09 October, 2009

What Everyone Resists

Have you ever considered that we are all resistors (of others) in one way or another?  Some people resist any guidance from others or they resist taking any advice from another in a somewhat passive-aggressive manner.  Others resist being told what to do no matter who they are with.  While yet others resist even the directions they are given by those in authority over them at work!

What is it about being given direction that so threatens us that we seem to run from it?  I’d like for you to consider that there is a set of behaviors that we have in common with everyone in the human race.  And then also consider that one of those behaviors that we all share is that we all resist being controlled.

Our Resistance to Being Controlled.

Consider that one of the fundamental driving forces we all share is a resistance to being controlled by others.  Simply put, we resist being told what to do.  When we are working in teams at our places of employment, we resist allowing the outcomes of our circumstances (our fates) to reside in the hands of another (the team leader).  If we disagree with the direction that the team leader is taking the team, we fight against that direction in one of many ways: we become directly confrontational with the team leader, or we talk to others on the team to try and sway them to our way of thinking so that we can form a coup to show a majority stance against the leader, or we go over the leader’s head to someone higher-ranking in the company in order to try and convince that person of our way.

In my own life, one place where I’ve resisted another is in allowing my partner to navigate our way anywhere when he was driving us in the car.  In order to fully understand where I was coming from, you must first know that my story about my partner was that he had zero-sense of direction.  I tell you this not because it’s true about him, but because that’s the way that I viewed him for quite sometime.

If we were going somewhere in the car, I really held him accountable if he got us lost, or made us late in getting somewhere, especially if I had told him to take a different route or turn.  I would sit in the passenger seat and get really quiet.  I just wouldn’t talk to him (because that’s the adult way of handling disagreements – right?)!  I know that none of you have ever done this, but I’m sure you can imagine how well that strategy worked out for me/us!

Once I realized that I was being controlling every time we got into the car, and once I realized that I wasn’t allowing him to be responsible for getting us to where we were going, I decided to run a silent experiment.  I decided that I was going to allow him to be fully responsible for getting us to our destinations and I wasn’t going to be upset about him taking wrong turns, taking a route that I wouldn’t, or even getting us to our destination late.  I just was going to be in the car and not get upset!

Now there’s a big difference in the way that I prepare for going somewhere and the way my partner prepares.  I’m driven to not only know the address of where we’re going but I also have to know the phone number in case we need to call ahead and let someone know we’re going to be late due to traffic.  I will also typically have directions with me or I will have looked at a map enough to have a general sense of what roads would best get us to our destination.  My partner? – his preparation usually involved getting in the car, sometimes having the destination address, and using his trusty GPS.

At the beginning of the experiment, we would get in the car and my partner would just start driving!  I would ask, do you know where you’re going?  And he would say, “no, I thought you did.”  If I had the address, I would tell him so.  Then he would ask me to get his navigation system out of his glovebox and enter in the destination address for him.  Oohhh, how frustrating!  He was depending on me but only under his conditions and he still wasn’t conceding control to me!  Everything else, for me, was a lesson in taking control of myself by letting go of my attachments to “being right”, having things my way, having to be places early by a particular amount of time, or taking the route that I would take.

The part of my experiment that involved me not dominating and not getting upset turned into a lesson of accepting that which is rather than fighting against not getting upset (which as you know is a losing battle).

Ultimately, I ended up learning that my silent experiment was as much about me as it was about him!  I didn’t realize what I was doing at the time I was doing it, but more than allowing him to just be responsible, I was hoping that he would come to his senses and realize that my point-of-view (that he had no sense of direction and needed my guidance) was right and then he would ask for my help (knowing that it always works out better when someone asks for direction rather than receiving unsolicited advice).  So as you can see, my experiment was really just another strategy for me to try to get my way and get him to relinquish control of getting us to our destination!  (One might even say that I was being passive-aggressive.)

Take a look at your life now.  Where can you see that you’re being controlling and uncompromising about how things have to be?  Can you give up having to control those situations?  Will you give up trying to control those situations?  Can you accept that another’s way of doing something is just as valid as your way?  It may be that you have great ideas for cutting corners or improving a process.  However, if your ideas aren’t welcome or solicited, they’ll simply be ignored and that may leave you feeling unimportant, unwelcomed, or diminished.

Our position is that everyone has a place at the table.  That includes us.  So if you are feeling that you don’t have a welcomed place from which to share your ideas or opinions, look at where it is that you are trying to control the situation and ask yourself if you can give up that control and simply accept what is.  I think you’ll find that acceptance may ultimately not just give you a place to sit, but a place from which you are asked to speak, and possibly a place where your words are given great weight.

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