When faced with a situation in which someone you care about is firmly “set in their ways,” you must make a choice. You have the option of simply accepting them as they are, or you can take steps to improve your ability to communicate, connect, and grow with your loved one. When a loved one’s refusal to change has a negative impact on those around them, address the problem by taking healthy, proactive steps that may persuade them to change.
Method 1 Interacting with Stubborn Loved Ones
1. Concentrate on persuading your loved one to change a behaviour. It is critical to ensure that you are asking your loved one to change a behaviour, not who he or she is. Rather than suggesting that your loved one change her personality, try to identify the specific behaviour you want her to change. Some of the behaviours that your loved one may be able to change are as follows:
making inappropriate remarks, such as racist, sexist, or homophobic comments
yelling or screaming at you
not respecting your privacy, such as by invading your space or prying during conversations
2. Beginning with a compliment is a good way to get started. People who are unwilling to consider another’s point of view or who consistently engage in behaviour that is harmful to themselves or other family members are likely to be difficult to talk to. Approach your loved one gently and begin by offering a genuine compliment.
Always start your compliments with “I,” not “you.” For example, you could say to your loved one, “I appreciate your help with the dishes,” “I have always admired how assertive you are,” or “I think your passion for politics is so cool!”
3. Draw attention to the issues with your loved one’s behaviour. Once you’ve gotten your loved one’s attention and helped to disarm him or her with a compliment, it may be easier to bring up the behaviour that bothers you without provoking your loved one’s defensiveness. Remember that the goal is to focus on a behaviour that you want your loved one to change rather than changing your loved one.
For example, you could say, “Dad, I’m uncomfortable when you make remarks about gay people.” I have gay friends who are nothing like you describe them to be. When you say things like that, it hurts and confuses me.”
4. Encouragement is available. It’s possible that your loved one will react defensively. When someone openly refuses to change or reconsider an opinion, he may be out of his element. If this occurs, try to persuade your loved one to take a different approach to the situation.
For example, you could say something like, “I know this is a difficult subject for you, but I think it’s fantastic that you’re willing to talk to me about it.”
5. Make your presence known to your loved one. Take care not to avoid your loved one, even if he or she is annoying you. Do not avoid your loved one unless you or others are in danger as a result of the other person’s behaviour.
Isolating your loved one may exacerbate his or her problematic tendencies, so continue to include him or her in activities as usual.
Make it clear to your loved one that he or she can come to you with any problems. Try something like, “I want you to know that I’m here for you whenever you need to talk.”
6. Avoid putting pressure on your loved one to change. Change takes time, and putting pressure on your loved one will not hasten the process. Avoid doing things that might encourage your loved one’s negative behaviour to continue, such as bringing up the issue all the time. After you have made your loved one aware of your feelings, he or she must consider what you have said and decide whether or not to change the behaviour. Bringing up the subject on a regular basis will not speed up the process or sway your loved one. It is more likely than not to irritate your loved one.
Avoid making passive-aggressive remarks about a loved one’s behaviour. Making passive-aggressive comments is another way to put pressure on your loved one, so try to avoid them. Don’t say things like, “It’s a shame some people are so narrow-minded.”
7. Take a stand for yourself. If your loved one’s actions are causing you pain, you must speak up for yourself. This can be challenging, especially if you are accustomed to remaining silent when you have an opinion. However, you will need to become more assertive in order to help your loved one understand that his or her behaviour is unacceptable.
Try saying something like, “I respect your opinions, but I also have a right to mine.” What you’re saying/doing is hurting me, and I’d like for you to stop.”
Method 2 Communicating Effectively When Someone Refuses to Change
1. Declare your willingness to engage in a blame-free discussion. Declare that you have no desire to harm a family member. Instill a desire to listen to and respond to one another without being defensive.
If something comes up, but tempers are frayed or the situation isn’t conducive to an open, heartfelt conversation, ask your loved one to agree to talk soon.
Prior to starting a conversation, state your intentions. For example, you could say, “I want to strengthen our relationship by better understanding .”
2. Begin a conversation about a loved one by telling a storey about yourself. Talk about a time when you came to an awakening of your own, especially if you want to discuss your loved one’s unwillingness to change – or willingness to see something differently.
Tell me about a time when you accepted help for something you insisted wasn’t a problem.
Examine your terminology and framing to ensure you are not shaming your loved one for whatever you believe he or she needs to change.
3. Stop attempting to reason. Let go of the idea of who is right and who is wrong. If someone refuses to change – either a behaviour or a point of view on a single issue – he or she may not be making this decision based on reason or logic. Debating will not help because the behaviour may simply be part of your loved one’s belief system.
Avoid starting a fight with a loved one. Don’t ask your loved one to provide proof for his or her beliefs, and don’t try to convince your loved one that he or she is wrong.
Pose inquiries. Try to comprehend where your loved one is coming from. For example, you could ask, “What experiences did you have that caused you to feel that way?”
4. Use “I” statements when conveying your opinions. Making it clear that you recognize that your own perspectives are often subjective or opinionated may help loved one’s come to the same conclusion.
Begin sentences with “I think ______”, “In my opinion_____”, or “It seems to me that _____”.
If a statement requires elaboration, follow with something like “So, I’m wondering about _____”, or “It seems that this might lead to _______”.
Elaborations are only necessary when your loved one doesn’t respond to your initial observations or stated feelings.
5. Demonstrate how you want a conversation to go. Send strong signals that you are open to revisiting and rethinking your positions, and that you hope your loved one will do the same.
If you state your opinion as truth and your loved one scolds you for it, admit that your terminology was incorrect and change it.
Say something like, “Well… yes, you’re right, I can’t be certain, but I see it this way.”
6. Laugh off any tension that arises. It is completely normal for tension to arise in everyday conversation, particularly between loved ones who spend a lot of time together. If this happens, try to reduce the tension as soon as possible.
Say something along the lines of, “Jeez, we’re both pretty stubborn!”
All it takes is one side refusing to give ground to raise someone’s defences. Make certain that you are not the one who brings a conversation to a halt.
Follow up on any potential points of conversational staleness with a question like, “Do you see it differently?”
7. Please be patient. You may become most frustrated when your loved one is on the verge of changing their behaviour, when they have acknowledged that things need to change but are still slipping.
Recognize that even when people are receptive to change, it takes time. Breaking entrenched behavioural patterns, in particular, is a process.
Even minor improvements, such as those made during a conversation, should be recognised.
Thank your loved one for talking with you to show your appreciation for their effort and willingness to change.
8. Understand when to put an end to a conversation. Changing the subject or simply walking away may be the healthiest or safest option at times. If your loved one refuses to have a mature conversation and becomes aggressive or begins to shout, do not jeopardise your own stability and safety. Stop the conversation before it becomes too heated.
For example, you could say, “Let’s talk another time when we’re both feeling calm.” “This has been a good start, but I think we should end it here,” for example.
Method 3 Helping Loved Ones Help Themselves
1. Get educated. Whatever has brought your loved one’s unwillingness to change to your attention may necessitate more than a simple conversation to address properly. Investigate how you can assist your loved one in dealing with any issues you believe they may be experiencing in their personal lives.
Being present entails having something to say when someone comes to you for assistance (or when they do not).
Know what the first step is that a loved one must take so that you can recommend it.
Speak with a medical professional. By seeing a mental health professional yourself, you may benefit both in terms of knowledge about your loved one’s situation and in terms of your own mental health.
2. Request that your loved one seek professional assistance. If you can have an open conversation with a loved one who is dealing with personal issues, you may be able to assist them. Try to find out where your loved one can go for assistance. The best way to do this is to suggest that your loved one see a general practitioner and request a referral to a therapist.
Your loved one may be more willing to see a general practitioner than a psychiatrist or psychologist. General practitioners may then be able to persuade your loved one to consult with a mental health professional.
When advising your loved one to seek help, emphasise statements or behaviour that may cause harm to your loved one or others. For instance, you could say, “I am concerned about what you said about feeling angry all the time.” I believe you should speak with someone about it in order to feel better.”
Contact organisations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness if you don’t know where to look for help or information.
3. Request assistance from a loved one. If your loved one refuses to see a professional or seek other help, you should consider asking him or her to do so for the sake of your relationship.
Request that your friends and loved ones do the same.
In dangerous situations where your loved one’s behaviour is endangering his or her own and others’ health and safety, this may be the only way to persuade him or her to address the need for change.
Try something like, “I know you’re going through right now, and I just wanted to let you know I’m here for you.” I want our relationship to be healthy and positive, and it would mean a lot to me if you could get some help with .”
4. Understand when to call it quits on a relationship. Set boundaries in relationships where you or others, including your loved one, are at risk. Consider what you are willing to participate in, assist with, or, frankly, put up with in your life.
Explain to your loved one the boundaries you’ve set for yourself. For example, you could say, “I can’t be around you if you’ve been drinking.” I’ll have to leave if I come home and you’re drunk.”
If a loved one consistently defies or asks you to defy boundaries you’ve clearly articulated, it’s time to end the relationship.
If a loved one is consistently causing you or others harm, you must take action. In an ideal world, your loved one will be willing to change his or her behaviour. If not, you may need to separate yourself from your loved one and possibly stop seeing them.
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