We usually have the best intentions with people. We want them to change their behavior for the betterment of themselves and others.  We give advice, offer solutions and blatantly point out shortcomings in our effort to get people to change. We then get frustrated when the change doesn’t occur! In our quest to help someone, we actually damage the relationship. 

What not to do.

Here are some tactics that people typically utilize when they try to change behavior that just don’t work. 

1. Shaming. You drag someone over to the problem/issue and let them have it. It’s similar to what many people do when their dog goes to the bathroom in their house. It certainly makes the person feel bad about themselves but does nothing to inspire them to permanently change. 

2. Pleading. A common tactic in parenting. “Will you please just do your homework? I would be so happy if you would clean up your mess in the living room.”

3. Threatening. Used at home and at work by poor leaders. “If you don’t get your project in on time I’m going to fire you. Keep showing up late and watch what happens.”

4. Incentivizing. Used in both home and work environments. “If you do that, I will give you this.” The problem is that the behavior change is temporary and will likely slip back into old habits once the thing you give them goes away. 

5. Helpful. This one will actually work from time to time but is not a guaranteed solution. This most often comes across as our advice to a person. “When I struggled to make it to school on time, I started setting an alarm and setting my clothes out the night before. I started getting my projects in on time when I started to use a calendar system to help me stay on track of my tasks.”

Sometimes the person makes the connection and will change, but don’t be frustrated when they continue in their old habits. 

Do these things instead. 

Changing behavior is possible and not as hard as people imagine as long as they keep on the proper framework. 

1. Build their confidence. Start off acknowledging and praising their behavior and contributions. 

  • Home: “Thank you for cleaning up your toys in the living room. You did a great job and your mom is going to be so happy when she comes home. I’m going to brag about you to her!”
  • Work: “I can tell you really put some thought and time into this project. It’s obvious that you care about it and your team.”

2. Make it a team effort. Present the change in a way that you will partner together to accomplish and not one that you are handing out for them to tackle alone. 

  • Home: “Did you see how much your mom loved that you cleaned the living room? We are going clean up so that she comes home to a clean room every day. We’ll do it together.”
  • Work: “We’ll work together on the next project to make sure that it is really polished and ready to present in the meeting. Janet is great at editing and can help us as well.”

3. Track the progress. Give the person something tangible to work on so that they know if they are making progress or not. 

  • Home: “Our goal is going to be to clean up every weekday before mom comes home.”
  • Work: “Our goal is to have no errors slip through to the final presentation and that you feel confident on the day of the presentation.”

4. Give them the tools needed to be successful. They will be successful when you give them the tools and the process to reach the change. 

  • Home: “I’m going to get us a bigger toy box so that we can get everything off the floor nice and neat.  Do you want to go with me to the store to help pick one out?”
  • Work: “Send your project over to Janet to proofread for you. She will help smooth out grammatical and layout items, and then you and I can run the presentation together to help build your confidence before the meeting.”

Evaluate how you are doing in your communication. No one’s perfect. How often are you trying to change behavior in a way that is not impactful? Follow the right path to see people grow out of their bad habits. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH