When we’re called to understand others and change


“I just can’t understand why I must be the one to change!” My brother admitted.

“Why can’t she make an effort to change?, why must it always be me?” He continued on and I thoughtfully listened. We were on the way back from Penang and I was behind the wheel.  My brother has been in a relationship for some months now (good for him!) and initially things were going well. Over time however, the time had come for the both of them to deal with each other’s weaknesses and ugly side.

As he continued pouring out his heart and asking out aloud why he must be the one to do everything including do a complete “attitude-makeover” when the other person need not even budge a finger to do anything on his or her side.

Change is probably one of the hardest things a human being has to endure.  Scientific research has proven that when we try to change our ways, or adapt to something new, the firing patterns in our brain cells change accordingly and new brain neuron patterns are formed over time. That’s why learning takes time, the brain requires time to fully adapt to whatever it is that it’s trying to learn.

Learning new habits is extremely difficult – which is why subset organizations such as a Change Management Team unit exists in most large complex projects and organization.  (Ironically this is my day job!)

But I have to admit, what my brother said there had some truth to it. And it’s not only in personal relationships we have to deal with change, more specifically where we are expected or required to change for the other person. Even in the corporate world, typical new joiners and employees are often required to change and adapt to their new working environment, sometimes even in a coerce way.  There has been so many instances in my own career life where I had to adapt to different working environments and styles.

Limits, Consequences and Reasons

While I strongly believe that one should try his or her best to adapt instead of doing nothing about it, there is a limit though. There are just some things which even our mighty brains are limited to.  There is only so much that we can change, and if people keep demanding us to change constantly and dramatically, sooner or later, most of us will just feel exasperated.

And this, in my own view, can lead to detrimental consequences, if not handled properly. The person who keeps giving in, every day by trying to live up to the expectations and modifications of others, will eventually break down and lose his or her self-esteem. 

But of course there comes the reason: I change because I want to be a better person. I have no qualms whatsoever with that statement. As a person who advocates positive changes and practices this, I know the power of a positive change. But that’s a different type of a change – that’s an inside-out change approach, you want to change because YOU want to change, not because the company tells you to, not because your girlfriend tells you to, you want to change because you want to do it. Regardless whether it’s a bad old habit, or a something you’re struggling with, changing because you want to change is probably the most powerful channel of change. 

But changing for another person, and doing it because it will make her happy or satisfy her, that’s a different change. That’s a more “forced-upon” change, and we often do this to please others, to fit in, to be conformed.

And the effects of those who succumb to this are evident : Some become apathetic, some lose their zeal for life, some lose their self-confidence and self-esteem, and there are some that give in until they become “one of us”. I’ve seen it happen right before my eyes in companies and even among my friends who are in relationships with “control freaks”.

Truth to be told 

Like my brother, I too have always wondered:

“Why must I BE the ONE to ALWAYS change for others? Why can’t she change instead?”

“Why can’t my supervisor or boss understand me from where I am coming from rather than always expecting me to conform to him/her?”

Maybe it’s because most of us are quick to look at ourselves first before we look at others, especially if you’re in an environment where you’re not really familiar yet ; i.e – in a new job, in a new relationship; with new circle of friends.

But like it or not, the sad fact of life is, we have to change. We can’t go around with our own set of virtues and beliefs and expect everyone to conform to us.  We can’t go around this world without undergoing some change. In fact the very notion about the way we deal with different people and different situations is an archetype of change…and most of us do it without even realizing because our brain patterns have already established all the emotional patterns and attitudes we have to display in each situation.  And so it is with other things – it hurts and frustrates everyone in the beginning, but that’s how change cycle is initiated.

Some suggestions

I will be the first to candidly admit that I’m no master of change myself.  I have had my own struggles with change, but I have found that in some ways, I am better able to adapt to change and there are some ways in which can help make changes a whole lot easier.

1. If you have the a problem, and somebody has pointed it to you, confront the problem, but believe that you can overcome it 2. Understand the reason behind the change ; why does your boss want you to change and conform to a certain way 3. Once you understand the reason behind the change, start looking for positive outcomes from this change, start seeing good things that could arise from this change 4. Change because you WANT to, not because you HAVE to. 5. Always remember that you’re a slave to no one, that you still have control over your life – this has helped me a lot in diffusing stressful situations. The moment I realize that there’s more to life than just pleasing my boss and forcing myself to put on a good image, I start taking it easy.

1 comment

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  • well said! Change is the most difficult thing in life. Nobody, not even things (the law of Inertia explained all)like changes, but we have to constantly remember to be humble, take a step back when being criticized, to understand where the other person is coming from, to have the maturity to analyse whether the change required is for our own good and not for others. It is painful, but often it’s part of shaping us to be a better person! Cheers!



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