I ask my friend, “Do people change?” My friend smiles and replies, “Do you want to be seen as the same person you were as a kid?” Her rhetorical question gives me reassurance and a sense of freedom. Of course, I do not want to be the same person I was as a kid. I hope I have matured a little.
Yes, people change, including me. Yet, I wonder how many times others view me as the person I was and not the person I am today? Expert’s tell us we need to mature, get stronger, develop new skills, and rid ourselves of bad habits. Do our friends, employers, and co-workers accept the new us?
The cynical side of humanity says that people really do not change. At our core, we are the same people that we have always been. I have met these people. When I step into something new, they insist on seeing me for who I was. Admittedly, this can frustrate me when their typecasting affects my confidence. I wish their opinions do not matter, but I know I can benefit from their support.
I recognize the function of my brain that files information about people based upon my experience with them. I too file information based upon the opinions of others, whether or not I have personally validated the facts. It is something the brain does automatically. The brain consolidates all their information and records a picture of them for future use. Once I file their picture away in my brain, it becomes more difficult to change it.
Do people change? I believe they do. Here are three thoughts that help me accept people for who they are today.
- See people for who they are today. Pay attention to their story and listen for their transitions of growth. Be open to editing their photo by listening to their story. People live life every day. Life brings opportunities to change, grow, and transform. It is disappointing when someone works hard to change his or her life and we fail to recognize it.
- Allow people space to become who they can be tomorrow. Listen to their dreams, hopes, personal initiatives, and opportunities. Take every opportunity to encourage them or offer sage advice. Sage advice always goes further with those whom we value and take the time to encourage.
- Extend some grace and quit keeping score. People are human and make mistakes. No one has perfect character. Watch their character over time rather than judge a person for one indiscretion. All difficult transitions include failures. If their motives are correct, they can benefit from your support.
Do people change? Yes, if we allow them. Check your brain and see if there are people whom you view from an outdated perspective from the past. Take steps to update your mental picture of them and you may even find an opportunity for yourself.
Whose mental picture do you need to update?