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Linda Ocejo, MA, CPRP, CLC
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Can we actually CHANGE another human being, or should we just focus on CHANGING the way that we react to others?

Many people spend their entire lives actually trying to change another human being. However, to put it bluntly, it's not going to happen. In reality, we cannot change another person if that person does not want to change, or is not ready to change. Changing one's behavior or thinking must come from within the person. We cannot change another person's behavior or thinking. We can only change our reaction to someone's behavior or way of thinking. Also, we may choose to go along with the choices someone makes, or choose not to go along with someone's choices.

For instance, if we believe that someone--- who has made it perfectly clear that they have no intention of quitting smoking at this time--- should stop smoking immediately to improve their overall health, it would not be advantageous for us to constantly bring up to the person the ill effects of smoking; showing them photos of diseased lungs, etc. damaged by smoking. It would also not be advantageous to "nag" the person on a daily basis relative to the ill effects of smoking on the human body. The person must want to quit smoking. We cannot want to quit smoking for them.

Many years ago a dear friend of mine was a heavy smoker, and had been a heavy smoker for over twenty years. Her husband was adamantly against smoking and tried relentlessly to get my friend to quit smoking. However, nothing worked; photos of diseased lungs, videos of people dying from lung disease due to smoking, and constantly ridiculing my friend for smoking, and pointing out all of the negative factors relative to cigarette smoking. Nonetheless, my friend was not ready to quit smoking herself, and she continued to smoke; even though intellectually she knew that it was really not the thing to do.

Then, life changed for my friend and her husband. They decided that they wanted to start a family. Being the intelligent person that my friend was, she knew that smoking was not the thing to do while pregnant, and she also wanted to be smoke free prior to getting pregnant. From that day forward my friend stopped smoking--cold turkey--because SHE DECIDED that this is what she wanted to do to protect her "baby-to-be." Twenty years have gone by since my friend made this life-changing decision, and she has not touched a cigarette since then. The CHANGE had to come from my friend, not from someone else.

Of course, we may always let someone know, in a positive way, if something that they are doing is detrimental to their well-being. However, if the person does not want to change, and is adamant about it, it is my opinion that no matter what someone tries to do to get them to change, change will never happen until the person decides that they are ready to change. Otherwise, someone's good intentions may just be viewed as nagging and negativity.

Since we are really not able to change someone if they do not want to change, the positive way to react in this regard is changing our way of dealing with/handling the situation. We can definitely change the way that we react to someone's behavior even though we cannot make someone change their behavior if they are not ready or willing to do so.

Also, please note that the above does not pertain to emergency type situations where someone's life is in jeopardy. The above represents the opinions of the writer and should only be considered as a general source of information, and not as personal advice or instructions, since each person's situation/circumstances are unique and require individualized attention/actions.

Please note that all of the above pertains to adults and not to minors in our care who look to us for guidance and acceptance. However, invoking change with minors must also be done in a positive manner, and will be covered in an upcoming blog.

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