You Can’t Change Others: Letting People Be
A few weeks ago, as I was sitting with some friends over dinner, there were multiple times when a lot of “shoulds” circulated through the conversation. “He should have picked you up for the date,” or “he shouldn’t act like that.”
I myself was guilty as charged, “should-ing” here and there as well. And then, when I actually pondered the meaning of what we were suggesting, the blinker in my mind flashed red, and I tried to bring myself back into check.
That wasn’t the first time that I’ve had difficulty with just letting people be.
I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that someone who I wanted to remain in touch with decided he no longer wanted to communicate — at all. I found myself time and time again expressing frustration that I wouldn’t have stopped communication so abruptly. I would have at least explained where I was coming from a bit more.
After venting my angst to others, I heard a perspective that just clicked. I needed to let him be. Letting someone be involves acceptance of who the person is, and it’s allowing him or her to do things that may be different from your own actions. Do I like his behavior? Not exactly, but I think it’s definitely a freeing thought process to practice.
Lorna Tedder, life coach and author of several books (including both fiction and nonfiction guides), discusses her dealings with this teaching in her 2010 article, “The Hard Truth of Letting People Be Who They Are.” Tedder was berated (she actually described it as “viciously attacked”) when she answered a question for an online community.
“It was a personal question based on my own experiences, as I’d stated, and a stranger intruded to tell me that’s not what happened at all in my life and give his opinions on matters he had not witnessed. He made some very bold and incorrect assumptions. When I took exception, his attack turned extremely personal.”
Tedder left that particular online base, only to stumble across the very same individual in another digital platform, patronizing another woman with regard to a question about her career. That’s when she speculated that it wasn’t just her; he has a general oppositional approach when interacting with others.
“I noted several other attacks he’d made online and realized that he really enjoys baiting people and then saying, I’m a psychiatrist and therefore I know what you were probably thinking and you don’t.”
As difficult (and aggravating) as it was to swallow, Tedder understood that she may have to just let him be who he is.
In Tiny Buddha’s post, “Why Judging People Makes Us Unhappy,” Toni Bernhard distinguishes the difference between judgment and discernment. Discernment is the way we perceive how things are, but judgment is the added implication that a change of sorts is needed.
Bernhard acknowledges that you certainly don’t have to spend time with those you don’t wish to have in your company (boundaries are always something to think about), but allowing them to be eliminates further discontentment.
“So, judgment is just a recipe for suffering: start with our dissatisfaction over how a person happens to be and mix in our desire for them to be otherwise,” the post stated. “To make that suffering nice and rich, be sure the desire clings tightly to the dissatisfaction!”
In all honesty, letting people be has not always come easy, and usually the dilemma unfolds when certain expectations I have aren’t met. Well, maybe expectations are the problem. While it’s ideal to be treated in a preferable way, everyone handles life differently.
Suval, L. (2013). You Can’t Change Others: Letting People Be. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 9, 2016, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/05/14/you-cant-change-others-letting-people-be/