You Can’t Change Others You Can Only Change Yourself


by Suzanne Reisler Litwin

Keeping it Real

Every so often I hear a friend say to me, “I went to see a movie and the person next to me ruined it. They didn’t stop talking. I kept telling them to shhhh, but they didn’t. I’m so annoyed”. Or another friend would say, “There was a person standing next to me smoking. I told them to get away from me”.

The questions I would ask my friends are, “Why did you stay in that seat or stand there?  Why didn’t YOU just move yourself?  Why stay there and be bothered?”

These situations remind me of the famous “Arena Screamer!” You know the guy who screams non-stop in hockey arenas. Every arena has some of these people who scream even if the hockey players are 5 years old. For some reason, arenas are spaces for allowed uncontrollable screaming.

Many winters ago, my son played on a community hockey team. This team was blessed with a parent who was known as an, “Arena Screamer”. Every time I went to see my son play hockey I had to listen to his screaming. Talk about annoying!  Whether the children were winning or losing it didn’t matter.  He screamed from the time the puck dropped to the last second of the game.  Like the children playing, he must have been exhausted at the end of the game!Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 12.16.39 PM

As parents of a team, we usually sit together to cheer on our players.  This is a collective group of spirited parents cheering for their children.  The important word here is, cheer.

At first I tolerated his screaming. Then I asked him to calm it down a bit. Then I realized, I couldn’t change this person’s behavior, I could only change myself.  So, I made a break from the parent group. I bolted!  I sat on the opposite side of the arena to avoid the screaming. Actually, I still heard him from the opposite side.  It was just dulled from the newly present cotton in my ears.

What I realized is that I could not change this person’s behavior.  I had to change myself to find my peace.

In life, this is true to form. We all have the ability to move ourselves and do the things which create more peace. So do it if the need arises!  It’s wonderful to be part of the whole, as long as the whole works for you. Otherwise, manipulating your space and time can work to your benefit. You just have to be bold enough to do it.

Whatever happened to the Arena Screamer now that his child has grown up and is no longer playing community hockey?  I suppose he’s still screaming some place watching hockey be it in his home, a bar, or arena. He won’t stop, he can’t.  Regardless, of this experience I can now find my peace forever.  I just have to make it happen for myself.

Lessons Learned:

1. Life is for living now.  If you’re not content with where you are, what you are doing, or how you feel – make the change now.

2. Just because everyone you know does something, doesn’t mean you need to do it. Sometimes, you need to do what best suits you. This is sort of an elementary lesson, but it’s a good reminder.

3. Location, location, location. There are usually many options, so utilize them.

4. Don’t blame others for making you feel uncomfortable. You are responsible for how you feel. Own it and make the space work for you.

5. Pay attention to the way others are feeling. If you see someone is struggling with where they are, take them away from this discomfort. Bring them into your fold of comfort.

6. Spread the joy of this freedom and be the owner of your own time and space.

Suzanne Reisler Litwin is an author/writer/columnist/educator. She contributes every Monday morning to the West Island Blog.

She is an instructor at Concordia University in The Centre for Continuing Education. Suzanne is a freelance contributor to The Suburban newspaper.   She is the author of the children’s book, The Black Velvet Jacket. She lives in Montreal, Canada with her 3 children, Allyn, Taylor, and Duke and her husband Laurie. Suzanne contributes regularly to West Island Blog under her column Keeping it Real.  Please visit her website  to read more of her published articles, books, and poetry.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here