How much control do you actually have?

Photo by Bruno Aguirre on Unsplash

Tell me if this sounds familiar, you are going through some old gadgets in the kitchen and you desperately want to ged rid of that old Slap Chopper. Your better half won’t hear of it. You talk endlessly about how hard it it’s to clean, how he hasn’t used it in years and neither have you. All that slapping never really was as satisfying as it looks on TV. But it’s no use, he won’t budge. What do you do? You can’t force him to be ok with letting it go, and If you accidentally drop it hard enough to break he will know you did it on purpose and will trust you just a little less than before. The reality here is that you have absolutely no control over that decision at that time, at least not if you want to maintain the integrity of your relationship.

Often when we try to declutter we will fall under the influence of someone else desires and needs. Where there is more than one person attached to the stuff you have decluttering it can be both time consuming and difficult. So how do you resolve this incredibly frustration scenario?

What is control

What I’m referring to here is “the power to influence or direct people’s behaviour or the course of events,” as taken out of the dictionary. There are a lot of misguided points of view that a person can hold control over the actions of others, but this is absolutely false. Controlling your own decisions and reactions is the most you will ever be able to count on. You can make plans and modify them, and you can control your reactions to emotions, situations and people but it is important to recognize that where others are concerned the best way to navigate different desires, goals and values is to have a few skills under your belt. Learning to compromise, negotiate, listen and rationalize will get you much further and protect your relationship with the person.

How much do we have?

Here is the absolute reality. The only thing we have total and complete control over is our decisions and our reactions to the situations we face. That’s it! Read it again, go to your happy place and grab a cup of tea. Really process this. We only have complete control over our decisions and reactions. We don’t even have control over our emotions, only our reaction to them. This is a hard and a potentially devastating realization, so if you need to contact your therapist, go ahead. I’ll wait. Once you process this, it open up a whole new relationship with control. In your own life you can make decisions that you feel will serve your goals and aspirations best. You can plan for your future and what you want your life to look like. You can do the work to move you those plans and aspirations. This is the level of control you have, and when you partner this with the control you have over your reactions to situations and emotions you have a very healthy and productive way of managing life. What is important to understand is that when you are working with a partner, or group on any given aspect of your goals, aspirations and general life management, they are entitled to control over their decisions and reactions,  that is where your control ends. The only option you have if you are maintaining a healthy approach is to accept responsibility for your part in the decisions, work or movement toward the outcomes and work to make compromises that will satisfy you both.

How can we honour others reactions and decisions?

Let go of the need to be right. Being “Right” is only a state of mind, what is right for you may not be right for someone else so in most situations both parties’ perspectives are “right”. If you can recognize the reasons why being right is so essential to you in a situation where you are having difficulties letting go you will uncover your non negotiable in that situation. It’s a starting point for negotiation to an outcome that works for all parties. I’ll give you an example; you and your husband are making a decision around purchasing a home. He desperately wants his dream home and is willing to make sacrifices to get it. You value family vacations once a year and a few luxuries like gym memberships and dinners out a couple times a month. You are arguing about the budget you should set for the purchase. He wants a budget that is significantly higher so that you can purchase in a higher area of town. You want a smaller budget so that your lifestyle is not impacted. You can’t come to a resolution. Who is right? Well, you both are, your values and goals are not in line and therefor you cannot let go of the need to be right. You both have non values and they are different. You will not change each other’s minds, nor wold you want to. This is where it is important to recognize each other’s non negotiable and honour them, seeking to compromise instead of proving yourself right.

Where life goals are involved or big decisions are to be made you may need to be creative and flexible. Providing facts and figures to prove your argument can make a situation worse, in this scenario there is a deeper emotion involved that may need addressing. In most cases that emotion is fear. Addressing the reasons for insecurity will move you ahead more effectively and more healthily than trying to enforce control. It may seem like a manipulation but  it’s more about moving the situation ahead and being respectful of the other person’s position.

Flexibility and compromise are a super power here and can take a volatile situation and change it to one that can build relationships.

Let go of your expectations on the process. I’m certainly guilty of placing expected outcomes on my decisions, and that behaviour cannot only be limiting but destructive. Keeping an open mind to other’s points of view can save you from making devastating errors, especially when you don’t have all the information or the other person involved has more knowledge and experience. It’s important to process information you receive and check in on the relevance and value instead of maintaining an expectations on how a process should flow. Keep your eye on the desired outcome. Seek professional help and information when you feel you are over your head, trust your gut on this, any little bit of uncertainty is an indicator that more homework needs to be done.

Recognizing your limits with regard to control does not mean your world is going to blow up, far from it. Acknowledging that your ability to control circumstances outside or your own decisions and reactions open up a door for skill development that will get you further in meeting your own goals and lift some of the load off of your shoulders. When you assume more control you are naturally assuming more responsibility. It will help you built stronger working relationships and build bonds with people who want to see you succeed. That outcome is a beautiful thing!

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