I had the opportunity, many years ago, to work closely with monkeys.
There were five people assigned to work with two monkeys, and of those five people, one of the monkeys hated me – and ONLY me – on sight for no apparent reason!
As I couldn’t work with either monkey until the male trusted me, I spent hours every day preparing peace-offerings of favorite treats, and sitting nearby so he could get used to me and see I was not threatening. After more than two MONTHS trying to earn his trust, I was ready to give up.
Then, one day, seemingly out of the blue, he let me groom him – he trusted me! And once I had his trust, it was TOTAL trust! I was suddenly his favorite human! SO worth all the agonizing hours!
Changing behavior with the people in our lives usually works the same way.
One of the things I talk to my clients about is the idea that one person in a relationship changing their behavior can change the entire dynamic of the relationship.
My clients often find this concept VERY hard to believe!
And often there is resistance.
If they feel that how they have been behaving is reasonable, then the OTHER person should be the one to change! So why should they have to change their behavior?
My response is always: are you happy with the way your relationship is now? Or do you want a better relationship? If you want a better relationship, the only person’s behavior that YOU can control, is YOURS.
That is not to say the process will be easy. It WILL take time!
If your brain has seen one pattern of behavior for a REALLY long time, then one or two examples of a new pattern of behavior are seen as flukes, one-offs, or even tricks. It will take time to establish a new pattern that the brain will trust enough to replace the old pattern.
Our brain needs evidence and proof. Our brain is constantly looking for (or creating) patterns, which results in very detailed stories (that may or may not ACTUALLY be true).
If you are the person trying to establish the new pattern with someone, it will seem like you aren’t making ANY progress – so why bother?
Actually, you are building that new pattern, providing the other person’s brain with new evidence of what’s “true.”
After what may feel like an eternity, one day it will be like a miraculous change happened overnight! Your new behavior will be believed, trusted, and even relied on.
WAY TO GO!
In the romantic world, it might look something like this:
A guy who never tells his wife he loves her, then one day (seemingly out of the blue) he says “I love you.”
She might immediately think “He’s cheating on me.”
If he does it again, her next thought might be, “Oh no, he must have been diagnosed with a terminal illness!”
If he gives up – her brain tells her she was right, there’s something fishy going on.
But if he keeps telling her, consistently, that he loves her (and his actions match his words), then eventually her brain will have enough evidence that he DOES love her and she will believe him. The romantic connection will be strengthened.
The trick is to always Watch the Response.
Learn that it will likely take time and be patient, but the response will change as the new behavior pattern gains enough proof to be believed as real by the other person.