Unfortunately, no matter how hard we try, we cannot change other people. If you weren’t already aware of that, I’m very sorry to break the news to you. It sucks. You’ll come head to head with multiple people in your life, probably even some of the closest people in your life – parents, best friends, roommates, siblings, spouses. Conflict is inevitable, but don’t waste your time fixing it by trying to change others. You are only in control of yourself.
Everyone has different mindsets, levels of maturity, and values, amongst others such as opposing religious beliefs, political stances, life choices, lifestyle, or attitude. Perhaps you don’t like your best friends boyfriend, or the excessive amount of partying a roommate does, or is an atheist when your parents raised you Catholic, or a friend voted for a political candidate you despise. This change you want to inflict on others can come from various degrees, from disputing over a small disagreement to staying with someone toxic in your life thinking you’ll “fix them.” Whatever it is, just know that you cannot change someone and you cannot “fix them.”
It will be frustrating. It will drive you crazy. It will hurt you. It could make you question your relationship. You may feel betrayed that someone you love and value views the world, in your opinion, very wrong. If they are making life decisions that are harmful to them, don’t think that you can change their habit. If they are treating you with disrespect, don’t think you can teach them how to be a decent human. If they are dating someone that is toxic, don’t think you can make them break up. If they have conservative beliefs when you have liberal beliefs, don’t try to convert them to your side. People will not view the world in your eyes no matter how many times you try to teach them, explain to them, yell at them, get mad at them, or however else you express your disbelief for their views. People will never change unless they want to change, it cannot be forced upon them. They may never change because sometimes, as much as you don’t want to hear it, they’re not wrong: they’re just different than you. If you’re right about the situation, as much as you don’t want to hear it, they may never learn until they get hurt. As much as this tears you apart, the only control you have in this situation is how you react to it.
When a circumstance like this comes up, the only solution lies within yourself. Others cannot be changed, but you can change your approach to the issue. What does this mean? Here are some examples:
- Walk away. If you are in a toxic relationship that causes you stress or pain in anyway, don’t keep them in your life. If someone’s actions or opinion hurt you, don’t put up with it. Take care of your needs first. If that means walking away and never looking back, so be it.
- Don’t discuss it. Sometimes discussing a touchy topic too often can drive you further apart, especially when there’s nothing to be done to change it. With something, such as political beliefs, it’s best to stray away from the topic altogether. If your beliefs make the other uncomfortable, discussing it will only add salt to the wound.
- Create distance. You can choose your friends but not your family. It’s hard to have opposing beliefs with your own family members. Depending on how drastic the situation is, creating boundaries and time spent with people could be helpful. Sometimes you just need space.
- Agree to disagree. Be the bigger person. Realize that everyone is not going to agree with everything you do. Even beyond your teen years you will come across people that challenge your views or disrespect them. It’s life, don’t take it personally. Be confident in where you stand.
- Give it time. Sometimes people won’t hear what you’re saying until they experience what you warned them about. The typical “I told you so” scenario, except you should welcome them with open arms because hey, everyone screws up and makes dumb decisions regardless of what others say. Let people mature and grow on their own.
Life will be much easier once you accept that trying to change someone is a waste of your time. The longer you invest yourself into fixing them, the more you’ll be disappointed. The more you try to convince them of your views, the longer you’ll be frustrated. The only person you can change is yourself.