Step 1. Strip them of their power.
The first step to controlling people around you is to take away all their power. This may seem harsh but it is 100% necessary and isn’t nearly as hard as it sounds. Take away their power to make you feel bad, to control what you are doing, to ruin your day. While this may sound extremely difficult to do, it is totally within your ability. I know because I have done it.
Here’s the thing, no one can make you do or feel anything. EVER.
I know, I know, I know. Your brain is feverishly coming up with all the examples of this statement being untrue.
“What about the time my coworker complained to my boss about me?” Annoyed.
“They expect way too much of me and I can’t do it all.” Frustrated.
“I have told them 100 times not to leave chips on the floor of the sunroom.” Disrespected.
“What about the deadline at work, I had to do that.” Obligated.
I hate to tell you, deadlines aren’t personal.
And even in the worst job ever, it is still your choice to be there, and to stay there, and to do the required aspects of the job. You are there for you, not for them (the almighty powers that be). You are there maybe only for the paycheck but that paycheck is getting you something else that you want.
And the power swings back to you.
When we believe that someone else can control our feelings we are totally powerless, especially because how we feel controls how we act. That means, if someone controls our feelings they are responsible for our results (have you ever eaten a whole bag of goldfish or had a couple martinis because someone said or did something to you that made you feel awful? Then you know what I am talking about.)
Enter the excuse, if I didn’t have to deal with my toxic coworker I could totally lose weight.
And the power for your life is handed to the coworker.
So how do we take back the power? WE REALIZE THEY DON’T REALLY HAVE IT, even when we keep trying to give it to them.
I get to decide what I think, and this is the key to everything. The first step is realizing that how I feel is a reflection of what I am thinking, not what someone else is saying or doing. If I didn’t know what they were doing would I be hurt or sad or stressed? Of course not, because I wouldn’t be thinking negative thoughts about it, I wouldn’t be thinking about it at all.
So in the moment how do we take back the power? When you get that flush of anger in your face or that pit of disappointment in your gut take that as a big red flag (maybe held by an excited oompa loompa) saying “alert, alert, your thoughts are on the run!!! Quick, rein them in!” The reflex thoughts are always self protective, “they are wrong, I should be mad, they are ruining everything.” But those thoughts aren’t super helpful. And maybe initially the best we can do is to say to ourselves “hey, I think I may need to take a look at what I am making this mean.” What story did you tell yourself in that one nano second?
Maybe they are wrong. That’s ok. People can be wrong.
Maybe they don’t respect you, but could it be possible that they weren’t thinking about you at all? Maybe the whole awful thought was “I’m tired, I will move the chips later.”
What is interesting is our brains are wired to think about ourselves first. It is like when someone posts pictures of their wedding and you quickly browse through them all looking for a picture of yourself. Yeah, yeah, the bride is beautiful but how did my outfit look? It doesn’t make you a bad person or self centered, it just makes you a person, like everyone else. That brings us to Step 2...
Step 2. Give them back their power.
Ok now I feel like I am messing with you a little. I just finished saying strip them of their power and now I am saying give it back. Basically I could say it another way, stop arguing with reality.
As Byron Katie says “When you argue with reality, you always lose – but only 100% of the time”.
I call it the death trap of “should.” They should do this, they shouldn’t do that. If they won’t stop that then I will suffer/ feel bad/ be disrespected… you fill in the blank.
Watch for the “yes, but” sentences.
"Yes, but she shouldn't let her kids do that."
“Yes, but my dad shouldn’t use the surgeon I specifically warned him against.” (That one worked out ok but I still am not happy about it).
“Yes, but she knows smoking is so bad for her.”
What this all boils down to is that other people should do what I want. Not what they want, not what they are actually doing. This is a very aggravating place to be. And I don’t know about you, but when I feel aggravated I don’t also feel in control.
Here’s the thing, it is a LOT of work to control myself.
As you saw in step one I have to practice working through managing my thoughts in real time, as they show up, as the oompa loompa starts waving the flag. Trying to manage someone else's brain too is exhausting (and impossible).
So step 2 to controlling other people and having a better life is to let go of the exhausting (and impossible) attempt at doing exactly to them what you just spent Step 1 undoing for yourself. The old, “do unto others” bit.
If you want you can feel magnanimous and “let them be them.” But the truth is there is no “letting”, they ARE them.
Quick disclaimer here: not arguing with reality does not mean condoning what you perceive as bad behavior, it is just acknowledging that what is actually happening IS happening and you trying to control it is only going to make you unhappy. People get to choose what to do, we can love them through it or despite it. Ultimately this is a sneaky way to, again, take control of our feelings with our thoughts and have a better life. Which leads us nicely to step 3...
Step 3. Love those jerks. (wait, what?)
Ok I know we are talking about taking control, not sitting around singing kumbaya. This is a serious ninja trick, I hope you are up for it. If you have read this far I have faith in you.
Love the jerks that you want to control.
Ok I know they aren’t all jerks but it is kind of fun to say it that way. Here is the really crazy thing. Loving someone benefits the one doing the loving, the person being loved may not feel it at all.
Let me say it again, loving someone benefits the one DOING the loving, not necessarily the one being loved.
This is particularly helpful to remember if they are acting badly or you really feel they don’t “deserve” it. YOU get the benefit of loving them.
A simplified example of this would be telling your kids they can’t have smarties for breakfast. You don’t waste a lot of time worrying that they should know this already, that they shouldn’t want smarties for breakfast. (I mean, come on, little colorful discs of pure sugar?) This is pretty straightforward, you don’t feel bad about it, you do it out of love. But the kid doesn’t feel loved when this happens (at least my daughter doesn’t). So how can this translate to bigger issues, bigger situations of people that will take more effort to love than your kids?
This is where you may want to substitute the word compassion for love. How can you feel compassion for your coworker, spouse, boss, or parent that is on your radar as someone you want to control?
Try it. Force your brain to actually answer the question.
How can I feel compassion for ________? It's NOT rhetorical.
How can I feel compassion for the coworker who has to be told the same thing 800 times? I answered that one with “maybe she is actually doing her best and isn’t that smart.” This exact thought really helped with my frustration with a work situation. I always feel for people who aren’t that smart and appreciate when people are working to their full capacity.
How do you feel compassion for the person who isn’t working as hard as you are but is getting paid on the same scale? “Some people are ok with doing the bare minimum (which they may not feel is the bare minimum), I am so glad I am driven to always want more.” That one helped me let go of a lot of resentment. No one was telling me to go above and beyond. I do that because I want to, because it makes me feel good and I am in control of how I feel. Shifting that thought gave me a lot of pride in my work.
Or maybe the issue is closer to home. How do you feel compassion for the family member who continues with a behavior that is detrimental to his health? “I know how hard it is for me to exercise regularly and eat right, I can’t imagine how much tougher it is to have to do something bigger and more serious than that.” Maybe I don’t have the shared experience to ever really be an expert on someone else's struggles.
This last step is not for the faint of heart, your brain will fight you on it. Good thing you are in control,
Let me know how your world domination goes, please comment below! (and share it with your friends who may also want some control)