You can’t make other people change unless they’re willing to change themselves. Doing so is an exercise in futility at best and could be harmful to both of you and to your relationship at worst. However, there’s a different set of circumstances where a person wants to make a lifestyle change and turns to you for help. Supporting someone who is determined to change their life can be gratifying, but it can be tough to know exactly what to do. The suggestions below can help.
Sometimes, it’s as simple as asking a question like “How can I support you?” or “What do you need?” This helps ensure that you don’t waste time or money with solutions the person never wanted or asked for. While this straightforward approach can work in some cases, there are others in which it may not. First, people are often hesitant to articulate exactly what it is they need even when you are direct.
If they are under a lot of stress, figuring out what you can do for them might even seem like just another item on the to-do list. Second, people don’t always know what they need. This may be the case if the person is much younger than you or if they are seeking a change in an area where you have a lot of experience, and they have little. Ask this question if you don’t think it will make the other person uncomfortable, but don’t assume that you can necessarily stop there.
Find a Unique Role
One excellent way to help support someone is to identify a task or role that only you can fulfill. You might have knowledge, skills, or resources that no one else does that can help this person. This might the case for someone who is looking for a loan or a cosigner on a loan. This can put the lender or cosigner in a very vulnerable position if the person is unable to repay them, and many people might want to help in this way but simply be unable to. If you are someone who can, the loan or cosign may be truly life changing, helping the person start a business or go back to school.
The person who is able to refinance student loans with a cosigner might get much lower interest rates or better repayment plan overall, which can help them finally pay off all their debt. It’s best to approach an arrangement like this only if you can weather the financial fallout if the person does not repay the loan. You don’t have to tell them this but think of it as a gift. That way, your relationship will not be damaged if the person struggles to meet their obligations.
Nearly everyone can benefit from emotional support, even those who can’t bring themselves to express a need for it. Listening to and encouraging people can do better than you may realize at the time. In many cases, it’s best to try to listen without offering too much input yourself unless the person asks for it although there are a few situations where you might need to speak up. One is if the person is doing something you know is a mistake based on your own expertise, like if you’re an attorney, and the person is clearly making a legal error. Another is if you think the person is putting themselves or someone else in immediate danger.
Show By Example
This is one way that you might help people make a change even if they haven’t expressed a desire for it. When you lead by example, instead of telling a person what you think they should do, you simply live your life in a way that exemplifies what you think is the best course of action. Good parents and good employers also lead by example although they tend to have more authority over their audience, but you can do this even if you don’t know any children and no one works for you. Another advantage of this approach is that it can prompt a conversation. The person or people you hope to influence might ask you about your actions, giving you the opportunity to advise them.