Breaking a Bad Habit

Break Bad HabitsYour spouse needs to lose some weight. Your boss needs to change how she deals with people. Your young adult child needs to stop partying and get serious about his education. If you find yourself thinking about everyone else’s bad habits, you may have the worst habit of all.

I’m thinking of a TV commercial back in 1962 (yes, there were TVs in 1962) where a mother was trying to help her daughter improve at various things. “Don’t you think it needs a little salt in it?” the mother said about a meal, only to have her nerve-racked daughter shout, “Mother, please, I’d rather do it myself!”

Actually, most of us would rather do it ourselves. We are not fond of having our faults or underperformances pointed out and corrected. Yet we are very comfortable doing it to others.

The truth is that the urge to help someone make what we see as positive changes is not about the other person. It is about meeting our own emotional needs. It feels good to fix things. Your Knower/Judger sees a person who is not behaving according to its rules, convinces you to fix that person, and, if you’re successful, sits back with a big “ah” of relief that all is right with the world.

But you’re usually not going to be successful. You may even destroy the relationship entirely, at least for a time.

Be careful about offering help. First, you may not even be right. Second, others are probably not looking for your help. And third, you’re not actually in it for them. You’re offering help so you can feel good about yourself and stay in your comfort zone.

If you do feel the urge to help someone make a positive change, help yourself! Maybe you have one or two of these K/J rules that make you feel good:

  • Overeating
  • Being right
  • Smoking
  • Being on time
  • Drinking
  • Shying away
  • Being perfect
  • Giving up
  • Winning
  • Losing
  • Yelling
  • Getting yelled at

Sure, changing those habits is going to make you feel uneasy. It’s going to be hard. It would be a lot easier to tell your sister to change her bad habits, wouldn’t it? It would be simple to correct your wife, get your client to agree with your political stances. Saying no to that beer and bucket of popcorn—that’s another story.

We all want to help. Sometimes, the biggest way to help is to just keep your mouth shut and look at what you can do in your own life.

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