As we work hard on our own recovery it’s very disconcerting not to not be supported by people we’ve been close to. It’s important to remember that we don’t live in isolation; we’re part of many systems. When one part of a system (you) changes, it has an impact on all the other parts of the system.

Sometimes your changes force others to do or face things they would rather deny. There are some things that you can do to make your changes easier on the people around you.

“Did you see the way Susan spoke up in that meeting this morning?” asked one of her co﷓workers. Her supervisor nodded “I sure did. And just yesterday, she talked back to me when I gave her feedback on her project.” He shook his head. “I just don’t know what’s gotten into Susan. She used to be so easy to work with!”

What’s “gotten into” Susan is personal change. She’s been working on increasing her personal power and effectiveness. To her astonishment, people are not congratulating her on her new behavior. They seem confused, frightened and in some cases, downright angry.

Why? The problem has to do with changing previous unspoken social contracts. Susan, for example, used to act helpless with certain people. Their response was to be helpful and take care of her. Now that she no longer needs that response, they are thrown off balance.

Susan’s associates are likely to try to make the situation familiar again. They will put her down to see if she will return to her usual behavior.

If she gives up her new effectiveness, then they won’t have to learn how to deal with the new Susan. If she sticks to her new behavior, people will eventually forget her old ways of responding and look for new ways to relate to her.

Have you, like Susan, recently changed for the better? Here are some ways you can help others adjust to the new you:

  • Make sure you aren’t secretly thinking others are bad or wrong because you have changed and they haven’t. Any hint of superiority is a sure invitation to a negative response.
  • Talk to people about the unspoken social agreements you have
    had with them in the past. Acknowledge that the old relationship was important to both of you at the time and thank the person for the old connections. Then explain how and why you have made changes and discuss how you will relate to that person in the future. Also indicate how you would like that person to relate to you. This forewarning helps people to become allies instead of enemies.
  • Learn to calibrate your new personal power and effectiveness. If you first learn effectiveness at a loud or high-energy level, beware. Train yourself to use the smallest amount of energy to get the job done. Coming on too strong will turn people off.
  • Experiment and find out what works best. Most people will become comfortable with your changes. However, others may no longer wish to relate to you when you exhibit your effectiveness. Those relationships may gradually end. You will find new ones to replace them — with people who rejoice with you in your new-found power.

[tags]self help, relationships, self-improvement, personal growth, emotional problems [/tags]