Ever wonder what makes a person change for the better? The role of a counselor is to encourage healthy change. Many psychology schools teach the concept of unconditional positive regard as an effective method of transformation. The basic principle lies in accepting and supporting a person without judgement regardless of what they say or do. This provides an environment of trust, understanding, and grace which allows a person to grow.
It is not easy to do. Many times it means setting aside personal beliefs and preconceived notions while uncomfortably viewing things from the person’s perspective. This is especially true when dealing with personality disorders. However, the initial awkwardness is worth the effort as the person begins to relax and is more open to other perspectives.
So how can a parent, employer, spouse, or friend take this simple concept and put it into practice? Here are seven ways to encourage positive change in another person:
- Compliment. Even small amounts of praise are effective. A person does not have to agree with every aspect of an issue in order to offer a few words of encouragement. Commending a person has a disarming effect and can turn a heated discussion into an opportunity for growth. Steer clear of criticism as that can turn the best of relationships into an adversarial position.
- Listen. Even if the story is known, it is best to listen to it being told by the person. What they say, how they say it, what details are included or left out are all clues as to their perspective on a situation. Listening involves paying attention to the manner of speech, body language, repeated phrases, and voice inflections. Effective listening cannot be accomplished by thinking about what should be said next. 100% of the attention must be put on the other person.
- Forgive. Forgiveness is not about forgetting. Rather it is about releasing the hurt, anger and bitterness associated with an event. Modeling forgiveness is the most effect way to teach it. Telling someone they need to forgive another person while harboring resentment towards others is ineffective and hypocritical.
- Learn. Studying a person’s behavior, personality, reactions, and responses is more effective when assumptions are put aside. Assuming the worst possible meaning from a particular behavior puts people naturally at odds. This leads to a know-it-all attitude about the other person which does not foster positive change, rather it can lead things down a very negative path.
- Hope. Resetting expectations for the other person which are more in accord with their personality, behavior and passions lays a good foundation for growth. This often means casting aside society’s opinions and seeing the value on the other person. Hope is a powerful force in change and expecting the best outcome resets attitudes and encourages a person to move forward.
- Gratitude. Once again, gratitude is best taught by example. Telling someone they need to be grateful or thankful for what they have can be frustrating when times are difficult. Instead model this by finding something appreciative about the other person. This sparks an attitude of thankfulness that can be infectious.
- Goals. This is last for a reason. Without doing all of the other six steps first, a person is not going to be receptive to setting goals for the future. But this is also the most important step because without ambitions, a person’s motivation dies. Goal setting should be encouraged, not forced, guided, not directed. A person won’t strive to accomplish an objective that they are not invested into.
Some of these steps are going to be more difficult to put into practical application than others. In the end, it is worth the effort but be prepared to be patient with everyone in the process.