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Chances are, you have people in your life whose behavior you wish would change. Your romantic partner might be putting on a little weight. Your parents may complain too much. Your best friend won’t look for a new job, even though she hates the job she has now.

Once you notice these annoyances, it is natural to want to push people to change. Is it actually possible to change someone else’s behavior? Should you even try?


It turns out that you can help people to change their behavior, but there is a limited amount you can do without their help. That is, there is some validity to the old psychology joke:


Q. How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb?

A. One, but the light bulb has to want to change.


The best way to help other people change is to learn about how to change your own behavior. The more you know about the factors that drive your own behavior, the better you can use the same principles to help other people change.

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Can You Really Change Other People?  was originally published on