You Can Change Other People

Written by Melissa Kessler, MA, PCC

I just read Peter Bregman’s new book You Can Change Other People. It’s a great resource for managers, parents, coaches and anyone who likes helping others grow and develop. I’m only able to provide a very simplified overview in this newsletter, so I highly recommend reading the book for an in-depth explanation and examples of conversations using his four-step process.

He says that “people don’t resist change – they resist being changed.” People change when they choose to change. All the advice in the world and sharing of our experiences will not cause them to change. We tend to give advice because we are trying to be helpful, but others only hear it as criticism. It shuts them down and makes them resist our solutions.

There are four traits necessary for people to change. As leaders, parents and coaches, we can help others cultivate and develop these traits:

  1. Ownership – People must own the solution to be fully committed to implementing it. They will only own it if it’s their solution, not ours. They must have input into a solution to be able to own it. No involvement; no commitment.
  2. Independent Capability – People take ownership when the have thought strategically about the problem to find a workable solution. Giving them the solution removes the ability to learn and experience the pride that comes from finding their own solution.
  3. Emotional Courage – Most people won’t do things that make them feel uncomfortable. So even if a person has identified a solution, they won’t implement it without emotional courage. Emotional courage is feeling the discomfort and doing it anyway.
  4. Future-proofing – This is resilience or having the ability to bounce back from setbacks. We don’t want them to only solve the current problem; we want them to be able to solve each new problem that comes their way. Struggling through a problem and coming out successful on the other side makes people stronger and more confident when faced with a new challenge. Handing them the solution makes them dependent instead of resilient.

This is the four-step process to help people change:

  1. Shift from critic to ally. Instead of giving advice, become a thinking partner and get their permission to have the conversation. Do this by 1) empathizing with their situation (“That sounds tough.”); 2) expressing confidence in their ability (“I know you can handle this.”); 3) offering to think it through with them (“Let’s think this through together.”)
  2. Identify an energizing outcome. Instead of focusing on the problem, ask them what outcome they would like to have instead. Ensure the outcome is positive, clear and meaningful. (“What outcome are you looking for? What would it look like? What would that give you? Why is that important to you?”)
  3. Find the hidden opportunity. Remember, you are working together to find the solution. 1) Take a detailed look at the problem (“What is currently happening now? What happened next? What did you/they say/do specifically?”); 2) create a comprehensive list of tried solutions (“What have you tried? What happened when you tried that? What else have you tried?”); 3) find the upside of the problem (“How can you use the problem to achieve your desired outcome? Is there anything positive or useful about this problem?)
  4. Create a level-10 plan. 1) Identify options (“What might you try?” What else could you try? What other options can you think of?”); 2) choose the path forward (“What do you want to do that would be energizing? What might you say/do? What would you do next?”); 3) commit to the plan (What exactly are you going to do and by when? What is your first step? When will you do that? How confident are you that you will do this on a scale of 1 to 10? If it’s not a 10 – What’s getting in the way? What would make it a 10?)

You will probably want to follow up with them later to find out what they did and how it turned out. Remember to be supportive and non-judgmental. If it didn’t turn out as hoped, or they have a new challenge as a result, you can return to the four-step process by asking if they would like to think it through.

Please keep in mind that this summary is over-simplified. There are many different directions that these conversations could take. The book goes into detail about how to handle many different situations that could arise during these conversations. If you are serious about truly helping people own their solutions and become more resilient problem solvers, I would strongly encourage you to read the book. Here is the link to the book on Amazon: You Can Change Other PeopleI am planning to develop a leadership training course in 2022 that goes through how to effectively hold these conversations with many different scenarios that could occur.

If you are willing to feel everything, you can do anything.” – Peter Bregman

“Advice is like castor oil – easy enough to give, but dreadful uneasy to take.” – Josh Billings

– Amazon links in this newsletter are paid affiliate links.



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