keep this image alive and well in regard to this person? Let's see how this works.
EXAMPLE: Your friend Joan thinks it's okay to borrow things from your house and then forget to return them.
In such a situation, say something like "You really know what it means to be a friend who respects other people's property. Like the time when you asked to borrow my car, even though the keys were in the ignition and you could have just taken it. I want you to know Ireally appreciate that about you." This should be enough to make Joan decide to ask permission before taking anything in the future. And anything that Joan already has of yours will likely be promptly returned. However, if this does not happen, that's fine. After an hour or so of applying the technique, simply ask her for it, and her willingness to comply will have increased tenfold.
The three simple sentences you say to Joan reshape the definition of your friendship to include someone who behaves with honesty and integrity. It makes Joan want to live up to the image you have of her, and she will be driven, mostly unconsciously, to fulfill your expectations. You see her in a certain light, and she seeks to protect this positive image.
Technique 4: General Consensus
The great thinker Friedrich Nietzsche once mused, "Insanity in individuals is something rare, but in groups, parties, nations, and epochs, it is the rule." In Roman times infanticide was common and acceptable as, indeed, it remains today in certain parts of the world. While most people consider this practice abhorrent, when everyone is doing it, it becomes accepted. This is true for positive as well as negative behaviors.
Numerous studies show that even our character is greatly influenced by our environment. Municipalities understand that graffiti needs to be removed as quickly as possible, because as soon as any appears it creates a breeding ground for graffiti by others who previously thought it unacceptable. Another illustration is "mob mentality," the phenomenon where people in groups tend to support more extreme ideas than they would consider on an individual basis.
If everyone is on the "same page," an environment of expectations is created that is very powerful in shaping how we see ourselves. To raise people's moral consciousness, let them be part of a world where such appropriate behavior is the rule, not the exception.
Our identity is very much tied in with where we live, the people we know, and the places we go. By removing individuals from their environments, you shake up their self-concepts and make it easier for them to see themselves differently and, quite often, more objectively. You also get them away from the influences and triggers that snap them back into negative patterns.
EXAMPLE: A girl thinks that it's okay to bully kids of other races.
A girl who bullies children of other races should be removed from her environment and placed around individuals who have a higher sense of morality. How long she remains with them depends upon how much leverage you have and how ingrained the prejudice is. Even a weekend can help make a difference, though generally speaking, the longer she is exposed to an enlightening atmosphere, the more lasting the impact will be.
If the girl thinks that hurting people because they are of a certain race is okay, it is because of her influences. If you change the influences, you begin to change the girl.
Technique 5: Raising the Bar
Raising the bar is a fantastic technique that is very easy to do. Here, instead of chastising the person for a behavior, you lavish the person with praise and compliments. Then, after you are done with this five-minute emotional boost, you simply inform the person that the behavior you want corrected is unacceptable. In this way you fault the behavior, not the person.
EXAMPLE: A teacher catches a student cheating on a test.
The teacher calls the student into his office and says, "Julie, you are one of the brightest students I have ever had. Sometimes it comes through in tests, sometimes it doesn't, but I know what you are capable of. I also see how considerate you are of your classmates and how you are there for your friends. You have terrific potential, and I believe you can be and do anything that you want. You're the kind of girl who can achieve anything if you set your mind to it. I hope you'll remember to thank me for teaching you when you're a big success. Keep working hard, and strive to live your dreams. If anyone can, you can." Then almost as an afterthought, the teacher gently brings up the behavior: "Oh, I know most kids probably cheat on a test or two from time to time, but it's really beneath you. I'll see you tomorrow in class." This simple but powerful technique makes it nearly impossible for Julie to cheat on a test in this teacher's class again.
It's easy to maintain a belief when a person doesn't have anything at stake. Change the situation so that the person has more to lose by engaging in this corrupt behavior.
Studies show that when we publicly express an idea — whether or not we believe it to be true — we usually come to support it.
Reshape how people see themselves by letting them know that you believe them to be good and moral, and that that is precisely what you respect about them so much.
If everyone is on the "same page," an environment of expectations is created that is very powerful in shaping how we see ourselves.
Instead of chastising someone's bad behavior, lavish the person with praise, and then casually mention their misconduct as something that may be fine for others, but not for someone as terrific as the individual in question.
See These Chapters for Additional Strategies:
* Chapter 5: Eliminate Prejudice in Anyone
* Chapter 9: The Gift of Self-Esteem
Inspire Loyalty in Anyone
What is it that makes a person stick by you in your darkest hour, while others run for the hills at the slightest hint that something is wrong? Are you tired of fair-weather friends who stab you in the back the minute you turn around? Whether it is a friend, employee, or spouse, you can make anyone more loyal to you, your company, or your cause. The following techniques contain the components, the building blocks, that make a person, any person, form an unshakable allegiance.
Technique 1: Bring Him in on the Inside
A person's loyalty is determined by which side of the fence he thinks he's on. Therefore, if you bring him to your side and make him part of your team, he will fight your battles with you, against the "other guys." To turn an outsider into an insider, you need to give him information that few people have, as well as some degree of power or authority within your organization or team.
EXAMPLE: A sales manager has a salesperson whose loyalty is questionable.
During a relaxed, private conversation, the sales manager should say something like, "Chris, I want you to know that there are going to be some changes around here. Mainly, we're close to acquiring the XYZ account, and we think you are the key person on the team to figure out how we can best service them. Now this is not public yet, so I need to count on your discretion."
It's amazing how quickly this technique helps to build allegiance. Now that Chris is a big shot, on the "inside" with a little bit of power, he won't be turning on his manager anytime soon.
Technique 2: A Part of Greatness
Studies show that the moods of sports fans are affected by the teams they support. When a football team wins, the fans feel great. But when the team loses, the fans feel worse. Moreover, how people identify with a team is fascinating. When their team wins, they say, "Our team won." But when they lose, they often say, "They lost." They give up their identification when things are not going smoothly.
We all want to be part of something great, to be with someone great, and to attach ourselves to a winner. To inspire loyalty, let others see the greatness within you, or what it is that you want them to believe in. You accomplish this by being the one who does what is right, even when an easier course of action is readily available. (Continues...)
Excerpted from How to Change Anybody by David J. Lieberman. Copyright © 2005 David J. Lieberman, Ph.D.. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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