Life Skills Exercise: Asking People to Change Their Behavior

Merely Me Health Guide
  • In my Monday post I talked about "Adult Children of Alcoholics and Depression."


    Some of you had responded that you have had this life experience and also some of you have responded that you have not had this experience yet you have some of the characteristic personality traits of someone who is an ACoA. 


    As I had mentioned I want to start a series here of exercises that can potentially help not just the person who is an adult child of an alcoholic  but anyone who needs to learn some life skills in order to better manage their depression.


    The first exercise I would like to try is "Asking Others to Change Their Behavior."

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    This therapeutic exercise comes from a book called, "Life Skills for Adult Children" by Janet Woititz and Alan Garner. 


    We have all had people in our life who we wish would their behavior.  Maybe the person is a parent, spouse, child, sibling or friend.  While we can't change people, I do believe it is possible to change someone's behavior, especially when the behavior you wish to directed towards you.  You always have that right to ask someone to change their behavior.


    Ammendment:  I re-read what I had written here and I wish to ammend that one sentence you see in italics.  The whole purpose of this life skills exercise is to learn how to be assertive.  The adage that you can't change anyone but yourself is very true.  And you may not be able to change someone else's behavior. is the important do have the right to ask someone to change their behavior when it affects you.  In doing so, it is possible that the other person may get angry, defensive, or ignore your request.  What this exercise is all about is to up the odds that the other person will not react in these ways but instead, listen to what you are saying and subsequently growth and change can occur.




    The Skill:  Describe your observations of what the other person does and says without assigning motives or assumptions about motives.  The authors say that once you assign motives then the other person will react with defensiveness or anger. 


    So what you are supposed to do is to pretend you are a neutral observer reporting what you have seen.


    The Formula:  "When you do this (describe what you have observed in concrete terms) then...(this consequence happens)."


    The authors give an example of turning assumptions into observations:  "When you deliberately kept me waiting..." is an assumption.  The translated observation is:  "When you were 25 minutes late then I was unable to get to work on time."  You can also tell the other person how you feel about those consequences. 


    Another example might be:  "When you raise your voice then I can't understand what you are saying."


    Your Part:  Choose a situation from your own life where you want to change someone's behavior towards you.  Write out a When-Then response. 


    Here are some practice exercises of assumptions you can change into a 'When-Then" response


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    1. "When you tried to make me mad..."


    2.  "When you purposefully embarrassed me in front of everyone..."


    3.  "When you act like a jerk to get attention..."


    These are just examples of assumptions which the authors say will not work in your efforts to change someone's behavior. 


    So here is what I want you to do:

    1.  Choose a behavior which bothers you. 

    2.  Write out a "When you...Then" response.  Remember to leave out assumptions of intentions.  Stick with the facts of what you can observe.


    Practice here and then try it out in real life.  Let us know how it goes!




Published On: April 09, 2010