Who wants you to change?
Personal change is challenging. Sticking to those changes can be made easier by ensuring that you have a supportive social network. But not everyone you know will support you in pursuing what you believe to be a positive personal change. So when seeking change and looking for that external support, it’s essential to have some tools for evaluating who’s opinion matters.
Why the lack of support?
If someone is not supportive of what you perceive as a positive change, it can often have more to do with their insecurities and history with the topic. In the context of alcohol, most people view their consumption as equal to those of their peer group. If you state that you are drinking too much, it forces your peers to make an assessment. Do they think you are? If you are, does that mean that they are too? Subconsciously, your behavior change can be perceived as a criticism of their choices. Adding to this, if the non-supportive individual has tried and failed to abstain from drinking, your success can be perceived as a superiority over them, which no one likes. As we are very attuned to peer relationships and expectations, these non-supportive remarks can be incredibly detrimental to our goals if we cannot understand them for what they are, a form self-protection.
> When you face concerns from a peer regarding something that you considered a positive change you need to determine if they are being critical as a protective measure or is there some genuine concern regarding your proposed change.
Understanding the intent is crucial because even the best changes will bring out unwanted consequences in your network. You need to listen and evaluate the thoughts individuals share with you because they hold different set of experiences that can be insightful to understanding your own circumstance. Ignoring that and simply believe that you make the right choice serverly limits your ability to learn from others. Yet learning to heavily on others option leave your self vulnerable to information presented as a defensive mechanism rather then support. Obviously, no one will be absolute on their side, support is mixed with self defense. We are humans after all. So rather then make some blanket statement about how to treat others opinions of your choices it is better to rely on an evaluation metric that helps you tease out an individual’s intent on a specific topic.
Three questions to frame
I evaluate the intent of any individual’s comments on personal change through a series of questions.
- What role does the quality I am trying to change play in this other individual’s life?
- Are we in similar places in life such that direct competition between up is probable?
- What kind of support have I given or received from this person in the past?
The answer to these questions is going to defer depending on the change I am looking to make. The individuals who might be strong supporters of my financial decisions might have detrimental opinions regarding my parenting choices. That is perfectly ok.
A positive element of these questions is that you likely know the answer to them before starting the conversation. If you don’t, it will be tough to accurately assess the individual’s intention from a given conversation. This may seem problematic, but it is quite the opposite. Knowing that we can’t realistically make an accurate evaluation of the intent behind a comment without knowing the individual means that we can limit our own focus to those people we know well. These are your kin, and you know them, so listen to them.
There are some obvious dangers to this perspective. Limiting your cirlce of influence to only those you know well is going to strengthening your personal filter bubble. If you know this, and accept that people you know well are necessarily your friends or people you like, I think having a mechanism for limiting your area of concern is worth the risk.
Change is hard and not inherently good. Different individuals’ experiences will do wonders in helping you evaluate the quality of any given choice surrounding personal change. But you need to understand where they are coming from. Ask the questions, listen, and place weight on the responses based on your assessment.