Memphis Daily News
How to ‘Fix’ Frustrating Relationships
August 11, 2016
By Dr. Mary C. McDonald
My father had a knack for summing up a philosophy in just one sentence. While I did not always appreciate the wisdom hidden in his advice, I have come to understand, and value, his favorite advice to me: “Never try to teach a pig to sing; it will only frustrate you and annoy the pig.”
There were more than a few times in my life that I had to relearn that lesson. It is part of the human condition to be tempted to think that if we just try a little harder, we can change another person.
Do you sometimes find yourselves trying to change someone else so that they will behave more like you or conform to your expectations? You might find yourself wanting to “fix” another person in order to change a situation.
If a relationship with a spouse, a child, a friend or a co-worker is not working or is causing conflict, do you go to great lengths to find ways to erase the conflict without even identifying its source? Avoiding the issue or the person, or denying the conflict exists, are not effective strategies, and often, if used, just make matters worse.
You might be tempted to blame other influences for causing the conflict, or convince yourself that if you could just “fix” the other person, the conflict would be resolved. In attempting the quick fix of another, you might find yourself making elaborate rules, structures and reward systems. You reason, you imply, you command, you exemplify, you preach, you trick, you whine. You do everything but recognize the truth.
The truth is that no matter what you do you cannot “fix” another person. If they don’t want to change, you can’t change them. If they don’t want a relationship, you can’t make it happen. If they insist on being themselves, you can’t make them into someone else. No matter how hard you try, you can’t make a pig sing, nor can you make your own song pleasurable to the pig.
If you know that what another person is doing could be harmful physically, morally or professionally to himself/herself or to others, it is a work of mercy to admonish, council or suggest. But none of that guarantees a change in another person. Realizing that you are not responsible for another’s behavior frees you to only be responsible for your response to it.
Instead of focusing on another person, if you focus on yourself and your response you will be able to establish a meaningful connection to another that will heal instead of wound. If there is to be a change, the only one you should be concerned about changing is yourself. And that change should liberate the spirit of another as you begin to understand that the squeals of a pig may not sound like singing to you, but it does to the pig.
My father was right. Maybe what will remove frustration from our relationships, what we need to fix most, is to just appreciate the song of another and the way it is sung.
Contact Dr. Mary C. McDonald, a national education consultant, at 574-2956 or visit mcd-partners.com