It’s All Too Easy to Overestimate Your
Others (Including Best Friends)
Common sense tells us that we shouldn’t waste time on things that we can’t change. This applies,
not just to situations and events, but to people as well.
Yet all of us fall into the trap of trying to change people, even best friends
sometimes, to the way we would like them to be. If you fall into this trap yourself, you should question whether
it’s wise to try to transform others. Everything can make perfectly good sense if you never really think about
it all that much — but sometimes you must.
Fact is, it’s all too easy to overestimate your ability to change others. This includes friends,
relatives, lovers, and neurotics. Before you try to transform people into better human beings, first there is the
issue of whether you should be trying to change them at all. (Besides, great friends
don't need changing, do they?)
Perhaps you are trying to reshape someone for “his or her own good.” Clearly, this is only a
superficial rationalization for your attempts to manipulate someone to be like you would like him or her to be.
It is not your duty to perform the psychological brain surgery that may be necessary for certain
people to be happy or successful in life. You should respect the fact that people have a right to live their own
lives the way they choose. You may find a certain person’s way of life disgusting, but he or she may think your way
of life is even more disgusting. So, who is right? Perhaps both of you are.
But so what? It doesn’t matter who is right. As long as a particular lifestyle is neither
illegal nor physically harmful to anyone, the person living it should be left alone. Trying to change others is
sometimes motivated by an erroneous belief that others should be doing things the way you would do them. Your way
may be the right way and it may not. What’s more, even if your way is right, there may be more than one right
Perhaps, like disgraced former U.S. President Richard Nixon, you are convinced that you would
have made a good pope. No doubt anyone with as much moral authority as you would put the present pope to shame.
This still doesn’t give you the right to try to change anyone.
It’s foolish to think that God expects anyone to interfere in other people’s lives as some act
of divine intervention. You may have high standards, but who is to say that everyone should be meeting them? If
people don’t meet your standards, why try to change them? Spend less time with these individuals. Seek out those
people who meet your standards and don’t need any guidance from you.
You may still feel inclined toward riding to the rescue of individuals who are facing major
difficulties in their lives. It’s easy to fall into the temptation to try to change certain individuals — to have
them be more motivated, more organized, more reasonable, or more trustworthy. But you must resist because it’s a
mistake to try to change negative people — to expect their imminent transformation into more positive individuals.
Your efforts will be futile.
You can give your sermon on the four corners of this planet to your heart’s content. Yet nobody
is going to care if it doesn’t fit in with their own philosophy. How right Richard Bach was when he wrote, “No one
can solve problems for someone whose problem is that they don’t want their problems solved.” Generally speaking,
negative people don’t want to change; if they do change, it is only after a lengthy period — time you can’t afford
In the same vein, don’t make the mistake of trying to change friends or relatives. The worst
mistake you can make is marrying someone in the hope that you can influence him or her to change sooner or
Nothing is more frustrating than being in love with someone who is not what you would like him
or her to be. Most people are unwilling to change — even over the long term. The ones who are will do it on their
own terms and only when they are ready. People change only if they want to, and when left to their own devices.
All things considered, we really can’t ever change anyone but ourselves. Trying to change
someone else’s ways will be a total waste of your precious time. The wise thing to do is to mind your own business
and spend that precious time changing yourself for the better.
Do keep in mind that it takes all kinds of people to make an interesting and exciting world.
Imagine how boring the world would be if everyone, including all your friends, were exactly like you.
COPYRIGHT © 2011 by Ernie J. Zelinski
All Rights Reserved
Note: The above article is excerpted from the book
Important Things You Already Know But Keep Forgetting by Ernie J.
7 Tips on How to Make
and Keep Best Friends
1. Spiritual masters tell us that God is everywhere. Therefore you should be able to experience
God in a true friend. It goes without saying that your true friends should be able to experience God in
2. To fall for a wrong type of friend, you have to be in a right frame of mind for it to happen,
as for a disease. A dork is a dork is a dork, no matter which way you look at it. And none of us wants a dork
for a friend.
3. Know the difference between friends and
acquaintances. There are certain types of friends that you want to avoid. You
know the type — the person who has more problems than a math book. Clearly, it is a good idea not to
have friends with a lot more problems than you have.
4. Predict that a certain person won't make a good friend — particularly without giving him or her
a chance to be so — and you will become a psychic with a pretty good track record.
5. Allow more chance into your life. The more chance you allow, the more interesting your world
will become. And the more interesting people you will meet. One of them may become a best friend.
6. When you are with your friends, be with your friends totally by being present. Only by
intensely living in the moment can you get the most satisfaction and happiness from your friends. And only by
living in the moment can you give your friends the attention that they deserve.
7. You are reminded by the line "What are friends for?" Some people use this adage to intimidate
others to respond to their needs. Be careful that you don't fall into this trap yourself. Don't expect
friends — even your best friend — to respond to every want that you have.
Check out the funky friendship
proverbs and funny friendship
quotes for more friendship advice.
COPYRIGHT © 2011 by Ernie J. Zelinski
All Rights Reserved