Changing Another Person LO19854 -was:Lectures, learning, etc.

Richard Karash (
Sun, 15 Nov 1998 10:06:41 -0500

Replying to LO19830 --

At said:

>> It is my task to help people to develop within themselves the power to
>> change.

And Steve replied:

>It is also my task, and the task of all of us here ...snip...
>So: my problem is this:
>How do I help you to change?
>How do I help you to see that your essentialities, your theology, all that
>you teach here are mental models that you have constructed with language...

I see a number of interesting lines of exploration in the recent exchanges
here. One of these is the question of changing other people.

On one hand, it appears to me:

1. No human being can reliably determine what change will occur in
another human being as a result of their interaction. (see Maturana for
the biological basis for this statement.)

2. It's unethical and presumptuous to change another human being. Also
can be disrespectful.

On the other hand:

3. We TRY to change other people all the time
- with a range of openness in our approaches, some more direct, some
very indirect and disguised.
- And with a range of firmness in our goals, from strong need to change
the other, all the way to the sincere offering of an alternative point of
view for consideration only if you're interested.

4. It's unethical, unfriendly, unlearningful, and lacking respect *not*
to intervene. This applies in a wide range of situations, for example when
we feel another person is thinking or acting:
- in a way that will not be effective (we should be helpful)
- in a way that will cause self-harm
- in a way that harms our own interests
- in a way that will harm the community

5. We DO change people all the time. Every interaction with another
person leaves behind in their memory and nervous system some artifact of
the interaction that changes the person to some degree.

So, I propose a question here: What can we say about changing other
people? What's right and ethical? What works?

To support the dialogue, I'll summarize my principles in this area:

1. Every interaction has an effect on the other; I try to be conscious of
this in every human interaction, large or small. (Every interaction also
has an effect on me, but that's another topic.)

2. My point of view and depth of conviction will not be clear to the
other person unless I articulate it; so I am conscious of making sure my
point of view is expressed clearly in a conversation. When I have deep
conviction, belief, and enthusiasm (as I do for this organizational
learning field) I try to let that show. When I'm uncertain, that should be
clear as well.

3. Listen. This is simple, but not easy. Self-assurance and self-comfort
is necessary to be able to really listen...

4. Where the relationship is established to permit it, and where the
other person accepts my intervention, I do try to change other people...

5. But, the choice for another person is always theirs, not mine. I am
always conscious of being clear to the other person that I am sharing my
conviction, belief, and enthusiasm for their consideration, not to dictate
their choice. I believe the other way won't work and would be unethical.

Please add your thoughts about changing other people.

-- Rick


Richard Karash ("Rick") | <> Speaker, Facilitator, Trainer | email: "Towards learning organizations" | Host for Learning-Org Discussion (617)227-0106, fax (617)523-3839 | <>

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