Thursday, August 15, 2013

Trying to Control Others

by Tom Walsh

This tendency is strongly related to trying to control outcomes, and there often is a significant amount of overlap between the two.

In this case, we try to control the thoughts, actions, likes and dislikes, or even the behaviors of others. This usually isn't an insidious attempt at control, but just as when we try to control outcomes, we're often just trying to be helpful.

There's a simply awful line from a song from the 70's that reflects this tendency: "Sometimes late at night, when there's nothing here except my old piano / I'd almost give my hands to make you see my way."

What kind of sacrifice would that be just to get another person to see things in a certain way? But this is, unfortunately, a common use of our power - the manipulation of others.

From the person who uses influence to convince someone else to believe a certain set of religious beliefs to the individual who gets another to stay in a relationship by threatening to kill or harm him or herself, we use our powers to carry out manipulative strategies to try to make ourselves feel better when and if another person "sees things our way."

Election time is always a ripe time for witnessing this kind of activity. Whenever you see someone trying to convince someone else that he or she is right, you see someone trying to control another person's thoughts or beliefs.

If I can convince you that I'm right, after all, haven't I succeeded in changing your belief systems, even just a slight bit? And if I can convince you to vote for a certain candidate over another one, then I've definitely changed your actions and beliefs. Or so the thinking goes.

Sometimes this energy is used in the name of education: I see that you aren't aware of one or some of the issues involved in a certain topic, so I tell you about some of the stuff that I know but you don't.

If I leave it at that - educating you but then letting you alone to make up your own mind based on the new information - then I've used my power wisely and properly.

But if I give you the new information and then expect you to come to exactly the same conclusions that I've reached based on what you now know, then I've stepped over the line and I've started trying to control you.

Most people have the best of intentions when they're trying to control other people's lives.

Parents, for example, feel that they're doing their children a favor by keeping them from making mistakes that might hurt them or in doing work for them that the kids really should be doing themselves (who wrote that book report?).

A husband might see what he feels is the best solution for a problem of his wife's, and a woman might think that she knows just what to do to take care of something that her husband needs to do.

I find myself doing this when my wife's driving-"It's shorter if you go that way," I'll say, trying to get her to go the way that I feel is the best route. But who's driving? Not me, so I should just shut up and let her drive.

When a person thinks that he or she knows what's best, that person typically tries to get the other person to do what he or she would do in a given situation. If the other person balks or wants to do things his or her own way, we often try even harder to convince the person to do things "our way."

A friend of mine once demonstrated this tendency when her son had a school project to do. He had to create a collage for a class, and after he explained the project to her, she had a very clear idea of how she thought the collage should be made.

She explained at length how she would do it, down to the types of pictures she would use and how she'd arrange them.

The problem was that her son had a different idea of how to create the collage. And the bottom line was quite simple: it was his assignment, and he should have been allowed to do the project as he saw best.

But his mother wanted to "help," and when he started the project his way she became upset, for she thought she knew the "best" way to do it. And after all, she only wanted to help.

What she got for her controlling expenditure of energy, though, was friction with her son and the possibility that in the future, he won't be nearly as willing to share such assignments with her for fear of further conflict and friction.

Tom is the creator of, for over thirteen years one of the web's most reliable and extensive resources for uplifting, motivational material. He is also the author of several popular books and novels available for your Amazon Kindle at

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