Are You Controlling?
Guest Author - Lori Phillips
The most stressed out people are those who have controlling personalities. Controlling people are so set on achieving a specific outcome, usually their own objectives, that they manipulate, demand and direct the actions of everyone around them. Sometimes, they are selfish people. Sometimes, they are well-intentioned people who believe that the end (outcome) justifies the means (whatever it takes).
Often we are controlling without realizing we are controlling because we rationalize our behavior: “He needs me to tell him what to do or he won’t do anything!” “Someone has to take control in order to get things done around here!” “They won’t do things right.” “They don’t know what they’re doing.”
At times, we think we’re helping. I am not a controlling person but I recall a moment of awakening when the kids were small and during a beach day, we sat on the sand to build the requisite sand castle. They struggled with the heavy sand-laden buckets and felt frustrated when the waves washed away their efforts. Instead of offering a few suggestions like “Maybe you need to build the castle away from the edge of the surf?” I lent a helping hand. But in my quest to “help” them build a nice-looking sand castle, I literally bumped them out of the way. “No, don’t pour water on that.” “Don’t touch this.”
When my masterpiece was done, I stepped back expecting them to admire it. They blinked at it for a minute and then skipped off to chase a sea gull. I felt so awful when I realized that I robbed them of the joy of sand castle building. I called them over to bull doze it—which they loved—and encouraged them to build their own castle.
We control others or activities because we…
*want to achieve a particular outcome. In our case, I saw in my mind what was the perfect sand castle. I forgot that the ultimate goal was for the kids to have fun not craft a wondrous edifice.
*lack faith in others. We believe that we can do a better job than others. Or that others will not catch our “vision” of what we want. Micro-managers in the office and business owners who can’t delegate are guilty of this.
*really believe that our way is the best way. There is a measure of egotism at work here. Egotists see only their own perceptions. There are many perceptions to consider in life, but egotists are concerned with only their own. That’s too bad because they often miss the creative, mind-expanding input that comes when more than one brain is involved in a project. There are times when being in charge is called for. But even a wise leader knows to consider the input of others.
If you’re controlling, you should know that your life will be more peaceful and less stressful if you let go. There are some things that you shouldn’t control. Some things you should relinquish control over include…
*your spouse. This is a main cause of marital misery. Some spouses honestly feel that their mates need constant direction and guidance, but it isn’t true. You must understand that everyone has the right to live his or her own way, to do things in the manner in which he or she chooses even if it does not meet your standards, expectations or values. Some husbands or wives are like dictators, demanding and directing. It is very demeaning and unpleasant. You should know that spouses, like defiant teenagers, will find ways to rebel. You should not be in control of your spouse.
*your children. Your job as a parent is to protect, guide, teach and love. That is how to nurture a little human being with a mind of his own. It is not your right to control or manipulate his thoughts or behavior. Teach proper behavior and help him develop his own mind and talents. Let him learn how his behavior affects his world, but don’t control his every move as though he were a puppet. This tactic will lead to resentment, rebellion and a very sad parent-child relationship.
*other people, including friends and employees. Coercion is a bad professional tactic to use on employees. They’re human beings who will work harder for a boss they like and respect. A controlling boss implies that she does not have faith in her employees to do a good job. Give people a chance to grow and prove their worth. As for controlling your friends, well, they won’t stick around long if you persist. Controlling service providers like restaurant workers is unacceptable, too. They deserve your respect. Your measly tip could never cover the cost of verbal abuse and rudeness.
*life’s unexpected moments. Life happens. Some of the best moments are unscripted. It must be dull to control every aspect of your life and know the outcome.
When things don’t go your way, and the results aren’t what you’d hoped, learn to accept what life has in store for you. Everything happens for a reason, I believe. Let life lead you on occasion and face the new path with curious anticipation. It is always an opportunity for your growth and learning.