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You Can’t Help People Who Don’t Want to Help Themselves!

I’m currently coaching a leader who doesn’t really want to change. She’s successful, having a great year due to a Covid tailwind, and has been leading various teams, working for marquis brands for years. She doesn’t really see an incentive to think and lead differently, despite multiple data points to the contrary.

So, how can I motivate this person to change when they doesn’t really want to? How can I convince her to change for good, to elevate her brand, impact, and reach a different level of fulfillment, happiness, less stress, less friction in her life, and more enjoyment from work-life blending? I can’t!

Here is what I’ve learned in over a decade of executive coaching. I can’t change the behaviors of adults who have absolutely no interest, motivation, or resolve to change! You may have heard me equate this to trying to push a rope! It just doesn’t work and your efforts are an exercise in futility! It’s right up there with trying to change the behaviors of our spouses, partners, parents, or the military of a foreign country over 20 years, who the only reason they’re in that job is because they’re getting paid way above the average income earners! We’ve all seen how well these scenarios work out!

Worse yet, when we try to help someone who doesn’t really want the help, we tend to alienate them!

What I’ve learned is that if they don’t care to improve, enhance their lives, amplify their efforts, or change their behaviors, I need to see these signals early on and disengage. You, me, or anyone else cannot help someone who doesn’t want to help themselves!

A ton of research paints a very clear picture: success comes to those with potential who actually want the help to improve. This is as relevant in my coaching, as it is in your managing, engaging family members, or other relationships in your life. AA isn’t for people who need the help; it’s for people who want the help. Good athletes don’t become great athletes just by showing up; they’re constantly working on fine-tuning, raising the bar, and recommitting themselves to greater heights. One of my favorite stories is the famed San Francisco 49ers great wide receiver Jerry Rice, running hills the day after they won the Super Bowl!!

One of our most sacred resources is our time. We all have 168 hours every week. Presumably, you’ll need to sleep during some of it, eat, and spend time with loved ones, so what’s really left for productive work is a fraction of that. The time you, me, or anyone else wastes trying to coach, mentor, guide, elevate, improve, enhance, or otherwise amplify the impact of others who don’t care is an opportunity cost. That’s time, effort, and resources we could spend with and on people who want to change.

Learn to disengage and just let it go politely. Ideal if the next time you figure out that they don’t want help, are not willing to change, or won’t put in the incredibly difficult work necessary to become world-class earlier in the process and let it go.

What’s been your experience with people who don’t want to help themselves?=

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