Your son procrastinates. Your neighbors let their lawn grow too tall. Your husband forgets what you tell him. Your mother tells you how to raise your children. Ugh: which of those scenarios annoys you most? How do you react when it arises? Do you criticize the people involved, hoping your sarcastic comments will change their behavior? Here's a secret: more than likely all the criticism in the world won't change another person's behavior. Want better results? Instead, try using this simple C.H.A.N.G.E. Method.
Let's use the neighbor who waits too long before mowing the lawn as an example. While you read this scenario, imagine using this method for whatever pushes your criticism buttons.
Change your opinion of the bad behavior. Is this really your problem? The neighbor's yard may be overgrown and unattractive, but it is not a reflection on your own meticulous care of your lawn. If the image of an unsightly lawn bothers you, put up a fence or a hedgerow. Drive to your house from the opposite direction so you don't have to see the lawn that needs to be mown. Or quite simply, consider that this is not your problem and get on with your life!
Honor the person over the behavior. Maybe the neighbor has been sick and is unable to tend to his lawn. Maybe he has other worries that take him away from the lawnmower duties. You can't possibly know why your neighbor's lawn is unkempt unless you go over and talk, and merely telling your neighbor that his lawn is unsightly will only annoy him. However, offering to help your neighbor mow the lawn will show him that you care. Bring over a cake or a casserole to help him through a difficult time in addition to offering to mow the lawn. Or send your teenage son over to offer the services. Chances are, your neighbor will pay your child to do the job and in that case, everyone wins!
Accept the behavior you cannot change. Acceptance is a huge part of peace. If your neighbor doesn't want your help, if he doesn't see the same problem you see, or if he flatly refuses to mow his lawn more than once a month, then accept that this is his way of living. At least you'll have an attractive lawn to look at next door during the few days immediately after he mows!
Notice the good behavior before the bad. The theory of leaving well enough alone does not work when you're trying to change someone's behavior. You'll need to verbally reward your neighbor immediately after he mows the lawn with a comment something like this: "Wow! Your yard looks so much bigger today." Or: "What kind of lawnmower did you use? My husband is looking for a new model and yours is so quiet I never heard you mowing." In both examples, the focus is not on the fact that the lawn is now mown after four weeks of growth. The focus is on the nice front yard and well-oiled lawnmower!
Gather others to recognize the changed behavior. Peer pressure is a powerful force — both negatively and positively. Talk to your other neighbors about your next door neighbors newly manicured lawn. Ask them to let him know that they notice the great job he is doing, as well. They probably have noticed the eyesore but may be reluctant to attempt to change the situation. Their comments will reinforce yours so you don't need to be an army of one!
Encourage a continuation of the good behavior. As the good behavior replaces the bad, make sure you notice every instance of the improvement. Also, avoid looking for other behaviors to change until the offensive behavior has become permanent. In other words, don't start the C.H.A.N.G.E. Method with your neighbor about his smelly trash cans until it is obvious that he is caring for his lawn on a regular basis!
In a nutshell, whenever you notice behavior that should be changed, either for aesthetics, the other person's welfare, or your sanity, try the C.H.A.N.G.E. Method for a conflict-free way to transform bad behavior into good behavior. And most importantly, look for the underlying cause for the bad behavior before you begin to consider ways to change that bad behavior. It may not be a bad habit after all — simply one person's way of coping with a bigger problem. All you have to focus on? Your behavior.
Renee Heiss is the author of the forthcoming book, The Beaded Kingdom available from www.CharacterPublishing.org. It is a workbook for teenagers and adults on how to change your thoughts to change your actions to change your life.
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