SLR 077: 7 Steps to Help a Loved One Embrace Change

Simple Life RebootOne of the most difficult questions we get is:

“What do I do when I want to make changes,  but my loved one does not?”

Whether the desired change is to rightsize, de-clutter, reduce activity  or financial overload or otherwise,  we generally encourage the inquiring party to make individual changes, and then wait patiently in the hope that demonstrated benefit will persuade the reluctant party to embrace mutual change at some point.

While we continue to recommend this approach,  we recognize that additional advice might be helpful, particularly when the “just-be-an-example” approach appears to be failing.

We have boiled our recommendations down to the following 7 points:

1. Maintain the relationship as the priority.  As a starting point, resolve that if a choice must be made,  your relationship with your loved one will always trump your desired life edits.  The greater purpose for the desired change should be to benefit the relationship.

2. Identify loved one’s pain.  Many of us become so accustomed to bearing a burden that we fail to recognize that such even exists.  Be sure to identify what pain your loved one is experiencing that your desired changes will relieve.  Resistance may be lessened if changes are understood to be a mutual solution,  as opposed to a life change that is simply your personal preference.

3. Do NOT pressure loved one.  Resist the urge to pressure (or nag) your loved one into making changes s/he is not ready to make. Making significant life changes and edits is complex and often involves deeper issues of security and identity.  Attempting to coerce or shame a loved one into letting go of cherished items and/or activities will be counterproductive at best.

4. Maximize individual changes. Implement as many individually-impactful changes as possible. Such increases the likelihood that there will be measurable,  persuasive benefits that can be observed over a period of time by the reluctant party.

5. Use “Season in Life” as context for change.  Provide a new perspective on desired edits.  Change might be easier if it is understood as a natural transition or transfer as opposed to  “loss” or “letting go”  of something.   Examples might include donating outgrown baby clothes or selling an oversized empty-nesters’ house to a growing family so that such property can again be used and enjoyed as intended.

6.  Propose a trial period or game approach. Consider proposing a limited, no-commitment trial period.  An example would be Courtney Carver’s 3 month fashion challenge, Project 333.  Other approaches include permanently editing items such as playing the Minimalist’s game for a month,  or trying Simple Life Together’s year long “Edit and Forget It” challenge.

7. Inspire and encourage.  Keep two words in mind when trying to help a loved one with change.  To “inspire” is  to breathe life into someone.  To “encourage”  is to imbue with courage.  Recognize and celebrate how momentous even small changes can be in you and your loved one’s life.  Commit to serve, inspire, encourage and be a source of hope for a better future.


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One thought on “SLR 077: 7 Steps to Help a Loved One Embrace Change

  1. I love #7. My grandparents are going through some pretty tough transitions right now- I’m going to remember to “inspire” and “encourage” them with words of life when I see them. Another insightful post- you’re a gifted writer, Sheryl.