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Jo Ayoubi

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Senior Consultant & CEO

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Donald Trump says ‘People don’t change’; is he right?


At the end of a recent episode of the Apprentice USA, Donald Trump, having pointed his pistol finger and fired the first candidate, concluded his remarks by saying 'she had to go...people don't change'.

Is he right?  Are people just the way they are, or can they change their behaviours if they really want to?

I think DT has a point: the person he fired ignored all the feedback from the other candidates which was telling her that she didn't listen and that she was a disruptive influence.  Her response was that people (especially women) were intimidated by her.  She would not, or could not, hear the feedback.  I have come across people like this and I don't think they can change.  Because they don't want to.

People who really want to change, though, will do so.  At an exreme level, you can see this in people who take on new religious beliefs in adult life can can often change their lives completely, and those of the people around them.  Maybe because their will to change is so profound and internalised...

As a people development professional I have also seen people take painful but ultimately successful journeys to change their behaviours.  I have reviewed my own behaviours at certain times in my life and made a decision to do some things differently.

What's the view from people development professionals out there?  Can people really change?

2 Responses

  1. How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb?

    Q.  How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb?
    A.  That depends how motivated the bulb is to change!

    Yes, I believe that people can change their behaviour, and if that were not the case then what a pessimistic view of the world I would have.  The largest problem with change is getting the individual to believe that they need to change.  Like the brain that is ill, the brain that generates negative behavior is not generally able to recognise and rectify the problem itself.  Some severe disabilities can be modified over time though, say with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), or Hypnotherapy.

    Less problematic behavior, say at work can be changed though good management. A good manager skilled in Emotional Intelligence should be capable of recognising and help in correcting behavioural problems.

    My view is that people are not born with anti-social behaviour, it is learned.  And if it is learned, then it can be unlearned.  But there are no quick fixes, apart from hypnotherapy in some cases.  The age of the person and the length of time they have had the behaviour, and the degree of the behaviour are all factors.

    People can change if they want to, but first they must recognise what is in it for them.  That, for better or worse, is how Homo sapiens operate.

  2. Donald Trump say ‘People don’t change’; is he right?

    So true, Ian, it all comes down to ‘what’s in it for me, but some people don’t always recognise the benefits that their own change in behaviour will bring to them…that ‘s the self-awareness bit, I guess.

    Like the light bulb joke, thanks, I will distribute among my L&D, Coaching and HR colleagues!


Author Profile Picture
Jo Ayoubi

Senior Consultant & CEO

Read more from Jo Ayoubi

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