My German shepherds rarely follow my instructions. Simple orders like, “Don’t chase the cat” or “Bring me the newspaper” are ignored. No matter how rational my commands, I get nothing but blank stares.
Trying to command behavior from others has never gotten me far. When my son and daughter were young, I attempted to enforce household rules and instruct what I wanted them to do. I knew my way of thinking was in their best interest. They didn’t think so.
Later in life, without being solicited, I told friends they “must” stop smoking or “should” lose weight. My advice never moved them to change.
Now, having spent nearly 30 years studying behavior change, I know words like “must” or “should” have little to no influence on people’s behavior. All change is self-change. I can support others by showing respect, offering compassion and placing confidence in their personal efforts. The choice is always theirs.
It’s so much easier to know what is right than to practice it. Even today, my adult children chuckle when I lecture them on money management. My friends mock my “words of wisdom.” And my German shepherds continue to chase the cat.