Statistical graph showing the Pros vs the Cons over time, using the Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Planting the Seeds Of Change
When we look at how change happens, the effectiveness of change is often rooted in the early stages of the process. Many of the gains can begin when the person is living in blissful ignorance. Before change begins to happen, the seeds of change can be planted.
Seeing What The Person Doesn’t See
Before change can happen, a problem must be acknowledged and there must be a perceived need for change. The person has to believe that they need to change. The person has to see it. They have to know the need. They have to understand the “why” of change. Often, the person is not in a place where they are able to acknowledge the existence of a problem.
The person who is affected directly, the first person, the person at the centre of the problem behaviour is often the last person to acknowledge that the problem exists. Individuals who are not directly affected, such as family members, or close friends, are often the first to identify the problem. Unfortunately, when we see a problem, we can make things worse. In a desperate attempt to address the problem we may end up trying to coerce the person into a new behaviour.
Why Coercion Rarely Works
There is a long history of coercion that is reflected on by military, political, and psychological researchers. The conclusion, whether the problem be at an individual or international level, is often the same. Coercion has inherent weakness.
The use of coercion requires three things:
- actual force ability – Are you ABLE to follow through on the claim?
- follow through – Are you WILLING to follow through on the claim?
- restoration – When the credibility of authority is challenged, the authority is diminished. In extreme circumstances, authority is challenged to one of two death of the challenging agent, or complete nullification of the authority.
Authority, if it is challenged, cannot sustain itself. Authority is always about two (or more) parties agreeing on a context of relationship. We all have authority in the lives of those around us. If we use that authority in a manner that is congruent with the persons values and beliefs then we augment our authority in relation to that person. If, however, we use our authority in a manner that is incongruent with their values and beliefs, we erode our authority with that person.
6 Tips For Staying Congruent
Let the person find, validate, and clarify their need. We can apply active listening techniques. Our best strategy is to wait, watch, and listen for statements that suggest the person may consider change. This can be like looking for a needle in a haystack, but however small the statement is, we capitalize on what the person is saying when they say it.
Inform the person of potential risks associated with the problem behaviour.
Believe that the person is pursing success in the way they believe is best. Everyone makes an effort to make their lives better. It may be difficult to understand another persons reasoning. There may be many years of stress or trauma that obscure a persons intentions, but the effort is always there.
Acknowledge their effort.
Encourage the person to think, but not act. If the person is not thinking or acting to change the behaviour, then they are most likely not ready. By encouraging that the person think, we can essentially get a “foot in the door”. If we make demands towards action, we likely end up alienating the person and shutting them down further.
Try to convince the person that they need help. If it’s absolutely unavoidable, stay assertive. Identify that you see a behaviour as the problem, not the person. Reaffirm that their choices are theirs.