Friday Fix: Can You Change Someone Else?

Verywell / Julie Bang

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Every Friday on The Verywell Mind Podcast, Editor-in-Chief Amy Morin, LCSW, shares the “Friday Fix”—a short episode featuring a quick, actionable tip or exercise to help you manage a specific mental health issue or concern.

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Friday Fix: Episode 187

A lot of people enter my therapy office not because they’re looking to change themselves but because they want to change someone else.

I commonly get questions like, “Can you talk to my partner about their drinking for me?” or “Can you meet with my daughter to tell her that she needs to stop dating men with so many problems? It’s not good for her kids to see that.” 

I don’t blame any of these people for feeling desperate to change someone else’s behavior. When we see our loved ones do things that we perceive to be unhealthy or self-destructive, we want to spring into action and help them do things differently—even though they may not see the harm we see.

But our attempts to make other people change often backfire.

Lecturing someone, educating them about why their habits are unhealthy, or pleading with them to change doesn’t work. In fact, those strategies might accidentally reinforce those behaviors.

A lecture from a therapist doesn’t work either. So the people who want me to talk to their family members are often disappointed to learn that one appointment with me (or any other therapist) isn’t likely to get them the results they’re looking for.

So, while you can’t force someone else to change their behavior, you can influence them. In fact, the closer your relationship is to someone else, the more likely you are to have an influence on the choices they make.

In this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast, I explain how you can influence your loved one and perhaps, even help them create positive change.

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