In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Jack Freed used this quote – “I haven’t got the slightest idea how to change people, but I still keep a long list of prospective candidates just in case I should figure it out.” (David Sedaris)
Most of us have probably had thoughts of “changing” someone that we meet during the day, whether it be making physical changes to the way that they look to changing their behavior. Many marriages end in divorce because one of the parties was unsuccessful in getting their mate to change into what they wanted them to become. Perhaps it is human nature, or human ego, that leads us to believe that we can effect change in others.
The reality is that the only person that we have the power to change is the one that we see when we look into a mirror. We can change how we interact and react in our encounters with others. We have the power to change or abandon the preconceived notions that we have when we encounter someone who looks different or is dresses different or who talks differently from us. We can control or stop the rush to judgement over the statements or actions of others. We can change that person that we see in the mirror.
Our interactions with others, and our reactions to others, is based off our own frame of reference – our backgrounds and the circumstance that lead us to this place and time. Somehow, we have less problem giving deference to the differences in people that we can identify as having come from a foreign land. After all, they didn’t come from the same frame of reference that we have. Yet the same idea holds true for all of the people around us; we just don’t give a break to those that we see as coming from environments that we believe are the same as ours. But are those environments really the same? We can change that person that we see in the mirror.
Is the difference in background environments from ours any less dramatic for someone that grew up in an urban housing project than for someone who just immigrated from another part of the world? Why would we give the benefit of the doubt and try harder to “understand” the one and not try with both? Is there any reason to become immediately suspicious of or frightened by someone of color or someone who is very large? How can I explain my reaction to the color of someone’s hair or the clothes that they choose to wear? These things are not things that I can change; however, I can change how I let them affect me and how I react to them. We can change that person that we see in the mirror.
The first step to making changes to that person you see in the mirror is stopping to understand that a reaction has just been triggered within you to something in that person whom you just encountered. Was it fear? Was it a prejudice? Was it a lack of understanding of their frame of reference? Is it real or imagined? We can change that person that we see in the mirror.
Once you stop and take that moment to recognize your initial reaction, you can begin to make the changes in you that control those reactions. If you can recognize and deal with those triggers before you actually act or react, you will have gone a long way towards becoming a better person and will likely find that your life becomes much more satisfying. It’s like moving from a monochromatic view of the world into a full Technicolor world. Living without the fears and prejudices that were dictating your life will allow you to embrace the diversity around you and learn from the different backgrounds of those that you encounter. We can change that person that we see in the mirror.
So, don’t worry about changing others. Look in the mirror and try to get that person straightened out. You’ll be glad that you did. We can change that person that we see in the mirror…and they will be a better person for that change.