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Reawakening 'Positive Controls' [Your Controls...self-control]

by Rick Baker
On May 5, 2016

Every human being wishes, to a degree, to control his or her environment, including the actions of other people.  

For some people, this need to control the outside world remains a lifetime desire. For others it shrinks with time. And sometimes the need to control others seems to almost completely disappear…repeated doses of criticism can do that to you.

For some people, this need to control gets out of control. We all know people whom we go out of our way to avoid because their dispositions are too critical or too instructive. 

And some of these people remain 'controllers' throughout their lives...not necessarily 'control freaks' but highly prone to provide feedback/opinions whether or not these communications are appropriately timed and placed or beneficial to anyone. This last type of person is the type I am writing about now: I mean I am writing about the people who have the habit of trying to control others by expressing opinions/criticisms at most [if not almost every] opportunity, without having the ability to observe or understand the real reactions others have to the repeated opinions/criticisms.

Let me break that last sentence down:

  • some people almost always try to control others,
  • these people regularly express their opinions and criticisms,
  • the people who receive these opinions and criticisms do not receive benefit, in fact the opposite is true, and 
  • the people who donate the opinions/criticisms are oblivious to the impact their communications have on the people who receive them.

For these people, self-monitoring and self-regulation are either fully dormant or mostly asleep. In other words, their positive controls are sleeping. There's no question - their self-monitoring and self-regulation abilities exist somewhere [because all normal human beings possess those abilities]. However, for these people, those abilities are not awake.

I have observed many of these people as they communicate with others. What is most intriguing, is the fact most of these people are virtually unaware of the impact they have on others. In fact, in many cases these people feel they are the victims of unwarranted criticism rather than the critics. At least, that is what their complaints lead you to believe. For example, they complain about their inability to inspire others to think and act properly.  They complain about the feedback they receive from their followers. But, based on my own experiences, I wonder if their complaints aren't more about failed a battles of wits than desires to inspire or lead. Regardless, some people carry on with excessive criticism and expression of opinions while others do everything possible to tune them out, avoid them, and think about other things.

A challenging situation arises when the overly critical person is the boss, holding a position of authority and power. In this situation, everyone's motivation suffers...and business performance and productivity suffers.  I see this situation so frequently that I wonder what has changed in the last 20 years. Have bosses become more overly-critical? Have employees become more sensitive to and intolerant of criticism? 

It's interesting to consider the situation from both the boss's perspective and the employee's perspective. The boss is generally frustrated, perhaps angry, and feeling under-appreciated. The employee is feeling abused, dis-respected and under-appreciated. It is interesting to note that both hold a victim's mindset. 

How do you remedy the situation? 

I believe an intervention of sorts is required. First, the boss must do some self-analysis and figure out how to become more comfortable with holding back on opinions and criticisms. That's easy to say, but, in practice it is very difficult to do. Most people, for one reason or another, are unable to make a change that large in the way they express themselves to other people. That's unfortunate because if the boss cannot change then the situation will never be remedied. 

(repeating)…if the boss is not able to change then the situation will not change…if no change is made everything remains the same…(it is so simple, when repeated it almost sounds sarcastic)  

The employee will have to make a change too. The employee will have to figure out how to remove sensitivity and resistance to criticism, which has probably become a habit [for self-protection].  This too can be a hard thing to do, especially if the boss and the employee have been operating in this criticism/resistance mode for a long period of time. 

While these changes are difficult, they can be achieved. When they are achieved, I call them Reawakening 'Positive Controls'.

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