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We’ve all been in the situation of explaining repeatedly to someone how we’d like them to alter their behavior, with the result of absolutely zero change occurring whatsoever. This can leave you feeling frustrated, helpless, angry—and wanting to eat. The fact is, because of how their personalities are constructed, not everyone is open to change.
If you think of people as closed- or open-looped, you’ll get the picture. For example, clients seek therapy with me because they want to eat differently. Ditto people who join my message boards, attend my workshops, or read my books. They are open-looped people seeking out new information or insights to improve themselves. Sure, they may be a bit wary of change, but they basically see becoming different as making life better than it has been. We can think of them as open-looped, that is, they are eager to take in new bits of data about themselves or the world to better their lives.
Closed-loop people, on the other hand, shut out new information—and often the bearer of it as well. They are content to re-circulate their same self-serving beliefs, feelings, and behaviors over and over, and the thought of discovering or inviting new info about themselves or the world is anywhere from unsettling to terrifying. Moreover, whenever they’re presented with situations in which new info is offered or given to them, their loop tightens even further to shut it out. Info-givers usually react by trying to pry them open but, of course, the more prying that goes on, the harder the closed-loop individual works to keep them out. And round and round we go.
Naturally, we’re not all completely either open or closed emotionally. Closed-loop folks, when circumstance forces their hand, may loosen up. Generally, however, that happens only when they are in crisis or face an ultimatum. When life goes back to normal, they too return to their baseline, buttoned-up mindset. Even predominantly open-loop people tend to shut out new information regarding some aspects of life. We’re all human.
Think about whether you and people in your life—co-workers, friends or family—are closed- or open-looped. Which kind of intimates do you gravitate to? Who makes life difficult or frustrates you the most? Who feels best to be around and close to? Good relationships are hard enough between open-looped people. They’re much harder when one person is open and the other is closed. To reduce your frustration, make sure to sort out who is who loop-wise and act accordingly. Keep closed-loop people at a distance as much as possible. At the least, recognize who you’re dealing with.
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