I have a confession: I am a control freak. If you know me, or have followed my writing, you already know this. I want to defend it! It has it's perks -- I get a lot done, I get to be the boss of things, people listen to me like I am an authority...
But the part of this trait that doesn't care about other people's experience, micromanages and uses negative emotions to manipulate people... that part I am not so fond of. It took years of practice, but I finally learned how to put this bad trait on a leash and keep it in check! You can learn the method of leashing those parts of yourself you don't like too.
Today, I want to give you a bird's-eye view of how I put that practice to work in my daily life. My kids really test me on this one a lot! There are times where I need to be right, and I have to convince others to see my perspective and go along with my plan, right? Rather than resort to my old tactics, I had to learn new ones. There are ways to get "your way" without being controlling or manipulative.
I signed my daughter up to attend a kid's self defense program, but when the time came to go to the first class, she didn't want to go. She claimed that it sounded "weird," she wasn't interested, she wouldn't know anyone there and that she was already busy enough with her other activities.
As her parent, it was well within my rights to say, "I know what's best for you and you are going to buckle down and do what I say!" But I resisted; instead, I listened, affirmed her concerns about not knowing anyone. I offered the class info to a friend's mom and told her more about what she could expect. I did not react, I did not resist and I did not argue with her feelings. I also didn't let her out of it, even though I was tempted.
When, after the first session, she said "it was pretty lame," again, I didn't react, defend, get upset or feel defeated. I listened and nodded, without saying much; I was patient, and I trusted that I had something to offer and she would eventually see it. Just as I knew would happen, a few weeks went by and she started to look forward to the class. Upon the completion of her course, I relished the sight of my daughter kicking butt -- proudly demonstrating her new skills, buddying up with her classmates and beaming with self confidence, even posing for photographs with the instructor!
But wait -- she didn't want to go in the first place, right? She went anyway, and had a great time. Technically, I got my way -- but I did it without giving into my impulses to control and manipulate the situation. As a result, I avoided the bickering, moping, pleading and whining that used to happen every time my daughter and I didn't see eye to eye.
I'm telling this story to illustrate three points:
1. There are occasions in every relationship where we sincerely feel that we are right and we know better than others.
I knew better than my daughter when it came to taking a self defense class. My own parents knew better than I did about certain friends I had. My husband knows better when it comes to driving directions. I don't argue anymore. There is much room for debate in this world, but sometimes you do know better than the other person.
2. Sometimes "getting what you want" doesn't get you what you really want.
At those times when the greater good truly would be served if we just forced ourselves on our partner, kid, parents, friend, co-worker, we somehow screw the whole mission. For all our good intentions, when we really do know what's best for someone, we become aggressive, belligerent (or alternatively, obsequious or pandering) in order to force them to see it our way. Fellow control freaks know this dilemma all too well. If I don't keep this trait in check, I can come across as condescending and manipulative, and be met with resentment or rejection of the whole idea! In the end, even if the situation does go as we predicted ("I told you so!") and we technically "win," we lose a sense of trust, mutual respect and harmony in the relationship.
I could have chosen to belittle my daughter by saying "I'm older and wiser than you, and you're wrong about this class." Even worse, I could have completely ignored her concerns, not asked her how she felt about it and just turned a deaf ear to the complaints . She would have taken the course either way, right?
3. There are approaches you can take to persuade others to see it your way or go along with your plan... happily.
One of my specialities is teaching people how to engage in better relationships. It always astonishes me how a change in behavior or attitude in ONE person can affect the dynamic of the whole family, or the entire outcome of a big decision. While it's obviously not always appropriate or helpful to force your opinion or plan on someone, there are times when it is appropriate -- especially if it's someone's health, well-being and happiness on the line. The following tips are for those times.
Listen first. I'm pretty sure they teach this in sales training. To get your way you have to mitigate concerns and fears, you can only learn what those are by listening! And it puts the other person at ease too. Just zip it and listen.
Say back what you're hearing without belittling or aggrandizing it. The other person will feel as though they are important to you and that how they feel matters, then it's easier to let concerns go. If you belittle a concern the other person may defend it more. If you aggrandize it, it may feel insincere or concern the person more. Don't add anything. Play it cool, just take it in and reflect it back. And, if appropriate, you can offer more information or negotiation points here too, after you've made the person feel heard.
Keep the faith. Don't get ego-driven about what you want, but keep providing perspective on why you think it's a good idea while still validating concerns and playing it cool. Be patient; the other person is probably working out how to come around, or at least compromise.
During my daughter's self defense class, I had so many chances to break these rules. It took great amounts of self-awareness and mind-management to stick to my higher ideal of empowering my daughter both by getting her through the class and helping her to feel it was her choice and her process. This is something I learned how to do! I am so proud that my daughter learned to defend herself, and that she didn't have to practice defending herself from an overpowering mother.
If you aren't getting your way with your loved ones or people are feeling defensive around you, you may not have mastered some very key relationship skills! Come to our Design Your Relationships Tele-Course and learn how you can control the temperature of any relationship, through your own actions and integrity. It only takes ONE person to alter a relationship, and that person can be you.