How to Encourage Someone to Change

We have many people attend our training and see the value it brings them both in their personal and professional lives. Many then want to impart their learnings on those closest to them, particularly when it comes to the productivity and efficiency gains that come from our Getting Things Done course. But how do you encourage someone close to you, to change their behaviour? Here are a few ideas. which are shared on the assumption that a friendly invitation has already been extended that hasn’t been received.


If you want to lead someone into new behaviour, you should be a living example of that behaviour. Aristotle wrote, “Character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion.”

Character may not only be the most effective means of persuasion, it may be your only means. If in the end you fail to persuade someone close to you into adopting GTD skills, your example will continue to influence. You don’t have to be a perfect example, but it should be clear by your living, not just your talking, that your moral compass encompasses the behaviours you advocate.


For this conversation to go well, you’ll need to convey respect, and to convey respect you must feel respect.

Even with a partner or a spouse, it’s easy to lose sight of respect in the face of disagreement or irritation. Here’s what you can do to regain your sense of respect when it’s been lost.

Firstly, recognise that the problem is your problem. Even if your partner’s behaviour is leading to negative outcomes, you must acknowledge that if you have a problem with his or her behaviour, it’s your problem. When we recognise that the problems we have with others are, in fact, our problems, we switch from trying to change the other person to trying to communicate why we find the behaviour problematic, which is far more effective.

Secondly, recognise the other person’s autonomy. If you approach the conversation with a do-or-die mindset, you’ll provoke resistance and get frustrated. Don’t raise the issue until you’re at peace with the fact that your partner is an autonomous agent and may choose contrary to your wishes.

Thirdly, identify why the new behaviour matters to your spouse or partner’s wellbeing and growth. Easing your irritation, for example, is not a compelling cause. Wider social consequences or personal values, however, are great motivators. So, is your partner’s lack of GTD skills affecting the kids, friends, family, their wellbeing? Sharing this information will help you not only convey respect but also care and concern.


When you feel you are ready to speak respectfully, speak directly. No dancing around it. Convey your respect and intent, then point out a few of the problems arising in your spouse or partner’s life, your life, or the lives of others because of your partner’s behaviours. If you’ve done the internal work, your feedback should come across as courageous concern, not coercive criticism.

Over the years we have developed our own scripts for preparing someone for feedback based on the skills taught in Crucial Conversations, and they look something like this:

“What I’m about to say may feel confrontational. Please know that I’m speaking up because I respect you enough to be honest with you, and because I care about you and our work.”

Then say the hard things.

With those who can be sensitive to feedback, you could say something like this:

“I know this may be hard to hear, but I want you to know I’m telling you this because I care. We can’t always see our own shortcomings and mistakes, and we all depend on feedback from each other to become better versions of ourselves. That’s how we grow. And this is only my perspective—you’re free to disagree. I only ask that you thoughtfully consider it.”

Then say the hard things.

This can make any defensiveness dissolve in seconds with the sincere expression of respect and concern. Reflect on these principles and examples and come up with your own approach.


After you’ve shared your perspective, ask your partner, “How do you see it?” Then listen. And be open to a later discussion. Feedback, no matter how well it’s delivered, often takes time to process. Wherever the conversation goes, make it clear to your partner you respect them and ongoing dialogue more than getting your way. If your partner responds to the feedback, it will be evident with curiosity and questions. You’ll now have a partner receptive to suggestions. Share why you think the GTD skills can help.


Finally, find joy in your partner’s strengths. In the end, your partner may not be open to the behaviours you suggest. They may disagree with your perspective. Don’t get hung up on this. Each of us is comprised of many qualities, some bad, some good. Try to focus on your partner’s good qualities and continue improving your own.There are a few ideas for starting the conversation. Our books and courses teach several more on continuing that conversation and supporting someone through behaviour change.

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