Dont try to change people. Change thinking instead.

Can we ever change other people’s behaviors or habits? Should we even try to? I have always believed that every person is unique and they have their own temperament, way of thinking, behaviors and habits. It’s this uniqueness that makes us diverse and rich as a community. I also believe that each one of us has the capability and power of changing ourselves and no one else possesses that power. Yes, others can support and help you change. Which way? In my opinion by doing the following two things (Feedback & Coaching).

1) Firstly let’s understand and appreciate that no one can change the other, you can only influence others. You can influence them by telling them what you feel about their behavior and what impact it has on you and others. When you explain this to them in a descriptive and objective manner – it’s known as objective feedback. Therefore, I say, “give objective feedback, without being judgmental” if one accepts the feedback and understands it – a seed of change is sown. Giving objective feedback is an art and it has three basic steps; a) describe the “situation” explain the exact setting (a specific meeting in which, what one did and said, what was expressed and said by the coffee machine, or whilst making a PPT etc), b) then describe the exact “behavior” (words used, expressions, body language etc), c) then describe the “effect” that behavior has had on you and others (felt offended, felt left out, felt motivated, was engaging or one was politically incorrect in their expressions etc). The three steps, “Situation – Behavior – Effect” if described and explained well are likely to make the feedback objective and hence the chances of it being accepted are very high. One notion about feedback is that it’s often connoted with a negative/corrective action. Well, feedback also works powerfully for re-enforcing good and positive behaviors! So, do give positive feedback also.

2) Feedback is the basic step before coaching. It could be one to one feedback or 360 degree feedback in terms of an employee in the corporate world or a video recording of an sportsperson’s actions/movements in the sports world. Feedback and Coaching helps in making people effective. Without being certified or qualified – most of us are actually coaching others intuitively and on almost every day basis. We coach our spouse, children, friends, subordinates, peers, etc. and in return they are all coaching us. Coaching is an art and a science and its getting its deserved recognition as a professional competency and capability (thanks to the world of sports and corporates). David Rock is a pioneer in researching and showing to the world how, neuroscience of coaching clearly demonstrates how brain-based coaching works in practice, and how the power of the mind can be harnessed to help an individual learn, change and grow. In his book “Coaching with the brain in mind” with Linda Page (http://www.slideshare.net/toff63/coaching-with-the-brain-in-mind) they have explained the art and science of doing this well. His first book which i read “Quite Leadership”, which, I loved; he has suggested that, if you can change ones thinking then you can change ones behavior and habits. His suggestion follows the simple behavioral science rule first popularly propagated by Stephen Covey (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Covey) , which explains that, “if you want to change someone’s behavior or habit then first change their thinking. Coz, how you think is how you feel – then – how you feel is how you react and behave. So if you can influence you’re own or others thinking then you can ultimately change your own or others behaviors and habits. As they say, a coach is like a mirror and he/she should truly believe that the solution is best found by their coacheee’s themselves. An effective coach doesn’t tell you what to do, but makes you think differently and hence makes you behave and do things differently.

In conclusion, I say, try and change/influence your or others thinking and you will probably see a desired change. Giving feedback and coaching is an art and do learn it from the experts – giving feedback and coaching has evolved as a concept and science, which is based on wide and deep behavioral sciences research.

This blog is also being posted @ http://yashwantmahadik@blogspot.in/ please share your views and comments with me. Thanks

23 thoughts on “Dont try to change people. Change thinking instead.

  1. Great post Yashwant, thanks. I am a firm believer in objectve feedback too. People will usually become more resistant if they feel judged by others. I would add one more dimesion to the model you suggest: Suggestion for change or Encouragement to continue. Which would look like 1) Describe behaviour with specific example 2) Effect of the specific behaviour 3) Suggestion for change if that was not the desired impact for corrective feedabck OR encouragement to continue for reinforcing feedback. This is also known as the Example Effect Change/Continue model.

    • Excellent addition/refinement. Absolutely agree with you. That’s what makes the feedback qualitatively more objective. Thanks for your contribution and am glad you liked the post:)

  2. I think as a first step, we should change our own thinking and be sensitive to others behaviors and habits. We should be open to feedback and work on it to better ourselves. Only then we will be able to understand the people around us in a better way and influence them. And of course, as rightly mentioned by Yash, feedback and coaching are the best methods to make this happen.

  3. Very well said Yash. Trying to change a person without working on his thinking is like doctor trying to treat symptomatically without diagnising the real ailment. (Just to clarify, the exmaple is more an analogy and I am not comparing the two). Further to what you mentioned, to change someone’s thinking, it is im[poprtant to understand what is driving that thinking – as thoughts and feelings are driven by the values & beliefs. And values and beliefs are ultimatly driven by the Needs. In my view, if one gets to this root cause, then it is easier to change the behaviours.

    • Amit, Terrific point and so nicely explained. Abs agree with you. Whilst coaching and mentoring people one is mainly dealing with their psyche (mind) and hence it’s very important to learn the concepts and technique of coaching. Thanks for your valuable contributions, appreciate it 🙂

  4. Hello sir,
    Your thoughts on coaching are really appreciable but in today’s corporate world; we get Bosses and not Mentors.
    I think it’s the over all culture of the comp[any that determines whether positive feed backs are exchanged between colleagues or Boss & subordinate.
    One thing is sure; it’s only a potent manpower that can make or break great companies; all other things can be replicated.

    Thanks..

  5. The Key to successful Leadership is influence, not authority ! The best Leaders are never afraid of giving or receiving objective feedback which is what makes them great..Great post & perspective..hope you keep penning your thoughts and experiences..

  6. Very well brought out Yash , working to change people by bringing in a different PoV in ones thinking is an effective way to modify behaviour. Surely thinking drives behaviours and the approach to influence thinking is a key to work on bringing in the better way . It is how we are able to bring in the required experiences to create a realization that makes us influence the thinking . Enjoyed your thoughts and approach to change . rp.

  7. Hi Yash , Very well said . Abosulutely true that you cannot change people , one has to work on thinking . Yes it is very important to be objective in feedback without being judgemental .

    Looking forward to keep learning .

  8. Very well written article Yash. Giving feedback (both positive & negative) is an art and we should not be shy of giving negative feedback to the team member. Equally important to have regular feedback rather than one off sessions. Continuous reinforcement is the essence in bringing about any desired change.

  9. Yash, really liked your point that despite Coaching being so inherent in all of us, it is still an art and a science that can be learnt, honed and used to create tremendous impacts! Appreciate that insight.

  10. Hi Yash, thanks for the enriching thoughts. Just to add on please correct me if i am wrong. The behaviour of a person is sometimes an outcome of his current state of mind/ the sitution he/she currently is in, along with Coaching and Feedback a person should also be encouraged to find small reasons to be happy about in everyday life. A happy person will have positve outlook and behaviours as a outcome. In my view the happiness quotient of an individual plays a big role in his/her behaviours. If Leaders can influence the happiness quotient of people, indirectly they influence the behaviours.

  11. 1. Situation – Behavior – Effect is one of the most effective change strategies
    2. The recommendation to influence thinking and indirectly change somebody’s behavior/ habits is truly simple and 100% practicable .

    ” Yashwant doesn’t tell you what to do, but makes you think differently and hence makes you behave and do things differently” Thanks for sharing this excellent post

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