How do I get people to do what I want?
After I work with women who have made huge changes in their lives, I always get this question: ‘How can I get my husband/boyfriend on board?’
Or put another way, how can I now get everyone else in my life to experience what I just experienced?
Of course, as we all know, it is never as easy as saying: ‘Honey, I think you should try this thing…’
Because what kind of reaction do you get? Usually, a defensive one. Or an indifferent one. Or an offended one–aka, why are you trying to change me?
But why is that? You’d think after telling someone about the changes you’re experiencing, they’d be gung ho and ready to fling themselves to what’s on the other side.
But that’s not the case.
This became more clear to me when I was recently out for lunch with a mentor of mine. He’s a dad, and I asked him: What’s the best piece of advice you have for parenting?
Even though I’m not a mother myself, most of my clients are mothers and I adore them and their children. And parents are the best people to ask.
So here’s what my mentor said:
“One of the most important things I’ve learned is that kids watch what you do, and not what you say.”
Which means that you can tell a child that they’re the most important thing in the world, but if they notice you don’t spend a lot of time with them or ship them off to boarding school, they might question whether or not you meant what you said.
And the same goes when you’re trying to convince anyone to do what you want them to do!
You can’t just tell your husband to ‘try this cool thing my coach helped me with’. That guarantees an eye roll.
So what actually WORKS?
I like to remember a brilliant phrase I learned from Marie Kondo: “Be like the sun”.
It’s a story about how the wind and the sun were trying to figure out who was stronger. So they decided that whoever could get the traveler walking by to take off his coat, ‘wins’. See Figure A:
The sun is a badass
Which means that you don’t have to say ANYTHING. In fact, what matters the MOST is that the person you want to change sees you doing the desired behavior consistently.
Because eye rolls aren’t born out of your husband or a co-worker not wanting to improve. They’re coming from a place of skepticism: “Why should I do that if I haven’t seen you do it, let alone do it consistently?”
It’s exactly like 3 years ago when I completely changed my diet by not eating meat or dairy anymore. I felt great. But other people–like family members–thought I was nuts.
Even though I told them ‘no’ hundreds of times for every question that had to do with asking if I wanted more cheese on something, they kept asking anyway. “But we’re Italian!” They said. And, “How could you not eat CHEESE?”
It was like me changing threatened their entire way of living. And this is a common reaction that prevents most people from changing in the first place!
I knew arguments about how great I felt would no nothing. So I said nothing. I smiled, and told them their Parmesan looked good.
Eventually, I saw that their attitude started to change. They would tell me ‘Oh, we’re trying to eat healthier’ and even switched from eating processed food to more fresh produce. And I nodded all the way, never saying I told you so, but secretly thrilled that they were doing it for themselves and saying how great it was when they exclaimed how much more energy they had.
This is the ART of getting someone to take action
And it’s a LONG game.
Because even if you’re a great role model, that still doesn’t mean that person is going to do anything!
What has to be there is that person’s willingness and desire to change. Without it, you’re up shits creek and nothing is going to work. That person will constantly feel like they’re not good enough in your eyes because they feel like you’re trying to change who they are.
So here’s a simple, step-by-step process you can follow to get people to do what you want them to do:
Step 1: ‘Be the sun’ for the right people
I know how fantastic it feels to have someone use the advice you gave them. And I also know how frustrating it is when you feel like everything you said fell on deaf ears.
Remember that changing people is NOT your responsibility, and most people find it annoying. Much better to look at your own actions, refine those, and let people be inspired by or interested in what you’re doing.
For example: Let’s say you decide you’d like to make the bed every day–an idea I got over a year ago from this video and haven’t stopped since. In an ideal world, you’d LOVE for everyone to follow your lead. But for now, do it on your own, be consistent, and get GOOD at it. Make that bed look like the damn Ritz-Carlton made it.
Step 2: Do it for YOU, not to convince someone
This is counterintuitive.
Because usually our first thoughts are: “How can I get so-and-so to pick up his socks, get those reports in on time, exercise more”. And this is normal.
But here’s a completely different way to think about it: “What can I say and do that would INSPIRE certain behaviors?”
Look at the difference.
One option is very “how can I manipulate you into this”–which people will ALWAYS sense and resist. Another option is “How can I take responsibility for my actions?”
The second option isn’t the sexiest, but it’s the one that gets results.
Let’s go back to the bed making example:
When you get an interesting look, or a observation like: “I notice you’ve been making the bed recently…” Just nod, smile, and explain why you’re doing it for YOU.
So no: “Yea, it’s great! You should try it”
But instead: “I’ve been feeling great doing this every morning. I feel more productive, and I love how the room feels calm when I walk into it.”
And that’s it! Afterwards, you go do something else or change the conversation.
Why does this work?
No one wants to feel like you’re doing something with hopes that if they see you do it, they’ll do it, too. That not only causes defensiveness, but resentment! You’ll feel even angrier if you don’t see anything change.
That’s why when you do it, it has to benefit YOU first. Which means, it has to be something YOU actually want to do! Why would someone willingly do what you are NOT willing to do?
Step 3: Ask yourself: Why is it important this person does what you want?
This is a question people rarely stop to ask.
But when they do, how often have we heard ourselves say: ‘It would be nice…’
Which is a passive-aggressive way of saying: ‘If you loved me, you’d do ‘X’ “
Is there any wonder why that never gets a good response?
When we say ‘It would be nice…’ we are completely misunderstanding the other person. We don’t know how they think or feel. We have no idea what’s preventing them from doing it in the first place. And last, we assume a defensive position when we think the reason something isn’t being done is because we’re not cared for or loved. And it makes the other person feel horrible when we question their motivations like that, even if we never say those exact words.
They sense it!
So ask: Why is this so important to me? What’s really going on?
Have you ever thought of allowing that person to do that thing, in their own time, after seeing you do it?
I doubt it!
Why? Because we think if we don’t say or do something, the other person won’t either. They’ll become lazy, or take advantage of us, right?
That’s a way of thinking that says: ‘I can’t trust this person’
And that could be the truth. But trust is also fostered when you allow that person to make their own decisions, in their own time, even if they make mistakes. If they make a mistake, then you can step in and be a model for how to fix it. But otherwise, people rise to the standards you set.
If you think they’ll screw up, which causes you to micromanage, nag, and ask a question over and over, that’s exactly what you get. But if you make a clear ask in a warm tone of voice, lean back, trust they’ll do it, and help them along the way–you get someone who feels like you believe in them. And that’s one of those ‘common sense’ and ‘obvious’ secrets that go overlooked. But someone feeling like you actually believe in them and trust them allows them to feel motivated internally, vs. you constantly having to motivate them.
Now I want to hear from you: What’s the 1 thing you wish someone in your life would do? Exercise? Eat healthy? Stop an annoying habit? Write me back, I want to hear.