Changing Another Person LO19944

John Dicus (
Fri, 20 Nov 1998 10:48:50 -0500

Replying to LO19854 --

I haven't posted to LO for a while. Just been doing some listening and
thinking. I suspect that the manner in which this thread was introduced
was what drew me in. It left space for me to reflect and contribute.

I had just re-read a portion of Michael Crichton's "Sphere," where a
character said that understanding can be used as a delaying tactic. He
went on to suggest that people can either try to understand
(intellectualize) how to swim or could just jump in and start swimming.

In that spirit, I'm going to jump in and get wet. I'd like to contribute
my thoughts via a few vignettes. This is what has surfaced in me over the
last few days as this thread has been woven:

1) PC

I once spent a week in a company that was known for it's PC (politically
correct) atmosphere. After a few days I felt so boxed-in that I thought I
was going to explode. In their efforts to say just the right thing at all
times and to treat everyone equally, they had arrived at a state in which
everyone was equal in the lowest common denominator form -- equal but not
free. They were imprisoned by their inability (reluctance) to use the
only language each person had at their own disposal to express themselves
as best they could -- to try and make meaning. Unfortunately no one
really knew what meaning another person was attempting to convey. I want
to be able to say that I change people and that they change me -- or not.
And whether people agree with me or not, I simply want the freedom to say
it. I certainly welcome your asking me what I mean -- I may not even know
yet. This thought was prompted by Rick's suggestion that we may be
veiling, or euphemizing, our endeavors to change another person by using
words that make us appear to be minding our own business. And we may be
doing so because we think it is PC or unethical to say that we want to
change another.

2) Others Have Changed Me

I am different today than I might otherwise have been because of people
who cared enough -- about me, or just cared in general -- to get me to
sample another way of thinking and being. These people include my wife,
children, parents, friends, teachers, co-workers, complete strangers, and
even those who might be construed as "my enemies." Sometimes I willingly
tasted what they had to offer. Other times they dragged me kicking and
screaming all the way. But I owe my life to them in many ways -- some of
the ways I have yet to appreciate. Many of you have led me to your views
-- some offered gently, some passionately. I can look back and imagine
who I might have been had these people not "tried to change me." I am
thankful that people did. In many cases I would have been much worse off.
Sure, I made choices along the way -- but I would never have had the
opportunity to make choices without these people. Sometimes I was not
knowledgeable or wise enough to make a good decision on my behalf. Others
did. And again I can say "thank-you!"

3) For Self For Others

If I were to try to change another, or if another were to try to change
me, I hope it would be for myself and for them -- for both of us. I try
to develop myself (and what a along way to go) such that the things I do
are not for self at the expense of others. For others at the expense of
myself may not be wise either. The poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote: "It is
a high inducement to the individual to ripen, to become something in
himself, to become world, to become world for himself for another's
sake... it is a great and exacting claim upon him, something that chooses
him and calls him out and calls him to vast things." How can we avoid the
dichotomy that develops when we talk about change? Can we ever do
anything solely for ourselves, or solely for another -- excluding others
in the first case or ourselves in the second? I suspect not. Rilke's
words stay with me when I think about the role of the individual in
community -- "for self for another's sake." If I have the interests of
others as well as myself at heart, then what I do is for self for others.
This is the thought I try to carry into a facilitation. And I allow
myself to use the word "teach" if that's a first-choice word without
worrying that the word is out of vogue. If teach, change, etc are
unpopular words then how did they get to be that way? Abuse of power? I
would rather re-legitimize good words then try and avoid most of my

4) My Father-in law (1 out of 10)

What caused a young boy -- one of ten children born to a poor Alabama
sawmill operator -- to turn out to be one of the gentlest, kindness men I
ever had the pleasure of knowing? To understand this better you would
need to have seen the rest of the brothers and sisters. Some, you would
not have wanted to keep company with for more than a few minutes. Others
you might have tolerated for a few hours -- or a few days. But you would
miss Bill had you known him. My wife, Connie, says that perhaps her Dad
sought out something the rest did not -- who knows -- and if so, why? She
also said he spent a lot of time with an uncle who lived near -- a good
man with a good heart. Bill and his brothers and sisters made what
connections they could on their own to survive -- to eat -- since money
and food was nearly non-existent. The uncle imparted something important
that was in turn taught to his daughter and eventually taught to me --
making me better, I think, than I could otherwise have been. I watched
Bill try and change me -- and others. He definitely was trying to do so.
Because he cared enough to try. I don't resent, even for a moment, that
he tried. And I will always appreciate and learn from "how" he did it.
He made me reflect and want to know what he was teaching.

To close my thoughts, I'm thinking that I can know more about changing
another person if stories are added to the conversation rather than just
trying to understand this in my head alone.

Thanks for listening,

Warm regards,

John Dicus


John Dicus | CornerStone Consulting Associates -- Bringing Systems To Life -- 2761 Stiegler Road, Valley City, OH 44280 800-773-8017 | 330-725-2728 (2729 fax) |

Learning-org -- Hosted by Rick Karash <> Public Dialog on Learning Organizations -- <>