3 Experts Reveal Whether You Can Truly Change Another Person — And If So, How

Change is hard enough for yourself, so we asked a couple of YourTango experts if it's possible to do an even harder thing and change another person.

Man habitually working aliaksandrbarysenka, Mohamad Faizal Bin Ramli | Canva

Ask anyone if it's possible to change another person and you're sure to get a strongly held opinion, an incredible amount of hedging, and a heartfelt story in reply.

Changing a bad habit takes so much effort, focus, and work, work, work. We've all been there at one point, whether it was trying to change from always using your left hand to carry things, or being actively in recovery from addiction.

Change takes a lot of challenging work. So, it is only natural for some people to not want to face the extreme struggles involved in changing themselves.


When a person you love is unwilling to change, you will probably find yourself wondering how you can make them change.

RELATED: Yes, A Person Can Change — But Only Under This One Condition

We asked our YourTango experts to answer the question for you.


Here, Yourtango experts reveal whether you can truly change a person — and if so, how:

1. No, but what about boundaries?

No, you can't change another person. However, by setting boundaries in a relationship, life will change over time.

Audrey Tait, CCC, CMAT, CSAT, MS, RD

2. No, but you can change yourself.

No, you cannot change another person. Our habit patterns are established in childhood and practiced for decades, so it takes effort for us to change. You can support another person, but they must have the desire and put in the effort on their own.

Sometimes our "encouragement" feels like we're trying to control them which pushes them away. This is the opposite result we want. The bottom line, we can't change anyone else.


However, we can truly change ourselves if we have the desire.

Here are four high-level steps to change yourself instead of trying to change someone else:

1. Recognize your long-standing habit patterns that limit or block your ability to be your best self.
2. Interrupt the old habit as it's occurring so you can stop it. Over time you will be able to stop the habit earlier and earlier until you can catch it before you start.
3. Practice a new healthy habit that will allow for curiosity, peace, kindness, and creativity and a new way of looking at, and, living life.
4. Keep practicing until the new habits become your new way of being.

P.S. My clients who are practicing this are beginning to make real changes in 6 weeks, not many years. 


Marilyn Sutherland, Love and Leadership Empowerment Coach

RELATED: How To Get Your Partner To Change For The Better

4. No, but you can still help them in other ways.

I have seen tremendous positive changes in client behaviors and choices over the course of therapy, no matter how difficult their problems are at the start. You do not change the person but you can relieve their anxieties, or change their attitude and empower them to make choices that align positively with who they already are.

The big *BUT* is that the clients who make such life-changing progress are committed to the process and do the work: taking notes, doing all the homework I assign, and often journaling during the week to stay focused on the new insights and progress they want to see.


You cannot help someone to change if they aren't committed to making change. It's a partnership and they are 50% of the equation in successfully evolving to a better place in their lives.

Dr. Gloria Brame, Sex Therapist, and Board-certified Sexologist

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Will Curtis is the associate editor for YourTango.