I often hear people tell me: “You cannot actually change people.” In the way this is spoken, it is totally true. Team leaders and marital partners alike know what it is like to bloody your head against the brick wall of trying to get someone to be who they are not. When people grow and evolve, we tend to become more fully ourselves.

I am so lucky… I get to participate in the most beautiful moments of self emergence. People who were stuck, moving again. People who were scared, confident again. People who were shut down, opening up again. In this blogpost, I will explore what you cannot change and what you actually can.

You Can’t Change What Someone Feels
We usually start our Mutual Empowerment Online forum sessions with each person sharing 3 most important issues up in their lives. The commonest issues involve some kind of intensity of feeling: Afraid someone will react in a certain negative way or wanting some positive response. At the most basic level, we all know it helps to let go of trying to get the other person to be different. To say, “don’t be afraid” or “don’t be angry”, makes it less safe or less calm. There is nothing wrong with whatever emotion they are feeling anyway.       

You Can Change How They Relate To What They Feel
What we can do is lift the shame. We can reflect and empathize. Affirm how normal it is feels intensely, which relaxes the need to justify the feelings with a story of unfair treatment or missed opportunity. You can communicate that you still hold the person in high regard, even as they are going through this. You want their passion.

It turns out this is the gift that keeps on giving. As shame lifts, as a person becomes more and more okay with whatever arises—nice feelings or bad feelings, hot feelings or cold feelings—their emotional capacity evolves into a highly-tuned powerful instrument. They may feel the same emotions but they will be able to use that same fear, loss and anger to bring creativity, connection and determination to the team.  

You Can’t Change A Person’s Purpose
We may be infectious in getting people excited about a company mission or a movement. For example, someone may join a healthcare provider to help people or even see purpose in transforming society through a cool software startup. Over time, however, it becomes clear that corporate mission isn’t enough. To be successful, leaders have to motivate our personal sense of purpose.     

You Can Help Them See How To Fulfill It
It turns out your personal sense of purposes is deeper and more complex. Articulations of purpose refine as you move into different chapters of you life. Connecting with another’s personal purpose is about connecting with their essence, not just their espoused intentions of the moment. The quickest way is to pay attention to their unique gift.

While people try to cultivate a sense or a statement of purpose by imagining outcomes, I find we get closer to the truth by looking at inputs. What are the qualities and super powers this person expresses? This—in essence—is his or her purpose: to express that gift. You want to motivate a person? Optimize their opportunity to bring their unique gift.

There is no need to change people at the core. When appreciated for what it is, the intensity of their feeling is pure fuel. When their essential qualities thrive, they will be motivated to show their best stuff.
I would be interested to hear what you find doesn’t change in people and what does actually move the needle?