A New Approach


One of the topics I find myself revisiting often in these articles is my tendency to try to “fix” the people around me. I often have ideas about how my wife, my adult children, my grandkids, or my employees could (and should!) grow. And in those articles, I regularly share that all of my relationships go much better when I choose to work on changing myself rather than trying to change the people around me. 

Whether we like it or not, it’s true that people are generally not open to our input when they feel like we’re “coming after” them with our criticisms. And just so we’re all clear, people can usually tell when we try to disguise our criticisms as “helpful suggestions.” 

This can create a tricky balance, because even if we let go of that desire to fix other people, we still need to talk about issues in the relationship and hurtful habits with people we are closest to. I started this article out by talking about my tendency to try to fix because I want to make a distinction between that and what I’m going to talk about now. Because I have noticed something that has been really helpful in my relationships, but it can only really happen once I let go of the thought that I need to be the one to bring change to the people around me. Believe me, I’ve tried that approach many times. And you know what? I just can’t change other people. The only person I can change is myself. But that doesn’t mean I can never help other people see their blind spots or point out areas where they have some room for growth. 

I’ve found that only once I let go of that desire to fix can I actually make these suggestions and they are received well. When I’m in a more open-handed mindset (rather than trying to control outcomes and other people), I will make suggestions rather than corrections. Instead of saying, “I’ve noticed this pattern and I want you to work on it,” I start these conversations by saying, “Hey, have you ever thought about this idea?” and then I go on to share the thing that’s on my mind. 

This perspective shift has had a huge impact on how these conversations go. And I don’t think I’m the only one. I believe that so many of us would benefit from having genuine and curious conversations with our loved ones rather than approaching things in a judgmental tone that makes it clear that we have a specific agenda or outcome in mind. 

Something that has helped me change my approach has been asking myself a couple of questions before diving into the conversation. I ask if there’s any way I could communicate in a manner that, maybe, they would be open to receiving and understanding this information. I also ask if maybe I’m doing any of the same things that I’m wanting to bring up to them. I consider the possibility that maybe I need to listen to some of the things I’m saying to my spouse and work on applying those same pieces of advice to my own life. When we consider other people’s perspectives when we approach them, we’ll be a lot more likely to understand them and to be understood during the conversation. And when we do that, we’ll be winning more often at home.