Lately, I have been thinking a lot about our need/desire to control other people. Our spouse, friends, volunteers, family, employees, etc. We all have the feeling underneath that we want people to do things a certain way. We want them to march in line - our line, to our rhythm, to our drummer. The thing is that people don't do that. Even when we really want them too. And that causes us frustration, possibly heart ache, disappointment, and hurt feelings.
Recently a friend was traveling with another friend and she decided that she needed to check her bag. She couldn't just take carry on. Now, I totally get that. I like to have lots of options when I travel. I try really hard to jam it all in, but I always end up having to buy something I couldn't stuff in my bag when I get to my destination. Anyway, the friend freaked out. She was angry that she was going to check her bag. They argued. They fought. They pouted. Over a checked bag.
I have had two interns this summer and I am a mentor to another youngster. I realized that I do not like telling people exactly what to do. Probably because I don't want to be told exactly what to do. (See what happens when you raise an entire generation to question authority? That's for another time.) So, having employees and mentees can be a bit of a challenge for me.
What I have learned is to set the expectation, tell them what the end goal is, and then go from there. I let them do it however they want to do it - as long as they are hitting the marks that we set up from the beginning. I also know that having definate end goals helps. But do I try to make them behave a certain way? No. Do I tell them exactly how to do something? No.
Some of my employees are frustrated by this because they need exact directions - and when I see that I try to be more complete. Others feel a sense of freedom to get the job done and to explore how to do it, which is refreshing.
And I don't have to control anyone.
Because when I want to I usually feel awful. I feel like I am pulling strings that don't need to be there. I am making somone dance in a line they don't want to. I am making it be my way - and really my way probably only works for me.
Sure, if I was doing some procedure on a gas line or a heart operation I would want people to be following in line, but I suspect even there people could do it a little better if they were able to try something small out. Everything can always be done better. My way isn't always the best way. Relaxing into that notion is amazing.
I know that when I was raising my daughter I had the hardest time watching her do something on her own - her way. It was physically painful. She wasn't always doing it my way. I would, I admit, often close my eyes so I didn't have to watch. And the thing is, she did whatever it was she was going to do. She did her chores, made her bed, practiced violin, etc. And she did it her way. A way that felt comfortable and clear in her own mind. The arguements we would have, ususally, was when I needed her or thought I needed her to confine to my way of doing something. It took me a long time to relax into letting her do her own thing. I am still learning - controlling behaviour doesn't go away immediatley! It is a lifetime goal.
Here's the thing. You aren't going to do the project exactly like I would do it, but it is going to reach the outcome we were both looking for because we know what that is. You aren't going to bake the cookies just like I would, but they are going to taste great. You are going to travel different. You are going to play differently. You are going to do it all differently and when I can let go that it doesn't have to be my way I can finally find a little peace in the day.