Over the years, I have seen a common practice to expect others to change and not the self. Incidentally, we spend a lot of time trying to change other people. There is, after all, so much wrong with them, they’re selfish, arrogant, bullying, weak, cold, needy and you can go on & on & on…..So often, we try to point this out to the others and in the process meet with resistance, denial or sheer indifference. This can be sometimes very agitating and discomforting. I have a solution and why don’t you take my lessons on board?
Let me start with a main pivotal aspect “behavioural science’. In our behaviour, we need to make an implicit distinction between two projects: firstly, getting other people to change and secondly, changing ourselves. We know we may have to develop in certain ways, but for now, our focus is on altering others. We make an evolution in our own behaviour conditional on evolutions in other people’s. We promise that we’ll be nicer if they’re nicer. However, we’re prone to miss an important insight: changing how you behave to others can be the fastest way to alter how others behave towards you.
People across the globe have a general tendency to mirror behaviour to a remarkable extent. If they find that someone is aggressive around them, they become aggressive back. If someone is gentle, they become soft in return. If someone acts wisely, it will draw any latent reserves of wisdom out of the audience.
We are increasingly find ourselves in a paradoxical position of advocating one kind of behaviour while making use of quite another. We might quite angrily suggest that someone else calm down. Or we may bullyingly insist to a person that they try to be more empathetic. Actually, in such circumstances, it’s us, who deserve sympathy. It’s the agitation and anxiety of trying to teach that can easily take us far from the behaviour we’re advocating.
My take in such conflicts would be: ‘how sensible it would be to give up on teaching directly and rather try to adopt teaching by leading or setting examples‘. This strategy has one great advantage and that is – we can control ourselves more remarkably instead exerting any sort of direct control over someone else. Similarly, our disappointment with other people should also be redirected towards exerting control over ourselves. The one thing we can reliably command from ourselves.
Seeing a person exhibiting certain virtues has a remarkable ability to inspire others into imitating . And even if change is not immediate, we can at least take pride in the integrity of our position, knowing that we have had the strength and dignity to have started to teach by example.